Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Eudaimonia, Fairness, Feminism, Freedom, Justice, Life, Living, Obligations to Society, Purpose, Quality of Life, Self-determination, Self-Flourishing, Self-Realization, Values, Well Being

Have a Great Woman’s Day, Boys and Girls Both!

Today, March 8th, is a day to strengthen and renew your commitment to the fair and equitable treatment of men and women worldwide.  Hitch yourself to the goal of creating a world in which women and men, boys and girls, have the same economic, political, and social opportunities!

Women, do it for fairness, do it for the ones you love — but also do it for yourselves.  Do it because living fully is living authentically, and no one who is subjugated to others can truly live fully or authentically.

Men, do it for fairness, do it for the ones you love — but also do it for yourselves.  Do it because your lives are only impoverished when others lives are subjugated, and your lives are only enriched when others lives are liberated.

Humans are born to be free.  All humans are born to be free.

Commit and recommit today!

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The Right of Young Women to be Pleasured

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul’s take on the notion that young women posses a right to demand their lovers make a reasonable effort to pleasure them.


THE CRITICS SING! “I challenge any honest and decent man or woman to read, ‘The Right of Young Women to be Pleasured’ without it causing their moral conscience to wail like an entire band of banshees.”  —  Merriweather Sterling, Blogs of the Day, “The Daily Burtie”, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, UK.

THE CRITICS RHAPSODIZE! “Sunstone published today, and Christ wept. It has become time to end Heaven’s and the World’s suffering. The guillotine must be returned to its proper use tout de suite.” — Aloyse Leblanc, Le Critique Passionné de Blog, “La Tribune Linville”, Linville, France.

Continue reading “The Right of Young Women to be Pleasured”

Alienation, Feminism, Fundamentalism, Ideologies, People

Why Ideologies are Poisonous Snakes

(About an 8 minute read)

One evening when I was fresh back from university for the summer, I heard someone shout my name. A car sped away up a hill, and I was left wonder who had been driving it.

The phone was ringing the moment I got home.  “Hi, Paul! This is Terri.  I just now saw you’re in town.  Let’s hang out together tonight.”

Continue reading “Why Ideologies are Poisonous Snakes”

Anthropology, Behavioral Genetics, Belief, Biology, Creative Thinking, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Feminism, Genetics, Human Nature, Ideologies, Life, Morality, Science, Talents and Skills, Teresums

How the Internet Changed My View of Human Nature

(About a 7 minute read)

Back when I was in high school, I read B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorism, and was quickly converted to philosophical behaviorism — the deterministic notion that our behavior is solely decided by all that we learn from the moment of our birth onward.

There is no room in behaviorism for the notion of free will, but neither is there room for the notion that we might have an universal human nature rooted in our genes — or even a genetically based individual nature also rooted in our genes.

So by the time I got to university I was ripe to discover that all ideas were inventions. That each idea had a history, and that there was a time before it had been cooked up by someone, and then spread to other people.

Continue reading “How the Internet Changed My View of Human Nature”

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Late Night Thoughts: Love, Consciousness, Moralism, Red, and More

(About a 10 minute read)

The half moon is riding high tonight.  Silver light on the lawn.

The weather is warm enough now that I can leave the doors open most of the night to let the air in through the screens.   This is the stillest part of the night.  The city is for the most part asleep, so there is very little traffic on the nearby roads.  Besides, my cottage is far enough off the closest road that passing cars are usually muted.

In a couple hours, the birds will start singing.  Then a bit later, the dawn.


One of the very few posts on Café Philos with more than 80,000 views is The Difference Between Loving Someone and Loving an Idea of Them.

The post’s core notion is that one sign we love an idea of someone, rather than love them, is that we are trying to change them to fit our notion of them.  Especially if we are trying to change them against their basic nature.

Of course, me being me, it took 600 words, two personal stories, and one reference to beer,  to get that idea out.


Have you noticed how some folks seem to bill you for the love they give?  Maybe they can’t seem to say, “I love you”, without expecting you to feel obligated to them for it.  Or maybe it’s not so much when they say “I love you” as it’s when they do something for you that they charge you for it.  But they always send out a bill, and expect prompt payment on time.

My second wife was like that.  I didn’t hold it against her, I didn’t hate her for it, because I knew she got the behavior from her mother.  All the same, I couldn’t live with it, and it was one of many reasons I divorced her.

She liked to go to an all night restaurant and sit up as late as four in the morning drinking tea.  Her work hours allowed for that:  She started late in the morning and worked until late in the evening.   But mine often didn’t.  Still, she felt I was obligated to go with her because, as she explained more than once, “You have a monopoly on my heart”.  Which, if you knew her, you would have recognized as a subtle threat to cheat, to break that monopoly, unless she got her way.

Now and then, we’d have a falling out, during which times she’d burn all the poems I’d composed for her since our last falling out.  The first time, it surprised me, but afterwards, I just thought it was funny.

For the longest time, I was convinced I could change her, but in the end I was only kidding myself.   She had a lot of good qualities that woman, but the price of her love became far too great a price to pay.

 One Way to Pay a Bill

 I would rather sit beside evening waters,
Feeling air lift across my arm like lips,
Smelling moisture that could be breath
From one who comes near enough to care

Than go late into a restaurant
Where air is still as dust in a corner
And light twists through incandescence,
Malnourished, to strike at shadow with a rag.

Although if I told you this
You’d accuse me of disregarding now and forever
Your right to stay up until four with your tea;

Then some weeks later you’d accuse:
I lacked an enthusiasm for sunsets
Which deprives you of romance —

“Since I have a monopoly on your heart”,
You’d say.

I’ve lived with you and noticed
When your heart flicks on, “I love you”,
It sends a bill for the energy used,
Which it feels seldom is paid for gracefully
Or on time.

I’ve willed for your love in the absence of another,
But shouldn’t your heart account in its books
The warmth you’ve taken, now and then,
From burning my poems?


For the most part, it seems to me the relationship between our consciousness and the rest of our mind (or brain) is like that between a monkey and an elephant.

The tiny monkey is full of pride at being atop the elephant.  It sits there stubbornly trying to direct the elephant’s path with its constant chatter, hops, and gestures.  And the monkey is always deluded into believing it is the master of the elephant.  But almost invariably,  the elephant ignores the monkey to go its own way, taking the monkey with it.

Consciousness, it so often seems to me, is almost entirely a commentator on our behaviors, and almost never the cause of them.


Beauty is the Beautiful Lie

I’m never quite sure
When I look to horizons
If it’s brighter out there
At the dawn or the dusk.

And I’m never quite sure
When I look for the truth
If its the truth that I find
Or only my own dust.

And I’m never quite sure —
But when I listen to flowers —
Their lies seem the truest
Of the lies I’ve been told.

There lies seem the truest
Of the lies I’ve been told.


Moralistic people are not necessarily moral people, just as you can be clownish without being an actual clown.  To be moralistic, one only needs to be swollen full of moral-sounding judgments.  “By the Faith, did you hear that Sakeenah divorced her husband! And he a good provider, too!”

I think one thing that so very often distinguishes moralistic people from profoundly moral people is that moralistic people usually think in terms of absolutes, while profoundly moral people usually think in terms of odds, or probabilities.  The former tend to see things as black and white; the latter tend to see things in shades of grey — or even better — in colors.

Which do you suppose is the more realistic?


I am still looking for great and snerklesome blogs, by the way.  If you know of a blog that has some stand-out characteristic of it, something that makes it special or unique, please leave a link to it for me in the comments.  Even if it’s your own blog.  Especially if it’s your own blog.


One of the very few things I find generally irritating about women is that so many of them undervalue, underestimate, and over-criticize themselves.

Of course, I realize it’s not their fault, that they are all-too-often trained to do those horrifyingly destructive things, and they are not to blame for it.  But spontaneous irritation doesn’t pay much attention to causes: It is a response to the fact of the matter, not to the cause of the matter.

Men do it too, but women do it more often.  Both are irritating as a cruise vacation on the River Styx when they do it.  Folks really should pay attention to Aristotle on this issue.  Aristotle believed that genuine humility was claiming for yourself no more and no less than is your due.

To him, claiming more than your due is arrogance, while claiming less is false modesty.

Of course, I am not talking about self-deprecating humor here.  I almost never find that irritating.  An ability to laugh at yourself is a precursor to wisdom.  I’ve never known a wise person who was incapable of laughing at themselves.



I like the red
the red of her red skirt
Her red skirt
Her red skirt outside
outside in the sunlight
outside in the sunlight


A young friend has been emailing me tonight for advice with a woman he’s romantically interested in.

Naturally, I told him a safe way for him to gauge her interest in him without his having to awkwardly ask her if she is indeed interested (because such frankness is so often embarrassing to both parties) is for him to quietly spread jelly on his chest and see if she offers to lick it off for him.   “If she does, Arjun, it’s a good sign!”

I pride myself on my “being there” for today’s youth.  So many adults these days refuse to impart their hard won nuggets of wisdom to the up and coming generation.  Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

But not me!

After explaining to me that she and he had very different political views, Arjun went on: “I’m more worried about losing the potential romance along with being rejected due to being perceived as unattractive than merely losing it due to something like difference in worldviews. Both scenarios wouldn’t be desirable for me, to be sure, but being seen as unattractive and rejected due to that would be painful for me.”

How would you yourself guide him?


Adriana has written a good, solid blog post on the topic of whether the feminist movement should re-brand itself as the egalitarian movement.  It is, perhaps, a surprisingly important question.

I mostly agree with her points, but I’m thinking about challenging her to a mud-wrestling match to determine the truth or falsity of one of her points — a point I happen to disagree with.  I haven’t quite yet decided whether to write my own post about it, though.

You can find her article here.  It’s quite obvious she put a lot of thought and work into it, and it’s well worth a read.


The sky is a pale blue-grey wash now that silhouettes the trees.  The birds are singing, their songs interweaving like the tree branches.

And now the first pinks blush on the horizon.

Aaron, Art, Becky, Feminism, Human Nature, Hunter/Gatherers, Ideologies, Late Night Thoughts, Leah, Learning, Life, Nature, Poetry, Relationships, Wilderness

Late Night Thoughts: Magic, Leadership, Feminism, Poetry, and More

(About a 9 minute read)

There are places you can visit at night in the San Luis Valley and not see an artificial light for miles.  If you stand in one of those places when the moon is down and tilt your head back until you are gazing nearly straight up, you risk falling into infinity.

I have never know a daytime sky to appear as deep, as vast, as infinite as a nighttime sky, though some of the crisp autumn blue skies of Colorado do seem to have a touch of the infinite.  Nothing, however, quite compares to stars by the thousands set in the black ocean.

Although you cannot possess the vastness of the night, you can long to possess it.  Long just as intensely as ever someone longed to requite an unrequitable love.  Long because its beauty makes you feel alive, and you want that feeling to stay with you forever.

It is wiser, though, to set aside any feelings of possessiveness.  Let them pass by you like winds without trying to cling to them or nurture them anymore than you would try to cling to or nurture those winds.  For possessiveness clung to kills the heart, kills love, even in human relationships, let alone in our relationships to nature.

To love the night so intensely that you might be in some sense renewed, reborn by it, you must be willing to let it go.


Some years ago I took Becky’s children, Leah and Aaron, to a public Easter egg hunt.  Watching them and the other children dash about unsystematically exploring one possible hiding place after the next, and often the same hiding place they’d explored only moments before, I suddenly realized there was a sort of logic to their apparent randomness.  The logic of magic.

They were, it seemed to me, selectively picking “good” spots to explore, while ignoring “bad” spots, spots that perhaps did not seem to them magical enough to hold an egg.   And they would return to those good spots time and again, because, of course, magic.

The little legs of Easter
All hunt the same bushes
Each pair runs to check
And recheck the same spots

It’s the logic of magic
It’s found in good places
And appears where it wasn’t
Just a moment ago


On a blog I recently came across a post by a young woman in which she expressed pride in being a leader.  She so reminded me of myself many years ago.  Had you asked me back then if I was proud of so often being the leader, I would have told you that I was, and I probably would have recited the choicest passages of my résumé, whether you wanted to hear them or not.

Then, in my 30s I finally got enough experience of people to have two or three modest, but still significant, insights into — not leaders — but followers.  It seemed to me then that there were two main (but not only) reasons people follow other people, and that neither reason was all that good of a reason for me to be proud they were following me.

Perhaps the best reason people follow is because they think their leader is going where they want to go.  People who harbor that reason won’t allow you to lead them down just any old path you want to take them.  They only go down the path they themselves want, and they stick you out front largely so you, and not them, must take the risk of being pounced on by a tiger waiting for its next meal to come loping along, full of pride at being allowed to play leader.

The second reason people follow seems to be that they themselves feel too insecure or threatened to lead themselves.  Such people would follow a chimpanzee if it promised them security.  And they are often so frightened of something that they would follow the chimp down any path the chimp chose to take, even the path to hell — just so long as the chimp kept reassuring them it was the safest route.

In either case, being a leader has less to do with special you, and much more to do with them, than your pride constantly tells you it has.  But add to all that the fact that about one-quarter to one-third of all people are such poor judges of character that they are incapable of distinguishing a wise leader from a damnable fool, and you end up with a pretty poor foundation for taking much pride in the fact people will follow you.


On my second night in Colorado, I left my motel room to drive to a high place in the mountains where I got out of my car and witnessed a moon so seemingly huge that I had the absurd, yet remarkably visceral desire to see if I could touch it.  And I actually did stretch out an arm to it.   It appeared, then, to be just beyond my reach.

At the time I felt I was a refugee.  Earlier in the year, I’d gone out of business, lost my wife, my house, my friends, and most of my possessions.  It seemed to me that night that all my accomplishments in life were behind me, and that I’d been a fool to have for decades valued all those things more than I valued simply loving life.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And there’s nothing that I know
Do I ever understand?

I just wonder how it is
That all the things we ever did
Could mean so much more to us
Than the love we freely give.

For I am but a passing thing
From one moment to the next,
And with each moment’s passing
There is nothing left.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And for all the things I know
Do I ever understand?


Few movements are as misunderstood these days as feminism.  Which is a bit strange because the movement is by and large based on a simple, easy to understand, ideology at its core.  That is, it’s a form of egalitarianism.  Specifically, the form of egalitarianism that asserts women ought everywhere to have the same rights, freedoms, and liberties as men.

Unfortunately for feminists, decades of anti-feminist propaganda have convinced vast numbers of people that the true core of feminism is misandry, the hatred of all things male.  And even more unfortunately, there are a few self-described “feminists” who feed and inflame that image of all feminists by themselves being actual misandrists.

What’s true of feminism, though, is true of all large movements, for every such movement has its lunatic fringe.

I wonder why.  Indeed, I quite often wonder why every movement has its lunatic fringe.  But I have yet to arrive at an answer that satisfies me.


Have you ever reached the cardboard backing of a paper tablet only to find yourself torn between throwing it away and saving it for some use only god knows what?


I had an uncle who grew up in the Great Depression when frugality so often meant the difference between eating three meals a day or merely two or one.  He taught me around the age of six or so never to throw away a bent nail.  “It’s a perfectly good nail.  Just hammer it out so it’s straight enough to use again.”

Shortly after my eight birthday, he taught me to shoot a rifle.  “Here’s your one bullet.  There will be no more bullets today.  Now aim well and carefully, Paul, so you hit the can with it.”

I took forever to aim, but I hit the beer can.


As a rule, the more convinced we are that we are right, or have got hold of the truth, the less likely we are to have seen deeply into the matter.  So often, to look deeply is to become aware of how uncertain the truth is.


The notion that our minds at birth are Tabula rasa, blank slates devoid of any innate knowledge, biases, instincts, etc., is an ancient one, dating back to at least the ancient Stoics.  It basically asserts that almost the whole of what we are as persons will be ultimately derived from our experiences in life, or from what we learn from them.   It is also a perennial idea in the social sciences.  And, last, is almost certainly nonsense.

For instance, humans have just too many ubiquitous behaviors for us not to be, at least in large part, an instinct driven species.  Moreover, we seem to be born with talents — that is, with aptitudes or predispositions — for various things.    We also seem to be born with inherent cognitive biases.  And there is at least some evidence that we even have in us at birth the rudiments of arithmetic.

All of which suggests the notion that we humans are connected to our past in much more profound ways than merely through the continuum of time.  Our DNA is ancient, and we are in so many ways, the manifestation of our DNA.

Throw Your Rockets Far

I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
Somewhere we walk in the yellow grass;
The sky huge, but our feet owning each step.
Somewhere we hear the shorebird’s cry
From a beach in Africa we never left.
Somewhere we are shaman, warrior, gatherer,
Women and men intimate with our past.

No, I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
What at eight you simply feel
On your lawn at dusk when you throw a bottle rocket
With a warrior’s grace — and hard at the moon.

Abuse, Business, Children, Cultural Traits, Culture, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Family, Feminism, Ideologies, Income, Kindness, Management, Oppression, People, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Poverty, Professionals, Quality of Life, Society, Talents and Skills, Work

I Didn’t Learn the Truth Until I was Twenty-Two

During all the years between my birth and leaving home to attend university, I witnessed my mother crying once, and once only.  To my shame, it happened after I made a cruel remark accusing her of being responsible for our family’s poverty.

I was 17 by then and, since I’d never seen her cry before, I had up until that moment naively assumed there was nothing in this world — no misfortune, no tragedy, no evil  — that could move her to tears.  When the tears came I was at a loss of what to do, so I did nothing.  Instead, I sat in my chair shocked into disbelieving silence while she sat in her chair simultaneously crying and apologizing to me for having lost control of her emotions.  Apologizing just as if she was committing some outrageous, inexcusable offense.

Looking back, I think the event should have taught me volumes about how great and deep was my mother’s sense of responsibility for our poverty.  But instead of fully reflecting on the event, I went into denial of its significance.  That is, I didn’t deny it had happened.  But I denied it was important or meaningful.

That was my way of handling the terrifying thought that some aspects of life could overwhelm her.  I was not at 17 fully conscious of the fact that my mother was the source of my strength, but conscious of it or not, I still deeply needed to believe there was nothing in life she couldn’t handle, and that by implication, there was nothing in life that I myself couldn’t handle just as well.

Consequently, she and I never again brought up between us the subject of our family’s poverty, and so I did not discover from her the proper causes of it.

One of those causes was that she was the sole breadwinner for our family of four.  My father had died relatively young, leaving mom with the burden of fending alone for me and my two brothers.  My older brother was only four at the time, so of course she had the added burden of very young children to raise.

Women back then had few job opportunities.  In 1960, only 38% of women worked outside their homes, and most of them were limited to working as teachers, nurses, waitresses, clerks, or secretaries.  Exceedingly few were in management.  Yet, my mother became one of the exceptions.

After my father died, she moved us from the city where we were living to the small town that she herself had grown up in.  Her move was a strategic decision:  She needed the support of her friends and family who still lived there.

Her decision paid off.

When a job as the CEO of small housing and apartment corporation headquartered in the town opened up, some of her family and friends went to work successfully lobbying the board of directors to hire mom.  That’s how things are so often done in a small town.  Your friends and/or family go to bat for you by talking with people they know who are in a position to hire you — or even talking with people who know people who are in a position to hire you.

The company had been operating in the red, but mom succeeded in turning the company around, and putting it in the black, where she kept it for the rest of her long, forty year career.

By the time I graduated from university, the company was being written up in industry magazines as a model business, and mom had become modestly well known within those circles not only for her competence in running the company, but also for her willingness to mentor other executives at non-competing companies around the nation.

Yet it was not until near the end of her career that she was paid much more than was necessary for our family’s survival.  In 1960, the average family income in America was $6,691.57.  Mom, who is a very private person even in many ways to her own family, has not told me how much she herself earned in 1960, but I have ample reasons to believe it was less  than the average for an American family, let alone less than the average for the family of a business executive.

One pound of round steak cost $1.06 at the time, much more expensive than hamburger or chicken.   Because of the expense, I didn’t know what round steak — or any other steak — tasted like until I was 11 years old, when I became the first of my brothers to eat a steak.  One day my best friend happened to mention that his mom was preparing T-bones for his supper that night, so I naturally asked him if T-bones were any good, because I didn’t know.  His mother overheard us and kindly decided to invite me to supper.

Strangely, it didn’t occur to me until I was in my mid-teens that we were a seriously poor family.  I always knew we weren’t as well off as many families, but there were still poorer families than ours.  Besides, we never went without a meal, there was a roof over our heads (thanks entirely to my aunt, who bought a house for us to live in), we were clothed, and we had books.  For some reason that I’m sure of, the books upon books in our house assured me that we were doing just fine.

Consequently, I simply assumed up until the age of about 15 or 16 that most of the signs of our poverty were due to my mother’s tastes.  Few toys for Christmas?  That was, to my mind, because mom thought toys were mostly frivolous and unnecessary.  No family vacations?  Another frivolous thing.  No expensive foods?  Mom has no appetite for them.  And so forth.

Sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s, I quite bluntly demanded of mom to know how much she earned.  To my surprise — because this wasn’t the sort of thing she was usually willing to reveal — she swore me to never tell anyone outside the family, and then she all but whispered a figure to me.  I can no longer recall what that figure was, but I do still remember that it sounded like a lot of money to me, and that I came away thinking we were solidly middle class.

The only other thing I now recall about that figure was that — back when I still remembered what it was — I was surprised when a professor mentioned in a class the same figure as the poverty threshold for a family of four in perhaps 1970 or thereabouts.  In short, my family had that time been living at the poverty line.  But I didn’t learn the reason for that until I was 22, the year my aunt died.

I came home for the funeral, but couldn’t stay at my mom’s house because the bedrooms were to be used by out of town family members.  One of mom’s best friends, however, had some bedrooms for the three of us nephews, and so we stayed the evening of the funeral at her house.  The next morning, she made breakfast for us.

I have no recollection of what prompted Ann to tell us the story that morning, but she did.  Over pancakes and sausage, she told us how troubled our mother had always been in the years we were growing up.

Now except for a few phrases and sentences, I can no longer recall the exact words Ann spoke that morning.  But I am fairly confident that I still remember the points she made — and sometimes the manner in which she made them. To me, the conversation my brothers and I had with Ann that morning is one of the most significant conversations of my life.   What follows is part recollection and part re-creation.  However, I have left out some things that I suspect might have been said, but which I’m not confident enough were said.

Today, I don’t remember what prompted Ann to start off, but she began something like this: “Were any of you boys ever aware during your childhoods of how constantly worried your mother was about your poverty?” We all said “no”.

“Some evenings your mother and I spoke for hours about it.  You see, it never left her mind that you boys were always one step away from disaster.   She knew all that had to happen was a major illness or an accident befalling any one of you, you or her, and she could be reduced to the poor house, maybe see you all split up.  She had nothing to fall back on, no savings.”  I seem to recall Ann pausing then, and perhaps taking a puff off her cigarette, before going on:  “She was paid jack all the years you were growing up.”

Someone asked why.

“Do you want to know the truth?” Ann responded.  Then, placing an equal weight on each word she spoke, Ann said in an unusually emphatic voice:  “Because. Ike. Bachmann. was. a. bastard.”

I recall the word “bastard” was mildly jolting coming from Ann, who was more than a decade older than mom — and therefore presumably even more conservative than mom in her opinions about the impropriety of swear words — and who was also quite active in the Presbyterian Church.  Bachmann must have been a real bastard for Ann to call him that.

Even now, I can still see her slowly searching each of our faces for comprehension, perhaps trying to see if we could now put two and two together for ourselves.  Her manner gave me the further impression that she was determined we would remember the words she’d just spoken for a very long time, maybe even the rest of our lives.

Still, I was confused.  What did Ike Bachmann have to do with any of this?  In my recollection, mom had not once spoken ill of the former chairman of her board.  In fact, she had seldom spoke of him at all to us, and when she did, she had usually called him, “Ike”, as if he were a familiar friend to her.  He’d died not more than two or three years before my aunt’s death.

My older brother broke the silence.  “What did Bachmann do?”

“What didn’t he do?” Ann replied.  “He treated your mother like a slave, for one thing.  But mostly he was one of those men.  What’s that word you young people use for ‘those men’ nowadays?  Male something…chauvinists!  I’m not one of those feminist women, but they do have a point about men like Bachmann.

“Bachmann was just as old-fashioned as country outhouse.  He was hot-tempered.  It didn’t take a lot to set him off.  And when he got angry, he was raw, nearly unrestrained.  Arrogant, too.  But mostly he was a bastard.  A pure bastard.

“Your mother, you know, had to deal with him until the day he retired, about a year before he died.”

“Would it be alright if I asked now exactly how he was a bastard?” I said, “I mean I don’t doubt he was a major one from what you say, but what exactly did he do?”

“Ike Bachmann.” Ann began. “Well first there was no telling him that your mother could do just as well as a man in her job.  It didn’t matter how well she did, he always went about telling people that if he could replace her with a man, that man would do better.  And I know there were times he came close to replacing her.

“Now and then some man in the town would get interested in having your mother’s job.  Then like as not, he’d start talking to people, telling anyone who’d listen, that it just wasn’t right your mother had her job when there were men out there who needed to support their families.  It happened several times over the years, and that’s how it usually started.  With talk.  Did you boys ever know any of this?”

We shook our heads.

“I know.  Your mother never told you.  She didn’t want you scared, of course, you were just children.

“Anyways, word would sooner or later get back to Bachmann that someone wanted her job.  Or maybe someone would just straight up tell him they wanted your mother’s job.  But it usually started with them politicking about it, trying to gather supporters, and put a little pressure on Bachmann and the rest of her board.  The thing is, Bachmann never once stood up for your mother.

“Some of the other board members now and then did, but not her chairman.  Not even once.  Well, I don’t know about every last time a man came looking for your mother’s job, but the times I do know something about it, Bachmann offered them her job.”

I think at that point, my older brother said, “What?” in disbelief.  My younger brother in anger hammered out the word, “Damn!”  And I’m pretty sure I  stared at Ann with my mouth nearly slack-jawed in shocked silence.

“To my knowledge, only one thing — only one thing — stopped Bachmann from replacing your mother.   And that was Bachmann’s greed.

“You see, he was too greedy to pay even a man more than he paid your mother.  Your mother was fortunate, very fortunate, that none of those men accepted Bachman’s offers.  You’d have been in serious trouble.  All four of you.”

After what seemed like quite awhile, my older brother asked, “Did mom ever talk to you about getting a different job?”

“At least a few times each year!  But what kind of jobs are there for women in this one-tractor town?  There were plenty of reasons your mother couldn’t just quit, and that was one of them.  Maybe another day we’ll have time to talk about them all.”

Ann fell silent for a moment as if making a decision, then, “I want all three of you to promise me that you’ll never tell your mother what I’ve told you today.  She’d be embarrassed to death, you know.”  We responded with our promises.

Regrettably, I never did get a chance to question Ann about all the reasons mom didn’t just get a different job.  But whatever mom’s reasons, I’d lay money they weren’t frivolous or light ones.  Mom was just as rational as she was stoic.  Even now, forty years after the conversation with Ann, I still have yet to meet more than a relative handful of people who are as consistently rational as mom was before dementia set in when she was around 94 or so.

As for Ike Bachmann, his attitude towards women was in most ways commonplace in that town.  That is, some jobs were commonly thought of as “men’s work”; women lacked whatever it took to do them as well as a man; which was one good reason to pay them less; and so forth.

But I think that when Ann called Bachmann a bastard she was not just referring to the attitudes towards women that he shared with so many other people.  I later learned a few more things about Bachmann, and it now seems probable to me that he was misogynistic.  Ann was probably right: Ike Bachmann was a bastard.

Cultural Traits, Culture, Feminism, Guest Authors, Morals, S.W. Atwell, Sexualization, Village Idiots

“A Liberated Chicks Take Shit From No One Moment” (Guest Post)

Please Note:  The following is a guest post from S. W. Atwell.   — Paul Sunstone

I recently had a Liberated-Chicks-Take-Shit-From-No-One moment.  It happened on one of our busier downtown thoroughfares.

There I was, blatantly walking about without my burkah, when I only added to my insolence by reflexively smiling at a man as he approached me walking in the opposite direction.  It was my closed-mouth friendly, urban midwestern smile. He told me I had a nice smile.

In a move worthy of Salome herself, I gave him my “Aren’t you nice, and thank you for saying so!” smile.  That’s the bold smile, the one where I show actual teeth.

Then, he added: “You just wanna be with me right this moment, don’t you?  Yeah, you just can’t stop yourself from wanting to climb all over me right here and now and–”

Whereupon I interrupted him by asking, “If I buy you a gun, will you promise to shoot yourself with it?”

© S. W. Atwell 2011

Abuse, Alienation, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Equality, Erotic Love, Feminism, Freedom, Ideologies, Love, Mature Love, Morals, Nature, New Love, Oppression, Pornography, Relationships, Romantic Love, Sexuality, Society, Values

Should We Accept Each Other’s Sexuality?

Like most Americans, I believe human sexuality is in profound need of a good editing.  It is not at all “clearly written”, so to speak.  For every rule, there are exceptions.  Too many of them.  And then the exceptions have exceptions.  If human sexuality were a website, it would look like one of those appalling sites full of randomly capitalized words in ten fonts and four colors.  The sites that are alive in vivid self-contradictions while claiming to reveal cosmic truths. The ones that dare you — just dare you — to retain your sanity while reading them.  Those sites.

For instance: I once READ A BOOK that said we humans are unlike most other species of primates in that we prefer to have sex in private. But I ONCE HAD A FRIEND WHO LIKED TO HAVE SEX IN SEMI-PUBLIC PLACES WHERE THERE WAS A CHANCE WE WOULD GET CAUGHT.  In that respect, she contradicted what some scientists believe is SOMETHING OF AN INSTINCT IN HUMANS: our desire for privacy in sexual matters.

To me, one of the more confusing areas of human sexuality are the similarities and differences between male and female sexualities.  Especially when you get into such questions as how sexually compatible we are.  You can grossly simplify the issue by saying things like, “Just as a penis fits a vagina, male sexuality is different from, but psychologically compatible with, female sexuality and vice versa.”  There seems to be some truth to that, but overall, the analogy is imperfect.

It’s imperfect because there seem to be ways in which men and women are not so much compatible with each other as they are in competition with each other.  For instance, there is considerable evidence that both men and women evolved to cheat on their partners.  And there is also evidence that some of us are genetically more predispositioned to cheat than others of us.  (At the same time, it seems likely that some of us might be genetically inclined to stay loyal to our partners.)  The upshot is, we are not always compatible: The analogy that we fit each other as smoothly as a penis fits a vagina is imperfect.

A lot of men would love to edit women’s sexuality to make it more compatible with their own.  And the favor is certainly returned, for a lot of women would love to do the same to men.

Sometimes you detect a whiff of moral expectation when listening to how someone describes what he or she believes the other sex should be like.  I know someone who not only wishes women were ready to drop their pants at a moment’s notice, but he often enough comes across as morally upset that they don’t.  Similarly, anyone who has read the 300 plus responses to my post, “Why Do Men Look At Teen Nudity“, knows there are a lot of women who are morally outraged by the fact older men are often enough sexually attracted to  naked teens.

In a sense, there might be something charmingly naive in all of that.  Perhaps, those of us who want women to drop their pants for strangers and near-strangers think, on some level, that women will benefit from casual sex as much as we ourselves do.  And perhaps those of us who want men to focus more on a woman’s mental and emotional maturity than on her body are assuming, on some level, that men will be better off if they do.  Moral indignation sometimes — although not always — presupposes that the folks you are indignant at would have their lives improved if they took your advice.

In my experience, moral indignation is the last refuge of hope, and hope itself is the fuel of illusion.  Hope encourages us to persevere in our beliefs even when those beliefs bear little or no relationship to reality.  The more I hope my cheating partner will not leave me, the more likely I am to be surprised when she does.  I knew a man whose wife told him she was cheating on him, yet he still couldn’t believe her.  When she got pregnant by the other man, he went for years believing the child was his before he finally recognized it was not.

The hope that women will frequently drop their drawers for quick alley-sex prevents deep resignation to the fact that they most likely will not. And without that resignation, there can be no real acceptance of women as they are.  Again, the hope that men will no longer be attracted to naked teens prevents deep resignation followed by acceptance of men as they are.  And though everything we witness in life may contradict our hopes, our moral indignation is too often sufficient by itself to keep our hopes alive.

Quite often, men and women want more to meddle in each others sexualities than they want to accept each others sexualities.  And a lot of times, when that happens, it’s been the women who have taken the greatest hit.  So far as I know, women — almost everywhere in the world —  have their sexualities restricted and oppressed to a far greater extent than men.  And while those oppressions are almost always couched in the language of,  “it’s for your own good”, those oppressions tend to serve the interests of men more than the interests of women.

So, do you think men and women are on the whole better off from all the meddling they do in each others sexualities?  Should accepting each other as we are really be our goal here?  If so, are there important exceptions — times when we should not accept someone’s sexuality?  What do you think?

Family, Feminism, Freedom and Liberty, Politics, Quality of Life, Work

One Reason I’m a Feminist

When my father died in 1959, he left his widow without much money and with three young boys.  He died after a long illness, and not much was left over after mom paid all the medical bills and funeral expenses.  The oldest of us kids was four, and the youngest was one; I was two.  Mom decided to leave the city and raise us in a nearby small town where her sister lived and where she had friends.

There was a small housing company in the town.  It was such a small company that, for years, running it had been only part time work.  But now it was about to expand county-wide, and so its board was looking for a full time executive.  The chairman of the board knew mom’s sister and he offered her the job.  She declined it for herself, but told him that my mom could do the work.  Thus, the job fell into mom’s lap without her having to compete for it with any other candidates.

As it happened, the company was in the red.  She turned that around.  Next, she oversaw a couple decades of growth as the company moved into every housing niche in the county — all the while staying in the black.   Gradually, the company gained a good reputation as a provider of well-kept, reasonably priced places to live,  and a rather long waiting list of potential tenants.

Growing up, I and my brothers never wanted for the necessities.  We always had food, clothing, medical attention when needed, and heat in winter.  But mom’s job didn’t pay well, and we had few real luxuries.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but mom raised us on an income slightly below the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four.

Yet, mom did remarkably well with very little.  For instance, she avoided expensive retail stores and instead she attended estate auctions where she bid on high-quality furniture, rugs, and furnishings in unpopular styles that sold cheaply.  She found cheap deals on science and history books, somehow managed to pay for private art lessons, and took us to movies or to an occasional symphony or ballet.

Although she wasn’t able to help us pay for college, all three of us went thanks to the low cost of education at that time, Federal grants, scholarships, and by working various jobs.

My aunt died some years ago, while the three of us were in college.  After we got home, a  friend of our family — Ann — offered to let us stay in her house for a couple days so that mom could provide our rooms to relatives.

Over breakfast the morning of my aunt’s funeral, Ann told us a secret that mom had kept from the three of us all the years of our growing up.

Now, mom is remarkably stoic.  She almost never complains.  And I’ve only seen her crying twice in my life.  She likes to laugh, but that’s about it — the rest of her emotions are typically not on public display.  So, I should have suspected she had a few secrets.

Still, Ann’s revelation that morning that mom had, all during our childhood, lived in fear of loosing her job came as a shock.  So much of a shock that years later, I can still recall Ann talking to us over breakfast that day, but I can no longer recall much about my aunt’s funeral on the same day.  As Ann explained it, mom had been told the day the housing company hired her that her job was temporary, that it would go to a man once the company grew a bit and the job became more demanding.  That is, the chairman didn’t think a woman could handle the job much past a certain point.

Mom’s tactic for dealing with that fact of life had been to keep her salary artificially low.  Her hope was that she would not be replaced with a man  if she worked for substantially less than any man would be willing to work.  She also had another reason for keeping her salary artificially low.

She knew that, at that time and place, any man in the community who was both qualified and interested might successfully argue for her job simply by pointing out that she was getting paid “men’s wages” or “a man’s salary”.  That is, if she was so foolish as to pay herself a decent wage, she would open herself to loosing her job on the grounds that a job which paid so well ought to belong to some man.

Ann then went on to talk about a certain man in the community who had wanted my mom’s job bad enough to start making noises about “women doing men’s work” — until he found out how poorly her job paid.

That was the first I had heard even a hint of my mother’s fears for her living.  Mom had entirely kept her worries from us.

I was pretty much apolitical at that time.  But the more I thought about Ann’s story, the more disturbed I became.  After the funeral, I went back to school and thought about it some more.  And I never forgot what Ann had told us that day.   Of course, it wasn’t the only reason I became a feminist.  But it was what jolted me out of my apolitical indifference.  It’s what woke me up.


Abuse, Feminism, Politics, Values, Verbal Abuse

An Irrational and Petty Talk Show Host Gets Abusive

For some years, Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham has often come across to me as petty and irrational.  It wasn’t much of a surprise, then, that when Ingraham recently disagreed with blogger Meghan McCain’s political views, she illogically attacked McCain as “a Valley Girl gone awry” and a “plus-sized model.”

Just to be sure, the Meghan McCain referred to here is the daughter of John McCain, the Republican who lost to President Obama in 2008.  Meghan McCain writes a personal blog and also a political blog.  She has urged Republicans to seek compromise with Democrats rather than remain obstructionists, and that seems to upset Ingraham.

Unfortunately for Ingraham, her decision to play the fat card backfired.  McCain promptly appeared on the popular TV show, The View, armed with a withering counter-attack:

What do young women think when I speak my mind about politics and I want to have a political discussion about the ideological future of the Republican Party, and the answer is, “She’s fat, she shouldn’t have an opinion.” What kind of message are we sending young women?

Then, to leave no doubt about her disdain of Ingraham, McCain said, “She can kiss my fat ass”.

At first, Ingraham tried to dismiss McCain’s response by telling McCain she needed to “lighten up” and learn to deal with “satire” and “teasing”.

When the typical comeback of a bully didn’t work for her, Ingraham indulged in another bit of illogic.  In an email entitled, “Useful Idiot Watch” — a slander of McCain — Ingraham charged that McCain was at grevious fault for her (McCain’s) counter-attack being picked up by the Left and used to discredit Ingraham.   And that’s where the exchange between Ingraham and McCain seems to stand this morning.

So far as I can see, Ingraham owes McCain an apology — which will probably never happen.  But she also owes an apology to every woman and girl in her audience who has — or will — be judged by her figure, rather than by her brains, because folks like Laura Ingraham are doing their best to make acceptable an irrational and petty prejudice against people who lack a fashion model’s slender figure.

Most likely, that will also never happen.  Yet, that does not change the fact Laura Ingraham has shown herself to not only be petty and irrational, but also abusive.  The notion that a woman should be judged by her weight, and not by the merit of her opinions, when offering her views is a notion that belongs — if indeed it belongs anywhere — in a whore house where women are marketed almost solely on their bodies.  The only possible reason Ingraham had for raising McCain’s weight was to insult, demean, and belittle McCain.  Ingraham’s behavior has a name:  Abuse.   I for one don’t feel a need to tolerate it.

Feminism, Freedom, Sexuality, Values

Why Do Men Oppress Women?

A friend from Egypt recently asked me, “Why do men oppress women?”  She thought the answer might be that men like to dominate people.  But her answer is quite possibly a circular argument.  Especially, if by “dominate”, she means “oppress”.

I offered a somewhat different perspective.  While I think there might be several reasons why men oppress women, the main reason, to my thinking, is that much of it is rooted in sex.

That is, many of the restrictions imposed on females by males seem intended to guard against females having access to any sexual partners other than their spouse.   I suppose such restrictions on a female’s sexual choice might even have an evolutionary advantage: The males who are most successful in guarding their females from mating with males other than themselves are the most likely to pass on their own genes to the next generation.

A woman picks and chooses her sexual partner(s) from among the men she is able to attract.  Some hundred or so years ago, in some parts of the world, it was popular to assume that women were a bit like cattle in that neither women nor cattle were thought to exercise much choice in who they mated with.  But it is now known to science (at least) that women are by no means passive in choosing partners — if their society allows them to choose in the first place.

Exactly how do women choose sexual partners?  Studies done in campus bars, cafeterias, and study areas show that women have a variety of “come hither” behaviors they display to the men they want to approach them.  For instance, they might gaze at a man they like for a bit longer than necessary and then drop their eyes.  That is a signal to the man that he is welcome to approach.  And men who approach when they are signaled to do so are several times more likely to make off with the woman than men who approach without regard to whether the woman has invited their approach.

Put a bit differently, a woman exercises choice in courtship by first making herself attractive to men, and by second choosing among the men who are thus attracted to her.

Once you understand all of that, you can easily see how women’s sexual choices are sometimes restricted or even abolished.  Consider, for example, the endless issue of how women are “supposed to dress for the sake of modesty”.

The other day, I saw a rather plain and chubby young woman dressed in a way that flaunted her sexuality.  Her dress wasn’t attractive to me, but then I wasn’t her intended audience either.  Her intended audience was most likely boys her age.  And she appeared to me to have adopted a strategy of flaunting her sexuality in order to compete for boys  with her more naturally attractive sisters.  In other words, she was trying to increase her choice of mates.

Of course, girls who dress the way she did are the eternal targets of society’s censors.  James Dobson, for instance, might be appalled to see a girl flaunting her sexuality in that manner.  But I am not — I understand (or think I understand) a little bit of the girl’s feelings.  So, my tendency is not to condemn her but to be concerned for her.   I applaud her trying to attract as large a pool of boys to choose from as she can, but I worry that her method reduces her to only a sex object.

In sum, women who dress provocatively increase the number of men attracted to them and hence the number of choices they have when it comes to mating.  Societies that limit or restrict how provocatively a woman can dress thus limit or restrict a woman’s choice in mates.

Moreover, it does not seem to be an accident that those societies which most limit a woman’s choice in dress (and, hence, mates) are also those societies which most limit other rights and freedoms for women.  The oppression of women therefore seems to have a strong sexual component.

Before I was about 40 years old, I was of the opinion that sexual fidelity was extremely important to me.   But around that time my feelings changed.  I increasingly felt that having a partner who was free to be true to herself, free to develop her talents and skills, and free to love whomever she loved was more emotionally important to me than sexual fidelity.

Now, I’m not trying to say here that my former opinion was wrong and that my current opinion is right.  Nothing as simple as that.  It’s just that I’ve noticed at different times in our lives, we might have different emotional needs.  When I was younger, I needed sexual fidelity from a partner.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered I much more need a free spirit.  Sexual fidelity is fine with me if it’s freely chosen.  But it’s not at my stage in life something I would attempt to impose on anyone.

I bring all that up because I think it might illustrate an important point.  You can teach men that the oppression of women is morally wrong — but if that’s all you do, you will have lost the battle.  For people, both men and women, too seldom refrain from doing something they believe it is in their interests to do simply because someone tells them it’s wrong to do it.

To willingly refrain from doing something, you must feel it’s not in your interests to do it.  I don’t refrain from oppressing people simply because someone has told me it’s wrong to oppress people.  I refrain because I know very well how oppressing people defeats me — how it screws with what I most want from others.  So, if you really want to get men to quit oppressing women, you must somehow show men how it is not in their best interests to oppress women.

As for myself, I believe a caged bird is never so beautiful as a bird in flight.