Sunday, July 27, 2014

Feminists versus Economics

Earlier this year, The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture uploaded to YouTube a video entitled "The Economics of Sex."

Briefly, the video begins by pointing out that marriage rates in the U.S. have hit an historic low, while annual revenue of the online dating industry is at an all-time high.  To explain why fewer couples are getting married, and later than ever before, the video begins by explaining that men and women have different motivations for engaging in coitus.  The higher sex drive among males means that the woman decides when copulation will occur: i.e., whenever she wants it.  Women have something of value that men want, badly.  Birth controls pills have profoundly altered the mating market by drastically lowering the price of sex.  This resulted in a split mating market: one dominated by men, where people are looking for sex;  and the other, dominated by women, where people are looking for marriage. The video continues:
...By nearly every measure, young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life.  When attractive women will still go to bed with you, life for young men, even those who are floundering, just ain't so bad.  In reality, men tend to behave as well or as poorly as the women in their lives permit.  Economists say that collusion, women working together, would be the most rational way for women to regulate the market value of sex.  But there is little evidence of this happening today.  At least not yet.  If women were squarely in charge of how their relationships transpired, and demanded a higher market price for the exchange of sex...we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, greater male investment, longer relationships, fewer premarital partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.  For a woman to know what she wants in a relationship, and to signal it clearly, especially if it is different than what most men want: this is her power in the economy.  But none of these things seem to be occurring.  Not now, at least.  Today, the economics of contemporary sexual relationships clearly favor men and what they want, even while what they are offering in the exchange has diminished.  And its all thanks to supply, demand, and the long reach of a remarkable little pill.
Interestingly, some women actually praised the video, rather enthusiastically.  Naomi Schaefer Riley felt that the video "should be mandatory viewing for every woman between the ages of, say, 16 and 40."  Mrs. Riley wrote further:
...The economics of sex isn’t a new topic and has nothing to do with anything illegal. It’s the study of where the supply and demand curves for sex meet.  The nice thing about viewing sex in economic terms is that we don’t have to satisfy the goddesses of political correctness. Here’s how the video lays things out:
On average, men have a higher sex drive than women. Blame it on testosterone, call it whatever you want — but on average, men initiate sex more than women, they’re more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.  Nobody’s saying this is the way it ought to be. It’s just the way it is. Women, on the other hand, are likely to have sex for reasons beyond just simple pleasure. Her motivations for sex often include expressing and receiving love, strengthening commitment, affirming desirability, and relationship security.
How refreshingly honest — in a way that parents of adolescent girls should appreciate. These moms and dads don’t have an easy task: Though they know (and the research confirms) that their daughters will be happier if they delay sex until at least 17 or 18 and limit the number of partners they have, these girls are surrounded by cultures that offer a different message. Pop culture says everyone around you is enjoying casual sex; elite culture insists that women and men are exactly the same in this regard.

Most parents, even moderately religious ones, don’t feel comfortable telling their daughters not to have premarital sex because of divine retribution anymore.

“I don’t flat-out say, ‘Wait to get married,’ like my mother did,” one Catholic mother of a 14-year-old in Scarsdale tells me. She advises her daughter to “not give herself away easily or too many times” and that “sex is better when you are married and in love, so waiting is always better.” She wonders, “Does that sound conflicting and-or confusing? Maybe a tad bit, eh?”...

...What many parents never get to, but should, is the next part of the video, which asks: “So in an exchange relationship where men want sex more often than women do, who decides when it will happen?” The answer: “She does, of course. Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to.”...

...And this is where the economics matters. Because many more women than men are in the market for a serious relationship, the video explains, “men can be picky and can insist on extensive sexual experience before committing.” Women’s competition for those men has increased, and so the “price” of sex — what the man has to “deliver,” emotionally and commitment-wise — has gone down.

If girls did actually come to realize that they’re “in the driver’s seat” when it comes to sex (and if sisterhood really were powerful), they could change the market entirely, having sex only when they were ready and only when they saw a serious commitment on the part of their partner....

...“Collusion — women working together — would be the most rational way to elevate the ‘market value’ of sex.”  Call it the OPEC of sex. If this collusion worked, we’d see “on average more impressive wooing efforts, greater male investment, longer relationships, fewer premarital partners, shorter cohabitations and more marrying going on.”...
Responses from the Feminists were predictably visceral and acrimonious.  From Lindy West:
Sex Is Not an 'Economy' and You Are Not Merchandise

The longer I live and the more I read and the deeper I fall in love and the less I give a fuck and the more patience I lose and the more perspective I gain, the more certain I become that the people who most aggressively try to define love for others have never actually experienced it themselves.

I don't mean that in some woo-woo cornball way, I mean it in a WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT way. My vagina is livestock? My boyfriend is a customer? I should charge men for my milk? Um, okay, Casanova. Clearly you're highly qualified to be making declarations in this field of study, as you've definitely "laid lots of times" with girls you met in Niagara Falls whose boobs felt like bags of sand. Got it.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the New York Post yesterday, penned a glowing paean to the latest incarnation of the old why-buy-the-cow metaphor: The Economics of Sex, a fun, kicky YouTube animation (for the youths!) about how women are stupid and all modern relationships are made of math. Marriage rates are down, you see, because slutty, Yaz-popping scarlet women are giving up too much of their vagina-supply, causing the wife-demand to dwindle and babies to go extinct. Or, in simpler terms:


"The nice thing about viewing sex in economic terms," Riley gushes, "is that we don't have to satisfy the goddesses of political correctness."

Hey, lady, and anyone else considering using the term "political correctness" as a pejorative from this moment onward, kindly go ahead and SNIFF MY DONG...

The Economics of Sex is stunningly offensive—made even moreso by the lengths it goes to appear unbiased, scientific, and hip. It is folksy and twee. It is mansplaining incarnate (you might think you know what you want, but you're wrong!). It is the "one weird trick" that women are doing with their genitals to ruin society...It treats the current status quo as a static inevitability instead of an evolving, culturally-imposed framework that is vulnerable to dissent. It never once mentions liking another human being.

The animation literally opens with a blank sheet of butcher paper and chooses to draw a world of regressive midcentury morality. You could draw anything. And you pick the past? Fuck you.

A few representative quotes:
On average, men have a higher sex drive than women. Blame it on testosterone, call it whatever you want—but on average, men initiate sex more than women, they're more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.
Weird. It couldn't be the way that women are culturally conditioned (by videos like this one!) to view their sexual purity as their sole resource, and a finite one at that. It couldn't be the way that men are culturally conditioned to treat women like prizes to which they are entitled at the end of every movie, every video game, every dinner date. I can't imagine why women who are told from birth that sexual activity lowers their "market value" (ACTUAL QUOTE FROM THIS VIDEO) might be reluctant to initiate sex.
Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to. So how do women decide to begin a sexual relationship? Pricing. Women have something of value that men want...badly, something men are actually willing to sacrifice for. So how much does sex cost for men? It might cost him nothing but a few drinks and compliments, or a month of dates and respectful attention, or all the way up to a lifetime promise to share all of his affections, wealth, and earnings with her exclusively.
I'm sorry. This is basically a family-values-conservative argument, right? And those people are against prostitution?
Before contraception, sex before marriage took place during the search for a mate—someone to marry. Sex didn't necessarily mean marriage, but serious commitment was commonly a requirement for sex. Sex was oriented towards marriage. Don't believe people who say your great-grandparents were secretly as casual about sex as your friends are. They weren't, because to mess around with sex eventually meant, well, becoming parents.
If anything, sex is less commodified now than when my great-grandparents were courting. Before divorce; before reliable, effective birth control; before women's advancements into the higher levels of the workforce; marriage was ALL about economics. Now that women are able to leave abusive and unhappy relationships, support themselves financially, and choose when/if to have children, we don't need marriage anymore. It's no longer an economic imperative, which means that people are free to be choosy about who they marry. So you're damn right marriage rates are dropping and people are marrying later. It's because we're getting better at it.
The "price" varies widely. But if women are the gatekeepers, why don't very many women "charge more" so to speak? Because pricing is not entirely up to women. The "market value" of sex is part of a social system of exchange, an "economy" if you will, wherein men and women learn from each other—and from others—what they ought to expect from each other sexually. So sex is not entirely a private matter between two consenting adults. Think of it as basic supply and demand. When supplies are high, prices drop, since people won't pay more for something that's easy to find. But if it's hard to find, people will pay a premium.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
We now have a split mating market: One corner where people are largely interested in sex, and one corner where people are largely pursuing marriage. And there are more men looking for sex than women, and more women looking to marry than men.
Okay. Wait. So women are banging dudes willy-nilly on the singles scene and it's lowering their "market value," but women are also "vastly" outnumbering men "in the marriage market"? Which is it? I'm confused.
Here's where women are wrong about men: Men are not actually afraid of commitment at all. While women are the gatekeepers when it comes to sex, the deal is that men are in the driver's seat in the marriage market.
Huh? So women do want to settle down, but they also want to be nonstop society-destroying sluts? And men don't want to settle down, but also they're fine with it? So, if men are so starved for sex in the casual-dating pool and they're not commitment-averse, then what's stopping them from tapping into the ocean of ladies looking for longterm partners and settling down with a nonstop slut for a till-death-do-us-part HUMPATHON?

Honestly, guys. How can I trust you to know what's best for my genitals when you can't even work out the internal logic of your own 9-minute video? It's almost as if your entire philosophy is just garbagey word-salad pseudo-science. Weird....

...I'm just so bored of being lied to by stupid people. I'm so bored of being forcibly confined by someone else's bullshit narrative. Because it's simply not true. Human lives are simply not so simple. I know, because I have one, and everyone I know has one, and right-wing lawmakers (the keepers of that narrative) have them too, and every single one of those lives is messy and complex and unpredictable.

Oh, but, of course, it's just about numbers. These are just the averages we're talking about. "Nobody's saying this is the way it ought to be. It's just the way it is."

Yeah, well, we aren't the numbers. The numbers are us. They don't dictate what we do, they reflect it. That is the entire point of activism—to change the numbers, to change the shitty, blatant, measurable ways we marginalize one other.

So stop telling me—"family values" traditionalists, shitty rom-coms, and Zales commercials—that it is my biological imperative to trap a complete stranger into a lifelong contract based entirely on how many diamonds he's willing to buy me with. Stop telling me that when you're choosing someone to sleep next to every single fucking day until you die, your personalities and goals and aspirations are irrelevant. Stop telling me that my lived experience is "nothing" compared to some numbers cooked up by a repressed bigot with an agenda.

And I literally do not give one shit if you disagree, because this is not a debate. My human agency is not one side of a thought experiment—it is an objective fact...

...I reject all of this stupid, boring, outdated shit. I reject your numbers. I reject the idea that my personality is a negligible variable in the equation of my happiness. I reject the implication that you understand my relationship better than I do. Do not insult my intelligence by telling me that the best way to avoid divorce is to marry a stranger when you're too young to even know yourself. Don't try to bluff me into swallowing your lie that a world with more marriages is objectively a better world. You cannot trick me into believing that divorce is a failure of society and not a grand fucking triumph, and you will not drag me and the rest of society into the past with you.

It's no coincidence that the people most concerned with clapping a chastity belt on the entire earth and swallowing the key are the people currently (and historically) in power in our country. And it's also no coincidence that the people with the most to gain by maintaining "traditional" family structures—by keeping women dependent and docile and shutting everyone else up—have the least nuanced understanding of how actual human beings interact with one another romantically. It's almost as if they've never known what it's like to really connect with someone as a human being—to love a partner as an equal, not as a bank account or a body. What a pathetic, lonely life that must be.
 Christina Sterbenz, who possesses a dual degree in journalism and public affairs from Syracuse University, criticized the video's economic analysis:
The 'Economics Of Sex' Theory Is Completely Wrong
Society is crumbling because women can't keep their legs closed, driving marriage rates to an all-time low — at least that’s what a popular new video claims. Based on research from psychologist Roy Baumeister and created by the Austin Institute (AI) for the Study of Family and Culture, the animation supposedly provides economic insight into the world of sex and relationships.  But despite a cutesy veneer, it's bursting with false and blatantly sexist claims, like the ideas that men want sex more, women want marriage more, and the decline of marriage rates will destroy the world.  Jezebel's Lindy West already tore apart the video from a feminist point of view. Even beyond that though, the economics of the video are simply wrong.
The real economics of sex
Let's start with the absurd idea that the market for intimate relationships behaves anything like the market for, say, lumber.  The video argues that excess supply of sexually active women has lowered the "price" of intercourse to detrimental levels. Rather than paying for sex with marriage like in the past, men must now only hand over a couple dates, or even just a few drinks, for some time under the sheets.

But an inversely proportional supply and demand relationship only applies to markets that include the exchange of money, according to economist Marina Adshade, a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and the author author of "Dollars and Sex."  "If I buy something from you, all I have to do is give you currency, and then I can give that currency to a third party if I want. That’s not the way it works in relationships," she told Business Insider.

Adshade, instead, compares dating to bartering. People decide to start relationships by identifying a unique combination of traits, like sense of humor, kindness, or a killer body, that they want in a partner. It's a careful trade, not a business transaction.  "That makes the market really, really inefficient. Barter economies are difficult because trying to find somebody who is selling what you want to buy and is buying what you have to sell is complicated," she said.

The traditional supply and demand model also assumes all "goods" on the market are the same.  "The only way the story works is if women are all essentially identical and if women are all offering the same product," Adshade said.Let me be clear, I'm not a new car, a gallon of milk, or a pricey pair of jeans. Labeling women (and men for that matter) as commodities ignores the complexity of human interaction.

For the sake of argument though, if women were goods, the market would contain far too much variety for a simple correlation between supply and price. Regardless of the cost, men will always have vastly different preferences — and options.  "If the market’s not clearing, it’s not because there’s excess supply — which is what the video is arguing. It’s simply because these markets are unbelievably complicated," Adshade explained.

After making the dubious argument that dating follows the laws of supply and demand, the video makes an even more ridiculous case for how women can increase their likelihood of marriage: collusion.  Collusion occurs when businesses agree, usually underhandedly or illegally, to control the market by forming a cartel. The video suggests that women should "police" each other to prevent casual sex — as it claims they used to do in the days before birth control.

I can't even begin to fathom the implications of women shaming each other into saving sex for well-behaved, marriage-minded men. Even the video artist's interpretation of these sex police looks like Hitler in a mini-skirt. But again, the economic theory swings and misses.

"In the market for love and sex, there are literally millions of people. It's a perfectly competitive market. It's not possible to form a cartel. Period. Without or without enforcement," Adshade explained.  In other words, even if one group of women tried to restrict access to casual sex, an even larger number of women likely wouldn't participate. This concept of policing also revolves around the assumption that men — and I quote from the video — "only behave as well or as poorly as the women in their lives allow." Apparently, men became brain-dead scoundrels about the same time women turned into livestock, pedaling their own meat in exchange for monogamy.

It's also worth noting that Baumeister, the man behind the slut-shaming, isn't even an economist. He's a social psychologist.  "The fact that he keeps saying women should collude just shows he's not an economist. Because no economist would ever say that," Adshade said.

In short, none of the economic theory in the ironically named "Economics of Sex" video makes valid points. And we haven't even addressed the unfounded scientific and political reasoning in the video...
...These are the guys who thought comparing birth control to pesticides was a swell idea, perhaps the most cringe-worthy part of the video:  "How did the market value of sex decline so drastically? Economists often speak of technological shocks that dramatically alter markets. Take pesticides for example," the video explains in a chipper narration, which goes on to discuss how pesticides ruin the environment before bringing the comparison back to birth control. "While the original purpose of the pill was to prevent pregnancy, the data reveals an unanticipated side effect. The pill threw the mating market into disarray."
Before the pill, women were too scared of pregnancy to enjoy themselves outside of wedlock. But as soon as oral contraception came on the scene, the video insinuates, horny females starting jumping into bed with anyone with a Y chromosome. And that's when marriage rates started to drop.
Beyond the abhorrence of the comparison, only the right-wing patriarchy would trash a technological innovation that supported an age of social and political progress for women.

This harmful video preaches a return to the golden-age of chastity, before women possessed the social and financial capital to make decisions, especially regarding sexuality, for themselves. And just as insulting, it relies on illogical economic and scientific research to make that point.  And besides, wouldn't you rather live and date in a world where women don't manipulate men into marriage using sex? Let's just admit we all enjoy it and move on.
Miss Sterbenz is correct that the market for sex is not the same as the product for lumber.  With sex, there is a great deal more product differentiation.  Many women go to quite a lot of effort to objectify themselves sexually, with the make-up, hairstyles, push-up bras, high-heeled shoes, polished poise, diets, etc., to market their wares at the highest price possible.
A product differentiation strategy that focuses on the quality and design of the product may create the perception that there's no substitute available on the market. Although competitors may have a similar product, the differentiation strategy focuses on the quality or design differences that other products don't have. The business gains an advantage in the market, as customers view the product as unique.
 Ben Franklin famously pointed out: every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement...
The reality of the situation is that one vagina might serve a man's purpose as well as any other.  The packaging is largely what establishes the price.  Daryush Valizadeh, who is better known by pseudonym Roosh V, and who is renowned for his writings on seduction and antifeminism, laid out a score system for evaluating individual women.  With regard to Miss West's objection to the video:
...I reject your numbers. I reject the idea that my personality is a negligible variable in the equation of my happiness. I reject the implication that you understand my relationship better than I do...
people need to understand that social-science analyses are usually dealing with averages or trends across large groups of people.  Such analyses wouldn't necessarily constitute useful guidance for an individual man or woman to decide what he or she should do.  Each person needs to take stock of his own situation, and his own desires, in embarking upon a plan of action.  Mr. Valizadeh's scoring system might serve as a functional benchmark for individual men.  Various grocery-store magazines provide advice of a similar nature for the ladies.
Miss Sterbenz's assertion that "an inversely proportional supply and demand relationship only applies to markets that include the exchange of money" is false.  In prisoner-of-war camps, cigarettes, rather than money, became a basis for exchange.  Supply and demand relationships may become established anywhere that an exchange of goods and/or services place.

With regard to Miss Sterbenz's complaint that "the traditional supply and demand model also assumes all 'goods' on the market are the same...The only way the story works is if women are all essentially identical and if women are all offering the same product": economists (and other social scientists) always have to make simplifying assumptions in order to study anything, and the video makers were remiss in not pointing this out up front.  Still, the video makers did not produce any specific estimates that relied upon a traditional supply and demand model.  They did point out that we do seem to have a split mating market: one dominated by men, where people are looking specifically for sex;  and the other, dominated by women, where people are looking for marriage.  The video attributes this phenomenon to a supply shock caused by new contraceptives, which dramatically reduced the cost (to women) of casual coitus, which led to a drastic reduction in the cost in the price admission for men.  Which seems reasonable.

If we look at the mating market where people are looking for sex: this segment does indeed seem to be dominated by men.  The beginning of the video mentions that the online-dating industry is bringing in more than a billion dollars annually.  On top of that, for the gents in this segment of the mating market, there is a huge and growing Pick-Up Artist (PUA) industry, that offers everything from YouTube videos (for example, the entertaining Simple Pickup channel) to what seem to be some rather intensive bootcamps.  A lot of Feminists and others (for example, Tom Chivers) are rather critical of PUAs.  According to this young lady, though,

acquiring some basic PUA skills may be quite useful for a gent.  Still, in this segment of the mating market, there are a lot of men who experience sexual frustration as a result of the discrepancy between their interest in sexual activity and their actual exploits.  One, Elliot Rodger, went on a killing spree, ostensibly because he couldn't get any. 

So far, I haven't heard of a Feminist whining because she absolutely could not find a bloke who was willing to give her a good stiff poke.  On the contrary, the typical Feminist complaint is that she can't leave the house without some Patriarch objectifying her sexually.  Hence, the Feminists have created a number of memes and slogans, such as "Sex is NOT an Entitlement!" and "Rape Culture!", to shame less-desirable men away from pursuing them.  The woman will spread her legs for whomever she wishes.  She gets to choose, from among the many, many, many offers that she is likely to encounter during the course of a day.  And, it is usually the same, high-status men who see most of the action, again and again.

For the other mating market, there are plenty of books, advice columns, etc. geared towards telling women how to hook and keep a husband.  There is no similar market for advice for men on how to hook and keep a wife.  Melissa Kite wrote an article where she blamed selfishness on the part of men for women putting off making babies until it is too late.

Lori Gottlieb, famously advised women who were approaching the end of their residual reproductive value to "Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics...settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year."  There are no similar recommendations for 40-year-old men.  Indeed, a man who was serious about reproducing would be better off seeking a nubile, hot young blossom, rather than risking it all on a middle-aged hag whose residual reproductive value was quickly approaching zero.

Regarding the video's suggestion that women form a cartel to reduce the supply of pussy, and thus drive up the market price, Adam Smith's famous quote from The Wealth of Nations comes to mind:
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice.
Perhaps the authors of the video were inspired by Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata, where the women of Athens conspire together to withhold coitus from the men, to persuade the men to end the decades-long war against Sparta (I heartily recommend the 2002 Spanish film Lisístrata, which was based on Aristophanes' play).

In the present scenario, women would be withholding sex, primarily to benefit the women who were in the market for a husband.  From the Wikipedia:
A cartel is a formal, explicit agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production.  Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where the number of sellers is small (usually because barriers to entry, most notably startup costs, are high) and the products being traded are usually commodities. Cartel members may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, bid rigging, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion (also called the cartel agreement) is to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition.

Game theory suggests that cartels are inherently unstable, as the behaviour of members of a cartel is an example of a prisoner's dilemma. Each member of a cartel would be able to make more profit by breaking the agreement (producing a greater quantity or selling at a lower price than that agreed) than it could make by abiding by it. However, if all members break the agreement, all will be worse off. The incentive to cheat explains why cartels are generally difficult to sustain in the long run...Whether members of a cartel choose to cheat on the agreement depends on whether the short-term returns to cheating outweigh the long-term losses from the possible breakdown of the cartel. (The equilibrium of a prisoner's dilemma game varies according to whether it is played only once or repeatedly.) The relative size of these two factors depends in part on how difficult it is for firms to monitor whether the agreement is being adhered to by other firms. If monitoring is difficult, a member is likely to get away with cheating (and making higher profits) for longer, so members are more likely to cheat and the cartel will be more unstable...
The video's suggestion that women form a sex cartel is completely absurd.  One important externality not mentioned by the Feminists (if the ladies ever did form such a cartel): men who are already facing a hard-enough time in the free-love market would find their economic plight to be even more discouraging, which might lead to an increase in the  number of men following Elliot Rodger's example.

Women are known to withhold sex from men for various reasons: anger, boredom, a desire to be assertive or manipulative, etc. "Women withhold sex because men let them get away with it. It’s pretty clear it’s the one thing that most guys can’t live without and that they’ll do pretty much anything to keep it coming on a regular basis."  However, this is after a couple has an established "relationship", and an implied entitlement to exclusive coitus exists.  On the open mating market, if a man is dissatisfied with the services of one woman, he may seek a more satisfying experience with one of her competitors.  After the wedding, the wife is the one who holds the cards.

The "Economics of Sex" video seems to have been based to some extent on the article Sexual Economics: Sex as a Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions, by Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs.  The authors proposed analyzing a heterosexual community as a marketplace in which men seek to acquire sex from women by offering other resources in exchange, and defined gender roles of women as sellers and men as buyers of sex. Societies endowed female sexuality, but not male sexuality, with value (as in virginity, fidelity, chastity). The article didn't get into the nonsensical cartel proposal, though.  True to form, Laurie Rudman and Janell Feterolf recently published something of a rebuttal:  Gender and Sexual Economics: Do Women View Sex as a Female Commodity?
In the study reported here, data from implicit and behavioral choice measures did not support sexual economics theory’s (SET’s) central tenet that women view female sexuality as a commodity. Instead, men endorsed sexual exchange more than women did, which supports the idea that SET is a vestige of patriarchy. Further, men’s sexual advice, more than women’s, enforced the sexual double standard (i.e., men encouraged men more than women to have casual sex)—a gender difference that was mediated by hostile sexism, but also by men’s greater implicit investment in sexual economics. That is, men were more likely to suppress female sexuality because they resisted female empowerment and automatically associated sex with money more than women did. It appears that women are not invested in sexual economics, but rather, men are invested in patriarchy, even when it means raising the price of sexual relations.
It seems odd that a journal (Psychological Science) that wished to be taken seriously would publish articles that included silly Feminist buzzwords like "vestige of patriarchy", "mediated by hostile sexism", and "resisted female empowerment" in the abstract.  But, as I've noted, prestigious professional journals do tend to publish a lot of ridiculous crap.  So, the Battle of the Sexes is proceeding in the scientific literature.

The term "commodity" applied to coitus seems to be a rather sensitive issue for the Feminists. According to the Wikipedia:
In economics, a commodity is a marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs. Economic commodities comprise goods and services. The exact definition of the term commodity is specifically used to describe a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats its instances as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them. "From the taste of wheat it is not possible to tell who produced it, a Russian serf, a French peasant or an English capitalist."...
Sex would certainly fit the service definition:  if I can legally pay someone to rub my feet in a pleasurable manner, I see no reason why other forms of pleasurable personal service should be forbidden to buy and sell.  As mentioned in a prior post, women have been in the business of providing sex (regarded as "the primitive task of womankind") for men at least since the time that The Epic of Gilgamesh was written.  I think that Feminists like to emphasize their qualitative differentiation across the mating market, which is more flattering than operating from the assumption that one vagina is as functional as the next.  The International Labour Organisation (ILO) affirmed in 1944 that "Labour is not a commodity."  The ILO and the Feminists share a similar abhorrence for the word, which is only a word.

Women, however, as previously mentioned, are quite vulnerable to advertising, propaganda and social engineering.  If they see a situation displayed on a television drama, then they are likely to form the idea that "society" wants them to copy (in their own lives) what was presented on the show.  If corporations decided that they were going to collude together to persuade women to remain chaste before marriage, then, of course, the women would obey and do what they thought "society" was commanding them to do.  However, there seems to be much more money to be made from selling sex (or the desire for sex) than from selling chastity (or the desire for chastity).  In fact, sex seems to form the basis of our economy.  Huge amounts of money are spent on dating websites, on pornography, on learning seduction techniques, on a plethora of things intended to make people appear more sexually-appealing to the opposite sex (fashions, make-up, status symbols, etc.), on jewelry, on dates and other wooing efforts, on weddings, on divorces, and on sex tours:

The pursuit of sex, the procurement of sex and the consequences of sex may actually account for the greatest share of the Gross National Product. Without sex, we wouldn't be producing new generations of citizens to work and pay taxes to support the government, nor to buy the crap that our corporate masters want us to buy.  Why was homosexuality recently decriminalized?  Because there is plenty of money to be made off of gay romance and gay marriage.  Why is prostitution still illegal?  Because, if prostitution were a legal option, then the price of sex would be driven down, pretty close to its actual value.  "You're going to pay for it, one way or another" is a true aphorism.  Getting it for "free" can easily end up costing more than paying as you go.  The Economics of Sex video complained about the unimpressive wooing efforts on the part of young men these days.  Make legal neighborhood brothels available, and wooing efforts will pretty much disappear.

Moreover, sexual imagery is extremely important to advertising and marketing, as described in the post about the Skyy Vodka posters.

Vodka, of course, is very much a commodity.  There really is no difference between one brand of vodka and another.  One brand will cause you to be dizzy and delirious as quickly as the next.  All vodkas are very effective at causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, liver disease and brain damage.  Operating a motor vehicle while under its influence may result in a deadly crash.  Mentioning the real consequences of using vodka isn't going to do a whole lot to boost sales.  Persuade people to associate your brand of vodka with an image of a woman pleasuring herself with the bottle, and you'll be raking in the dollars.  Vodka and sex are both examples of commodities where the sellers seek to use clever marketing and packaging to differentiate their products from others.  To quote Jesus' guardian angel in The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis:

Only one woman exists in the world.  One woman with countless faces.  This one falls, the next one rises.  Mary Magdalene died.  Mary, sister of Lazarus, lives and waits for us, waits for you.  She is Magdalene herself, but with another face...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feminism versus Diamonds

Referring back to the definition of objectify: "to present as an object, especially of sight, touch, or other physical sense; make objective; externalize", or "to represent concretely; present as an object," diamonds are clearly marketed with an eye on objectification.  As Vivian Becker writes for the De Beers corporation:
The diamond is the quintessential, universal symbol of love. Of all its many roles, the diamond as messenger of romantic love – beginning with the belief that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds – has resonated through the centuries to emerge today as powerful as ever.
While the ring itself, with no beginning or end, is an ancient symbol of eternal love, the story of the diamond engagement ring reaches back to the Middle Ages, when the invincible diamond, symbolising ”unquenchable” love, was considered ideal to seal a betrothal or marriage pledge, By the fifteenth century, the diamond ring was a feature of royal and noble weddings...
...When, in 1475, Constanzo Sforza presented his bride, Camilla d’Aragona, with a diamond ring on their wedding day, a poem, in an illuminated manuscript, documented the ceremony: ‘Two torches in one ring of burning fire / Two wills, two hearts, two passions, all bonded in marriage by a diamond.’ The fire in the diamond was likened to the constant flame of love. Then, in 1477, Archduke Maximilian gave a diamond ring – generally held to be the first recorded engagement ring – to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold....
...After the seventeenth century, when emphasis shifted onto the gemstone itself and onto lighter, naturalistic designs, the eighteenth century ushered in a great age of the diamond; with newly discovered deposits in Brazil, and improved cutting techniques, the fire and light of diamonds dazzled in candlelight....
....The Belle Époque, a time of enormous wealth and leisured luxury, bred the next great age of the diamond. New deposits had been discovered in South Africa, cutting had advanced in huge strides, and the engagement ring, an important status symbol, focused on the significant single stone, now in its classic open-prong setting, showing its new brilliance to perfection.
Today, perhaps more than ever, the diamond engagement ring remains the most powerful universal expression of true and everlasting love, and an essential part of the marriage ritual, across the globe. The divine diamond and the power of love.

"The diamond is the quintessential, universal symbol of love" mon cul.  You can't possibly get any more ridiculous in your objectification than that.  A ring, with a little gemstone, is "the most powerful universal expression of true and everlasting love?"  As P.T. Barnum famously said, "many people are gullible, and we expect this to continue."  From the television series Mad Men:

The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call "love" was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons...You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one.
According to Julie Albright, a sociologist and marriage and family therapist at the University of Southern California, the engagement ring "does set a certain tone about whether a woman's expectations will be met by her husband or not."  As previously mentioned, women (particularly in America) have a tendency to be extremely competitive (especially against each other) and highly status-conscious.  Her reaction to your engagement ring may afford you some flavor of what her future demands might be in terms of supporting her lifestyle.  And, she will inevitably be comparing her ring against the engagement rings of her peers, as part of the ongoing competition between females.  Michael Scott reflects:
American males enter adulthood through a peculiar rite of passage - they spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock. They could invest the money in assets that will compound over time and someday provide a nest egg. Instead, they trade that money for a diamond ring, which isn’t much of an asset at all. As soon as you leave the jeweler with a diamond, it loses over 50% of its value.
Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to. Prior to a stunningly successful marketing campaign 1938, Americans occasionally exchanged engagement rings, but wasn’t a pervasive occurrence. Not only is the demand for diamonds a marketing invention, but diamonds aren’t actually that rare. Only by carefully restricting the supply has De Beers kept the price of a diamond high.
Countless American dudes will attest that the societal obligation to furnish a diamond engagement ring is both stressful and expensive. But here’s the thing - this obligation only exists because the company that stands to profit from it willed it into existence.
So here is a modest proposal: Let’s agree that diamonds are bullshit and reject their role in the marriage process. Let’s admit that as a society we got tricked for about century into coveting sparkling pieces of carbon, but it’s time to end the nonsense...
 Meghan O'Rourke writes: 
...Until the 1930s, a woman jilted by her fiance could sue for financial compensation for "damage" to her reputation under what was known as the "Breach of Promise to Marry" action. As courts began to abolish such actions, diamond ring sales rose in response to a need for a symbol of financial commitment from the groom, argues the legal scholar Margaret Brinig—noting, crucially, that ring sales began to rise a few years before the De Beers campaign. To be marriageable at the time you needed to be a virgin, but, Brinig points out, a large percentage of women lost their virginity while engaged. So some structure of commitment was necessary to assure betrothed women that men weren't just trying to get them into bed. The "Breach of Promise" action had helped prevent what society feared would be rampant seduce-and-abandon scenarios; in its lieu, the pricey engagement ring would do the same. (Implicitly, it would seem, a woman's virginity was worth the price of a ring, and varied according to the status of her groom-to-be.)... 
Women, by and large, are considerably less dependent upon men than they once were.  Indeed, in a prior post, I pointed out that women are beating the pants off of men, both academically and professionally.  Since women are largely destined to become the typical household's primary income earner, it is ridiculous for women to continue to demand that men spend huge sums of money on jewelry for them.  Even De Beers recognized this, and launched a campaign to persuade women to buy diamond rings for themselves.  As the advertisements were hugely effective, it seems that women (poor creatures) are quite vulnerable to social engineering.  It was the master propagandist, Edward Bernays, who set about, in the 1920s, to persuade young women that they ought to smoke, of all things.  And, the hijo de puta was highly successful.  Millions of women did as they were told, and smoked themselves into an early, painful death.  Sure, blame the Patriarchy.  It was their own damned fault.

Men certainly aren't immune to the pressures of propaganda and social engineering.  Neckties are profoundly silly.  But, at least we don't generally feel compelled to wear crippling high-heeled shoes designed to keep podiatrists in business.  

Among the Padaung of Burma, it is the women, and not the men, who believe themselves obliged to wear the cumbersome neck rings.

No Patriarchs are going to go to that extreme, just for the sake of appearances.

Miss O'Rourke points out further:
...For those who aren't bothered by the finer points of gender equity, an engagement ring clearly makes a claim about the status of a woman's sexual currency. It's a big, shiny NO TRESPASSING sign, stating that the woman wearing it has been bought and paid for, while her beau is out there sign-free and all too easily trespassable, until the wedding...In fact, many ads, including a recent series by Tiffany, imply that giving a ring results in a woman's sexual debt...
...It may seem curious that feminism has made inroads on many retrograde customs—name-changing, for example—but not on the practice of giving engagement rings. Part of the reason the ring has persisted and thrived is clearly its role in what Thorstein Veblen called the economy of "conspicuous consumption." Part of the reason could be that many young women, raised in a realm of relative equality, never think rigorously about the traditions handed down to them....
As far as I can tell, Miss O'Rourke is the only Feminist who takes issue with the artificial, sexually-objectifying custom of the diamond engagement ring.  You can search the National Organization for Women's website: they piss and moan about every other conceivable form of imagined sexual objectification, but nary a whimper about the diamond engagement ring.  As I hitherto remarked, many Feminists express disapproval of heterosexual monogamous marriage for a variety reasons, but never raise a stink about the jewelry business.  Rather than women never thinking "rigorously about the traditions handed down to them", I think that Feminists ignore this particular issue because it involves men foolishly spending a huge wad of money in order to impress and please women, as potential brides.  If a corporation had attempted to establish a similar custom that involved women spending three-months worth of their salary on some ludicrously-overpriced trinket for a man, then, boy would the Feminists be howling.  That custom would be doomed, and any woman who dared to comply with the rigors of the newly-manufactured convention would face an excruciating shaming from her fellow Feminists.

I certainly don't object to women buying and collecting jewelry, if they wish.  Nor to men buying jewelry as gifts for women, if they wish.  Life is short, and people should, by all means, buy whatever they think will bring them the greatest happiness.  But, the way that jewelry is marketed in America is ridiculous.

Many of the people who actually mine the diamonds work in rather appalling conditions.  Very little of what you pay the jeweler actually trickles down to their level.  In India and elsewhere, many people prefer to buy gold rather than to keep money in a savings account, because gold often tends to retain its value better than the local currency, which loses value over time due to inflation.  When they need money for some special reason, they would sell some of their gold (although, over recent years, the price of gold has become quite volatile).  In America, you might get something from a pawn shop for your diamond ring, but it will be nowhere near what you paid the retailer.

Although you may fully agree with the statement that "the diamond engagement ring remains the most powerful universal expression of true and everlasting love", it is important to dissociate the objectification from reality.  Yes, most women in America will receive a ridiculously overpriced ring from their fiancés.  But, most marriages in America will also end in divorce.  The overpriced ring doesn't really serve a damned thing.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Christianity and Asexual Objectification

Dennis McCallum defines objectification as "the religious tendency to reduce abstract principles to tangible, visceral objects and rituals", and lists two examples from Christianity as being the water baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Another aspect of Christianity which seems rather puzzling is the objectification of sexlessness.  The "Original Sin" of Adam and Eve was inherited by all mankind through the process of sexual reproduction.  Jesus got around this, presumably, by having a mom who was a virgin.  Matthew 1:
This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately.  While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.  She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.”
Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).
So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to.  But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.
And, of course, the motif of the virgin birth is attributed to a line in Isaiah 7:
...The Lord sent another message to Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God to give you a sign. It can be from deep in the world of the dead or from high up in heaven.”

Ahaz answered, “I will not ask for a sign. I refuse to put the Lord to the test.”

To that Isaiah replied, “Listen, now, descendants of King David. It's bad enough for you to wear out the patience of people—do you have to wear out God's patience too?  Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’ By the time he is old enough to make his own decisions, people will be drinking milk and eating honey. Even before that time comes, the lands of those two kings who terrify you will be deserted..."  
Bible footnotes explain that the author of the Gospel of Matthew used the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew word almah (in Isaiah 7) to the Greek parthenos (a word that usually implies virginity) in support of his concept of the virgin birth of Jesus.  Almah is a Hebrew word meaning a young woman of childbearing age who has not yet had a child, and has nothing to do with virginity per se. But somehow, in Christianity, it became important and significant for the mother of Jesus to have been a virgin. Obviously, Isaiah's prophecy was not referring to Jesus.  For one thing, Mary named her son Jesus, and not Immanuel.  For another, the prophecy primarily concerned the timing of the kingdoms of Israel and Syria becoming deserted--before Immanuel was fully adult. Of course, Mary wasn't the first mortal woman ever to have been impregnated by an immortal.  Genesis 6 points out that the sons of God were by no means averse to getting some mortal pussy:
...And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose....There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown...
The Bible doesn't state that the daughters of men retained their virginity after the sons of God came in unto them.  But, the Catholics take this silliness considerably further, and profess to believe in "Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man."  The Bible contains considerable contradictory evidence. For example, Matthew 13: "Isn't he the carpenter's son? Isn't Mary his mother, and aren't James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Aren't all his sisters living here?"  And, Galatians 1:  "It was three years later that I went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Peter, and I stayed with him for two weeks.  I did not see any other apostle except James, the Lord's brother."  The Catholic defense is that these are "brothers" in the sense of "brothers from another mother"; i.e., cousins, half-brothers (from a prior marriage of Joseph), or "brothers" in the religious sense.  If any of the New Testament authors thought that Mary was a perpetual virgin, or that believing this nonsense had any importance, then at least one of them would have mentioned it.  And, Matthew and Paul would have seen the potential confusion in naming Jesus' brothers, and clarified their texts.  But, they didn't.  The Catholics are woefully wrong on this one.

On top of that, the Catholics have pretty much venerated Mary to a cult-hero status nearly equivalent to that of Jesus: including her own "immaculate conception", and her "assumption" into Heaven, where she serves humanity as a mediatrix to God.

And, on top of that, the Catholic Church pretends to insist that priests and nuns must remain virgins, or at least sexually continent.  In their opinion, even contraception and masturbation are sins.  Possibly because they thought that Jesus, Mary and Joseph never masturbated or engaged in any coitus.  Possibly because in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul wrote
...A man does well not to marry. But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband.  A man should fulfill his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfill her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other's needs. A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is. Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations. In this way you will be kept from giving in to Satan's temptation because of your lack of self-control.

I tell you this not as an order, but simply as a permission. Actually I would prefer that all of you were as I am; but each one has a special gift from God, one person this gift, another one that gift.

Now, to the unmarried and to the widows I say that it would be better for you to continue to live alone as I do. But if you cannot restrain your desires, go ahead and marry—it is better to marry than to burn with passion....
The Catholics read only the bolded part, and skip over the rest.  Note: Paul considered his asexuality to be a "special gift from God", and not something that anyone else was particularly obliged to follow.  Burning with passion is not preferable to marrying.  In fact, in 1 Timothy 3, Paul states
If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work.  A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach;  he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money;  he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect.  For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God?  He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was. He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church, so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the Devil's trap.
Most likely, the tradition of nuns remaining virgins derived from the chastity vows of the Vestal Virgins in the ancient Roman state religion:  there is certainly no equivalent in Judaism.  When Christianity became Rome's official religion, this convention was retained.  According to the Catholic Catechism:
923. Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.”  By this solemn rite (Consecratio Virginum), the virgin is “constituted... a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.
As for men remaining continent: the concept seems absurd.  Perhaps they are motivated by what Jesus reportedly said in Matthew 19:
 "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
His disciples say unto him, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry."
But he said unto them, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.  For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."
Origen, a third-century Christian theologian, is said to have castrated himself, in accordance with these words. Although castration was never a feature of the Jewish religion (Deuteronomy 23: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord"), eunuchs were common in some of the region's other cultures, including Egypt, Babylonia, the Persian Empire and ancient Rome.  Perhaps Jesus was referring to the Galli, who were eunuch priests of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.  From the Wikipedia:
The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or "Day of Blood", which took place on March 24. At the same time they put on women's costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings. They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and dishevelled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.
Who can possibly forget Martial's famous epigram?:
Cur tantum eunuchos habeat tua Caelia, quaeris,
Pannyche? Volt futui Caelia nec parere. /
You ask why your Caelia only has eunuchs,
Pannychus? Caelia wishes to be fucked but not to give birth.
(often more delicately translated: "Do you ask, Panychus, why your Caelia only consorts with eunuchs? Caelia wants the flowers of marriage – not the fruits.")

The Gallic custom of self-flagellation lives on in the Good Friday celebrations of Filipino Catholics.

At least they aren't castrating themselves.

People who get involved in religion are still mere flesh-and-blood mortals, of whom the majority possess sexual desires of one sort or another.  Unfortunately, far too many people who enter Catholic church life have turned out to be pedophiles.  In fact, I was quite shocked to have read, in the Northern Express, about some quite nasty activities taking place at the Holy Childhood Catholic Church, close to my home in Harbor Springs, Michigan:
...“Jerry” sat in his ex-wife’s cramped duplex and recalled his school years at Holy Childhood School in the 1960s. Like many Native American children in Northern Michigan, Jerry (not his real name) was sent away from his home in Peshawbestown to Holy Childhood at the age of six. His mother was mentally unstable and hospitalized. His father, a religious man, believed his four kids were better off at the Catholic school.
 The school had dormitories for the children. Jerry slept in a large room along with 60 other young boys slept in the young boy’s dormitory. Sister Fran (not her real name) was their housemother, a plain and rather plump nun in her 20s. Each night, she’d kiss each boy on the forehead, but she’d kiss her favorite boys on the lips and tickle them. A couple of years ticked by and Jerry said her kisses grew longer as she “taught” him how to give her hickies all over her body...
...Jerry, 55, was one of nine former Holy Childhood students who described their sexual abuse at the hands of two nuns to the Grand Rapids Press. Like Jerry, most of them were Indian altar boys....
..The story of the abused men are similar and involve housemothers who cared for the boys .when they were not in class. Paul Raphael was two grades behind Jerry and confirmed that he saw Jerry kissing the nun on a couch when they were watching television. He said she also kissed other boys, including a third grader.
Raphael said the nun began her seduction by kissing the boys goodnight. As the boys became older, the two nuns would sneak the boys into their bedrooms — which were right off the large dormitory rooms — at night, and the boys would leave early in the morning.  The boys said they resisted at first, but the nuns showered them with proclamations of love and special privileges, such as buying candy at the Feathers Variety Store in downtown Harbor Springs or letting them watch movies at the Lyric Theatre. Russell Menefee, now 59, told the Grand Rapids Press that one of the nuns would walk into the dormitory after everyone had been tucked in. She stopped at his bed and fondled him at least a dozen times.
One student from this era told Veronica Pasfield he lost his virginity to the nun at the age of 15...Unlike the other boys, Jerry said he talked openly about his relationship with the nun.  “I told everybody about it. All my young friends. They all knew. I told my parents, but nobody seemed to think much about it. My male friends, they’d say, ‘Oh that’s cool.’”
He even told an Emmet County deputy when he ran away with a school friend....“We hid out along a beach until it got dark. The cops picked us up. Danny said, 'tell them, tell them!' So, I did. They told us to shut up. They said, ‘They’re trying to do what’s best for you kids. We’re going to take you back. Don’t talk that crazy talk any more.’ We got back. They beat us, they beat us real bad. They beat you so bad, you’d zone out and go somewhere else. One time I was beat so bad, I thought I’d fall on the floor from a heart attack. It was so bad, so long. I didn’t cry. I just looked at them,” he said.
Jerry said that at the same time he was being molested, another schoolmate was having sex with Sister Beth. “They’d have day rooms, TV and games, and one big couch. Just he and me and the two sisters would sit on the couch, blankets on top of us. The other kids would sit in front of us four. They’d have nothing on under their robes and they’d say, ‘Turn around and watch TV.’”
Brian Anthony told the Grand Rapids Press that he also huddled with one of the two nuns under a blanket in the day room, while the other kids sat in front of them watching television. At the age of 12, he had sex “damn near every night,” in the housemother’s bedroom on the third floor...
I don't know why Catholics imagine that people who profess to abstain from sexual relations are so special.  It is much better to marry than to burn.  And, it is clearly better to seek consensual coitus with adults, rather than to coerce children.  I was aware that Catholics had a reputation for being mean and beating children, but this pedophilia business is crazy.  One might be better off entrusting one's children to other adults who were married, and who had children of their own.

Which isn't to say that our Protestant brethren never place their peckers where they ostensibly don't belong.

I was a bit surprised that, in his own defense, Brother Jimmy never mentioned Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.  Genesis 38:
...And he turned unto her by the way, and said, "Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee"; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.)
And she said, "What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?"
And he said, "I will send thee a kid from the flock."
And she said, "Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?"
And he said, "What pledge shall I give thee?"
And she said, "Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand."  And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him...
If Judah can do it, then why not Brother Jimmy?

At the Kamakhya Temple in Assam, the objectification of the female reproductive organ takes on a form that is all together different from that accorded to the hymen of Jesus' mother Mary.
 ...During Ambubachi, for three days Mother Earth Herself menstruates, and all the temples in the region are closed to devotees.  Inside the Kamakhya Temple, MAA is bathed and dressed daily, and given a red silk cloth in consideration of Her menstrual flow, and also given fruit and light worship...On the fourth day, the temple doors are opened, and devotees wait for hours to receive Her special darshan.  Devotees plead to receive a small piece of rakta bastra, the red silk "blood cloth" upon which Devi sits during Her menses (also called anga bastra).  As a talisman or amulet, this piece of cloth is said to be very auspicious and powerfully beneficial if tied onto the body, typically around the arm or wrist.  

Kamakhya, or Kameshvari as She is commonly known, is the Reknowned Goddess of Desire whose shrine is situated in a cave in the heart of the Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, Assam.  As the yoni (which means source, vulva and womb) of Madadevi, She is recognized as not on the form of desire (Kamarupa, Kamarupini), but She is the very source of our desires, and also the One who grants our desires.  She is desire itself, as well as its fullfillment.
The Sanskrit term ambuvaci...literally means "the issuring forth of water", referring to the swelling of the Earth's waters from the onset of monsoon.  Outsiders often mistakenly think that this festival is a celebration of Kamakhya's menstruation, but in fact it is the menstruation of the entire Mother Earth, and as Kamakhya is the seat of Her yoni, it becomes the focal point for related festivities....
The Kaaba, which contains the Black Stone of Mecca, towards which Muslims direct their prayers, is similarly said to represent a yoni.

Apparently, the new Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has plans to destroy the Kaaba.

With regard to menstruation, Judaism, and probably also Christianity, have a perspective that is quite dissimilar to that of the Assamese.  Leviticus 15:
...When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her is unclean until evening. Anything on which she sits or lies during her monthly period is unclean. Any who touch her bed or anything on which she has sat must wash their clothes and take a bath, and they remain unclean until evening.  If a man has sexual intercourse with her during her period, he is contaminated by her impurity and remains unclean for seven days, and any bed on which he lies is unclean...
The emphasis, here, is on the uncleanliness of a woman's function--as opposed to a huge, Indian-style celebration, where a bit of cloth upon which a menstruating goddess has sat is considered to bring good fortune.  Whether Mary ever underwent menses, and whether she discharged any fluids through her vagina when giving birth to Jesus (or at any other time in her life), remains a topic of heated debate among Catholics, who want their principal virgin to be as pure as pure can be.

Not all religions and cultures have regarded sexuality as something evil or wrong.  In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the temple-harlot Shamhat is credited with using her feminine charms to seduce, tame and civilize the wild Enkidu: 
...The trapper addressed his father saying:
"Father, a certain fellow has come from the mountains.
He is the mightiest in the land,
his strength is as mighty as the meteorite of Anu!
He continually goes over the mountains,
he continually jostles at the watering place with the animals,
he continually plants his feet opposite the watering place.
I was afraid, so I did not go up to him.
He filled in the pits that I had dug,
wrenched out my traps that I had spread,
released from my grasp the wild animals.
He does not let me make my rounds in the wilderness!"
The trapper's father spoke to him saying:
"My son, there lives in Uruk a certain Gilgamesh.
There is no one stronger than he,
he is as strong as the meteorite of Anu.
Go, set off to Uruk,
tell Gilgamesh of this Man of Might.
He will give you the harlot Shamhat, take her with you.
The woman will overcome the fellow as if she were strong.
When the animals are drinking at the watering place
have her take off her robe and expose her sex.
When he sees her he will draw near to her,

and his animals, who grew up in his wilderness, will be alien to him."
He heeded his father's advice.
The trapper went off to Uruk,
he made the journey, stood inside of Uruk,
and declared to ... Gilgamesh:
"There is a certain fellow who has come from the mountains--etc., etc."
Gilgamesh said to the trapper:
"Go, trapper, bring the harlot, Shamhat, with you.
When the animals are drinking at the watering place
have her take off her robe and expose her sex.
When he sees her he will draw near to her,
and his animals, who grew up in his wilderness, will be alien to him
The trapper went, bringing the harlot, Shamhat, with him.
They set off on the journey, making direct way.
On the third day they arrived at the appointed place,
and the trapper and the harlot sat down at their posts.
A first day and a second they sat opposite the watering hole.
The animals arrived and drank at the watering hole,
the wild beasts arrived and slaked their thirst with water.
Then he, Enkidu, offspring of the mountains,
who eats grasses with the gazelles,
came to drink at the watering hole with the animals,
with the wild beasts he slaked his thirst with water.
Then Shamhat saw him--a primitive,
a savage fellow from the depths of the wilderness!
"That is he, Shamhat! Release your clenched arms,
expose your sex so he can take in your voluptuousness.
Do not be restrained--take his energy!
When he sees you he will draw near to you.
Spread out your robe so he can lie upon you,
and perform for this primitive the task of womankind
His animals, who grew up in his wilderness, will become alien to him,
and his lust will groan over you."

Shamhat unclutched her bosom, exposed her sex, and he took in her voluptuousness.
She was not restrained, but took his energy.
She spread out her robe and he lay upon her,
she performed for the primitive the task of womankind.
His lust groaned over her;
for six days and seven nights Enkidu stayed aroused,
and had intercourse with the harlot
until he was sated with her charm
But when he turned his attention to his animals,
the gazelles saw Enkidu and darted off,
the wild animals distanced themselves from his body.
Enkidu ... his utterly depleted body,
his knees that wanted to go off with his animals went rigid;
Enkidu was diminished, his running was not as before.
But then he drew himself up, for his understanding had broadened.
Turning around, he sat down at the harlot's feet,
gazing into her face, his ears attentive as the harlot spoke.
The harlot said to Enkidu:
"You are beautiful, Enkidu, you are become like a god.
Why do you gallop around the wilderness with the wild beasts?
Come, let me bring you into Uruk-Haven,
to the Holy Temple, the residence of Anu and Ishtar
the place of Gilgamesh, who is wise to perfection,
but who struts his power over the people like a wild bull."
What she kept saying found favor with him.
Becoming aware of himself, he sought a friend.
Enkidu spoke to the harlot:
"Come, Shamhat, take me away with you
to the sacred Holy Temple, the residence of Anu and Ishtar,
the place of Gilgamesh, who is wise to perfection,
but who struts his power over the people like a wild bull.
I will challenge him ...
Let me shout out in Uruk: I am the mighty one!'
Lead me in and I will change the order of things;
he whose strength is mightiest is the one born in the wilderness!"
[Shamhat to Enkidu:]
"Come, let us go, so he may see your face.
I will lead you to Gilgamesh--I know where he will be.
Look about, Enkidu, inside Uruk-Haven,
where the people show off in skirted finery,
where every day is a day for some festival,
where the lyre and drum play continually,
where harlots stand about prettily,
exuding voluptuousness, full of laughter
and on the couch of night the sheets are spread
Enkidu, you who do not know, how to live,
I will show you Gilgamesh, a man of extreme feelings!
Look at him, gaze at his face--
he is a handsome youth, with freshness!,
his entire body exudes voluptuousness
He has mightier strength than you,
without sleeping day or night!
Enkidu, it is your wrong thoughts you must change!
It is Gilgamesh whom Shamhat loves,
and Anu, Enlil, and La have enlarged his mind."...
...Shamhat pulled off her clothing,
and clothed him with one piece
while she clothed herself with a second.
She took hold of him as the gods do
and brought him to the hut of the shepherds...
...They placed food in front of him,
they placed beer in front of him;
Enkidu knew nothing about eating bread for food,
and of drinking beer he had not been taught.
The harlot spoke to Enkidu, saying:
"Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.
Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land."
Enkidu ate the food until he was sated,
he drank the beer-seven jugs!-- and became expansive and sang with joy!
He was elated and his face glowed.
He splashed his shaggy body with water,
and rubbed himself with oil, and turned into a human....
Ah, the primitive task of womankind!  Although Gilgamesh wasn't a very nice guy, Uruk does seem to have been quite a pleasant place: perhaps similar in many ways to modern Pattaya:

The harlot Shamhat had quite a civilizing effect upon Enkidu.  After his encounter with the charming and talented Shamhat, Enkidu would never be the same again.  And, this is far from the only reference to ancient harlotry.  When Joshua sent two spies into Jericho, they went and spent the night at (where else?) the home of a harlot named Rahab, whom Matthew reckons to have been an ancestor of Jesus, along with Tamar, mentioned above.  If any one of Jesus' ancestors had failed in his or her duty to procreate at just the right moment, then Jesus never would have been born.  The same applies to you.  As Nikos Kazantzakis points out in The Last Temptation of Christ:
That is why scriptures call him the Son of Man! Why do you think thousands of Israel's men and women have coupled, generation after generation? To rub their backsides and titillate their groins? No. All those thousands and thousands of kisses were needed to produce the Messiah.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, Rahab is exalted as an example of a person of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and of good works (James 2:25).

The Greek historian Herodotus, however, maintained a somewhat less positive view of ancient religious harlotry:
The foulest Babylonian custom is that which compels every woman of the land to sit in the temple of Aphrodite and have intercourse with some stranger once in her life. Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta” (that is the Assyrian name for Aphrodite). It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one. After their intercourse, having discharged her sacred duty to the goddess, she goes away to her home; and thereafter there is no bribe however great that will get her. So then the women that are fair and tall are soon free to depart, but the uncomely have long to wait because they cannot fulfill the law; for some of them remain for three years, or four. There is a custom like this in some parts of Cyprus.

Herodotus seems to have been something of a killjoy, much like Paul.  On the plus side, the women performed a central role in Babylonian religion, quite unlike Judaism and Christianity, where the women are pretty much enjoined to remain in silence and under obedience.  Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
 and reiterates in 1 Timothy 2:
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was first formed, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Not much of a sacred role for Jewish and Christian women at all.  Unlike ancient Babylon, where all of the women had a substantial function in the spiritual and religious life of the nation.  And, they weren't compelled to remain virgins.  The Babylonian women were free of that particularly onerous form of objectification.

When it comes to Christian prayer, we're pretty much supposed to limit ourselves to the scope and purview of the Lord's Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be they name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever. Amen.
No wishing for extravagant riches, nor to win the lottery.  No praying for your favorite sports team to be triumphant.  No praying for victory in war, nor conquest in love.  Basically just acknowledging God's will, asking for a bit to eat, for forgiveness, to be kept away from temptation and evil, and vowing to forgive others who might have wronged us.  Something of a humble, minimalist lifestyle is to be preferred.  On the other hand, where worship involving Aphrodite is concerned, one has a much less restricted spectrum of options when it comes to beseeching favors, as illustrated in Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite:

Iridescent-throned Aphrodite, deathless
Child of Zeus, wile-weaver, I now implore you,
Don't--I beg you, Lady--with pains and torments
Crush down my spirit,
But before if ever you've heard my pleadings
Then return, as once when you left your father's
Golden house; you yoked to your shining car your
Wing-whirring sparrows;
Skimming down the paths of the sky's bright ether
On they brought you over the earth's black bosom,
Swiftly--then you stood with a sudden brilliance,
Goddess, before me;
Deathless face alight with your smile, you asked me
What I suffered, who was my cause of anguish,
What would ease the pain of my frantic mind, and
Why had I called you
To my side: "And whom should Persuasion summon
Here, to soothe the sting of your passion this time?
Who is now abusing you, Sappho? Who is
Treating you cruelly?
Now she runs away, but she'll soon pursue you;
Gifts she now rejects--soon enough she'll give them;
Now she doesn't love you, but soon her heart will
Burn, though unwilling."
Come to me once more, and abate my torment;
Take the bitter care from my mind, and give me
All I long for; Lady, in all my battles
Fight as my comrade.
With Aphrodite, one could ask for help in alluring a Lesbian lover.  Asking for Jesus or Yahweh to assist you in procuring or seducing a homosexual partner would be out of the question.  Moreover, in Sappho's poem Blame Aphrodite
It's no use Mother dear, I
can't finish my weaving.
You may blame Aphrodite.

Soft as she is,
she has almost
killed me with
love for that boy.
we see that it was possible to inculpate Aphrodite for one's limerent condition.  When it comes to Judaism and Christianity, one is largely prohibited from blaming Yahweh, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit for anything.  Not even the Great Flood.  Recall how Job reacted after learning that he had lost all of his wealth and that his children had been killed:
Job got up and tore his clothes in grief. He shaved his head and threw himself face downward on the ground. He said, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!”  In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God.
Although officially outlawed, temple prostitution continues to exist in India.

At least compared to Catholics, the worshippers of the Hindu Goddess Yellamma are honest about their intentions with your children.  In fairness, it should be noted that temple prostitution in India originated perhaps thousands of years ago. In pre-colonial India, the Devadasis (temple women) frequently came from upper-class families, and often were talented poets, dancers and artists who enjoyed a somewhat elevated status.  Pre-colonial Indians seem to have taken unembarrassed joy in sexuality, and to have relished a cultural tradition where the sacred and the sexual were not regarded as being opposed, but rather closely linked. Indian temple art often featured voluptuous women and sexual themes:

The Kama Sutra, written by Vatsayana during the second century, includes practical, frank, and explicit instructions related to sexual intercourse.

Here is When God is a Customer, which dates from the fifteenth or sixteenth century, and which had been kept locked in the temple of Tirupati, and which was only recently translated into English:
I’m not like the others.
You may enter my house,
but only if you have the money.

If you don’t have as much as I ask,
a little less would do.
But I’ll not accept very little,
Lord Kǒǹkaneśvara.

To step across the threshold
of my main door,
it’ll cost you a hundred in gold.
For two hundred you can see my bedroom,
my bed of silk,
and climb into it.

Only if you have the money.

To sit by my side
and to put your hand
boldly into my sari:
that will cost ten thousand.

And seventy thousand
will get you a touch
of my full round breasts.

Only if you have the money.

Three crores to bring
your mouth close to mine,
touch my lips and kiss.
To hug me tight,
to touch my place of love,
and get to total union,
listen well,
you must bathe me
in a shower of gold.

But only if you have the money.
During British rule in India, Devadasis started to lose their traditional means of patronage and support, and reformers worked towards ending the Devadasi tradition, on the grounds that it supported prostitution. The British had a profound impact on the concept of sexual morality in India, and, even today, in spite of centuries of sensuality that preceded the advent of British ruler, Bollywood actors cannot even kiss in a film.  The Devadasi system was outlawed in all of India in 1988, but continues to be practiced illegally.  Modern Devadasis now derive almost exclusively from India's lowest caste.  Many of the girls who become Devadasis are illiterate, and don't see a better way of supporting themselves and their families.  Rather than women of refinement and culture, today's Devadasis are little more than fodder for dour Western Feminist film-makers.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

The number of Catholic virgins choosing to become nuns, betrothed mystically to Jesus, their hymens forever objectified, has been falling markedly.  The decline in the number of nuns isn't attributable to legal forces, but rather to cultural shifts and reduced interest.  Young Indian girls continue to become Devadasis, married to a God or Goddess, the religious objectification of their reproductive organs being rather different from that of the Catholic virgins.  As with the Catholic virgins, their role in Indian society continues to decline, due to a variety of social pressures.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Goddess Temple, which offered sexual services in the context of a metaphysical and spiritual experience, has been on trial for years, under charges of prostitution.  With Mystic Mother Tracie Elise serving as her own defense attorney, I'm not especially optimistic about the outcome.  But, with the Supreme Court having recently legalized sodomy throughout the nation, and with a federal judge having weakened Utah's anti-polygamy law, who knows what might happen here, at least if the Phoenix Goddess Temple's case is appealed?  The Arizona prostitution laws are quite sloppily written to begin with.

Here are some of Arizona's relevant legal definitions:
"Prostitution" means engaging in or agreeing or offering to engage in sexual conduct with another person under a fee arrangement with that person or any other person.

"Sexual conduct" means sexual contact, sexual intercourse, oral sexual contact or sadomasochistic abuse.

"Sexual contact" means any direct or indirect fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast.

"Sexual intercourse" means penetration into the penis, vulva or anus by any part of the body or by any object.

"Sadomasochistic abuse" means flagellation or torture by or upon a person who is nude or clad in undergarments or in revealing or bizarre costume or the condition of being fettered, bound or otherwise physically restrained on the part of one so clothed.

"House of prostitution" means any building, structure or place used for the purpose of prostitution or lewdness or where acts of prostitution occur.
And, some of the expressly prohibited activities:
13-3204: Receiving earnings of prostitute; classification
A person who knowingly receives money or other valuable thing from the earnings of a person engaged in prostitution, is guilty of a class 5 felony.

13-3208: Keeping or residing in house of prostitution; employment in prostitution; classification
A. A person who knowingly is an employee at a house of prostitution or prostitution enterprise is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
B. A person who knowingly operates or maintains a house of prostitution or prostitution enterprise is guilty of a class 5 felony.

It is unlawful for a person to knowingly engage in prostitution....A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.....
When you go to a doctor, for a vaginal exam, a colonoscopy, a testicular checkup, or a mammogram, you are receiving what Arizona law defines as "sexual contact", which is "any direct or indirect fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast."   "Sexual contact" falls within Arizona's definition of "sexual conduct."  Given that this "sexual conduct" is offered in exchange for a fee, Arizona doctors are engaging in prostitution, and clinics are "houses of prostitution", according to a rigid interpretation of Arizona law. Strictly speaking, Arizona should be arresting doctors, too. Moreover, Arizona law prohibits fondling of female, but not male, breasts, which would seem to violate the 14th amendment.  If it is legal to fondle man-boobs, then it should also be legal to fondle lady-boobs.  As Arizona law defines "sexual intercourse" as "penetration into the penis, vulva or anus by any part of the body by any object", the insertion of a catheter would constitute "sexual intercourse."

The law does not admit an exemption for married couples.  Traditionally, the arrangement was for the wife to provide the husband with sexual favors in exchange for food and support.  Now, it is more common for the wife to use coitus as positive reinforcement while training her husband. For example, the husband is rewarded with sex if he tidies up the living room.  Arizona law would seem to preclude such arrangements.

On top of that, if a prostitute comes into my store to buy something with her earnings, then I've committed a "class 5 felony."  It doesn't even say that her earnings had to have come from prostitution.  She might have earned some money from babysitting.  She can't even spend that money in my store, because she is a person engaged in prostitution.

Anyone who wishes to make himself a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake, or who wishes to betroth herself mystically to Christ as an eschatological image, may do so.  Have at it.  Our culture's dominant religion says that these are great things to do. But, our country ought to be open to permitting other kinds of religious expressions and experiences, including sacred harlotry.