Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Can We Deal With Competing Truths?

What do we do when two sets of statistics appear to tell us different things, but they’re both true? Do we ignore one set because of our own biases, while latching onto the other? Do we, because our minds are too small and inflexible, insist that they can’t both be true, and that it only appears to be that way because of smoke, mirrors, and the unethical (or ignorant) manipulation of data?

Or do we sit down, open our puny little minds a bit, and try to understand the complicated nuances that actually do allow for both sets of statistics to be true, thus walking away with a greater understanding of the issue as a whole than we previously gravitated toward when we only saw things in black and white?

I mentioned this once before when I talked about Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics About Planned Parenthood, and Unicorns. In this post I tried to explain two things could be simultaneously true.

The first was that only 3% of the work Planned Parenthood does is abortion related.

The second was that they could still be the “single largest” provider of abortions even if they only did 10%, if the other 90% were spread out among smaller independent providers.

My point there was to get each of the extreme sides to take a look at how the other side saw things, and go “Oh…” Did it work? I don’t know.

Here’s another case where two seemingly incompatible sets of statistics can both be true: Most guys are not sexual predators…but the small number of them who are do damage far out of proportion to their numbers, and cause women to not trust the rest of us.

And let me hit you up with one more related set of statistics before proceeding to my main point. Most Catholic priests are not pedophiles…but the small number of them who are, combined with the horrible mishandling of the situation by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, have done damage, once again, out of proportion to their numbers, that will last for generations.

So having given you those three examples, which I’m assuming you are able to understand the nuances of, let me now go to the main course and talk about what I really came here for.

Guns and gun violence.

And here are my two sets of seemingly incompatible statistics, both of which are true:

Most gun owners…the overwhelming majority of gun owners…are responsible, law-abiding citizens, with no anger management issues, racist tendencies, or desires to overthrow the government when things don’t go their way. On the other hand, a very small minority of gun owners, armed with some very powerful weapons, do unspeakable damage far out of proportion to their numbers.

So there you have it. Both things are true. Now the question is how do we go about dealing with the problem that we alone in the industrialized world seem to have with gun violence? Does being able to see and understand both sides of the equation enable us to maybe come out of our own well-fortified corners and out of our own ideological bubbles…to talk to (and not scream at) each other, to listen to and try to understand each other as we try to solve this horrible problem? Will being able to do this enable more people to come in from each of the extreme sides (and some of them are unbelievably extreme) to somewhere in the middle where we can all agree on a compromise?

I don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What You Can Learn About Sex From Porn

Recently a notification popped up on my screen for podcast called What Happens When You Learn About Sex from Porn. I was intrigued by this for a number of reasons. First of all, I was sure that it was going to be all about the misinformation and bad information guys get from porn. Second, I was thinking that I learned a lot about sex from porn, and it was a lot of good information. Third, and this is where those two seemingly incompatible things tie together, I understand that the porn…or “dirty books”…of my youth are much different from what’s available out there on the internet now. The stuff I accidentally found in the back of my father’s closet would more likely be called “erotica” today, and would be considered quite tame…and almost even innocent…by today’s standards.

I haven’t listened to that podcast yet, because I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts without having any of them be a response to that.

So let’s talk about those books I stumbled across in my father’s closet. After I’d read a few of them...and took a cold shower, I was very careful to put them back exactly where I found them, so that he wouldn’t know that anyone had found them, and they’d be there for me to read some other time. Second, I learned a lot of things from those little books that put me in good stead with the girls I dated later on. I learned things about what girls found enjoyable that they definitely weren’t gonna teach me beyond the basic plumbing in Health. Not even in the rather advanced health class we had at East Orange High School.

To put it simply, in Health I learned about plumbing, pregnancy, and disease. From the books in the back of the closet, I learned *technique*.

But there’s more. The porn of my day…the erotica…the Playboy of my adolescence was, at least to my recollection and perception, not about women as sex objects (unless, of course, both people were being mutually objectified), but about people you might enjoy spending time with, and then “frolicking with” until the break of dawn.

Or maybe this was just me…and that’s where my perception comes in. Ask anyone who knew me in grade school, and they’ll tell you that I was an incurable romantic since kindergarten. So on those occasions when I got an adolescent view of an unclad Barbi Benton, as I said once before, my first thought wasn’t “Nice tits, I’d like to f*** her”, but rather, “She seems really nice. I wonder if she’d like me…and then want to do that thing you do when you really like someone.”

And even when I fantasized about girls I knew in high school or college, it wasn’t about the sex…it was about the relationship that caused the sex to happen. Relationships where I could use those techniques I learned from those books in the back of my father’s closet. Those girls weren’t sex objects, they were relationship objects. And yet, is the term “relationship object” a bit of an oxymoron? That’s a question for another post.

And contrary to the rather one-dimensional view that many women have of us as being single-minded sex maniacs, I’d like to believe that more guys were like me.

But let’s go back to the original question…of what happens when you learn about sex from porn.

Well…I think it all depends on what you’re calling porn. If you’re learning about it from some of the hardcore stuff that’s out there these days, that can’t be good for anyone. On the other hand, I think there’s a lot of good to be learned from *erotica*…erotica that takes into account the humanity and sexual desires of both parties.

OK, so now that I’ve written this, I guess I’ll go listen to that podcast.