Thursday, June 1, 2023

Carnival of Aces May 2023 Roundup: Changing Labels

A rainbow of post-it notes. Image source.

Here are the posts for the May 2023 Carnival of Aces. (The call for submissions is here.) The topic was "Changing Labels." We have these 3 posts:

From sildarmillion: On Not Using Labels "I bet if I had told them I was asexual, they would have a knee-jerk reaction that asexuality is not a real thing. But when I tell them I don’t experience physical needs, they are intrigued, but they don’t think I’m making it up. Some of them even have had expressions on their face that seemed to say 'You finally make sense.'"

From Blue Ice-Tea: I'm Asexual Like Han is a Skywalker "Where exactly the line between 'Skywalker' and 'non-Skywalker' is is fuzzy."

From me (Perfect Number): Separating Vaginismus From Asexuality "Without vaginismus, I wouldn't have figured out I'm asexual. But if I hadn't figured it out, that would have been bad, because I really am asexual."

A common theme among these posts was the reasons to use or not use the label "asexual"- in what situations is it useful, what is the exact definition (and how much does that matter), etc. The reason I picked this theme for the carnival is I'm super-interested in the reasons that people choose what labels they want to use. It's more than just "do I fit this definition or not"- maybe there are multiple labels that have a definition that fits, or maybe there's some reason you want to use the label, not necessarily related to the official definition.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who participated in this month's carnival! And happy Pride Month!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


1. My 2023 Reader Survey is still open- go take it if you haven't done it yet. (Survey will be open until June 19.)

2. Only ONE Person Has Solved This Puzzle... (May 12) 2-hours-13-minutes sudoku solve video. My favorite part was, at 1 hour and 30 minutes in, with only 2 digits placed in the puzzle, Simon says, "Maybe this is why people have found this difficult, because they get to this point and then get stuck."

3. Optimum tic-tac-toe (May 26) "[Chat GPT] very strongly prefers to place its marks in the corners, longwindedly explaining how its corner move is a superior strategy, all while I win game after game by placing my marks in the center rows and columns."

4. Journal Club: Why is absent/low sexual desire a mental disorder? (May 24) "The author criticizes the classification of absent/low desire as a mental disorder from three primary angles: first that it doesn’t make sense to have a different diagnostic setup depending on whether someone identifies as asexual; second, that this diagnosis is disproportionately assigned to women, reflecting sexist values; finally, the distress criterion is insufficient."

5. Rare all-white panda spotted in SW China's Sichuan Province (May 27)

6. China's first homegrown large passenger jet took its maiden flight after 16 years in the making — check it out (May 29) Great!

7. Shanghai Metro on the right track after 30 years (May 28) "Meanwhile, the overall length of the city's Metro network, has increased to 831 kilometers, becoming the largest metro system among all the cities in the world, according to Shanghai's Metro operator, Shanghai Shentong Metro Group." The Shanghai metro system has been operating for 30 years. I can confirm, yes, subways in China are very nice. (My photos here and here.)

Sixth Tone also has a series of articles on the 30th anniversary of the construction of the Shanghai subway system:
Shanghai, in Motion (May 28) "'Compared with walking on the street, we feel safer and more relieved after entering the metro station. There, everything is standardized and traceable,' he said, adding that the better tactile paving in stations and along the platform edges is a crucial accessibility feature, particularly for the visually impaired."
Beyond the Midnight Hour (May 29) "Maintenance crews take over to keep the Shanghai Metro running like clockwork for the 10 million passengers who ride it every day."
Building Shanghai’s Deepest Station (May 30) "With the deepest foundation piles reaching as far as 48 meters underground, Chen and his team had no choice but to build the new station at a record depth of 36 meters so that incoming trains could make it to the station after diving under the piles. For safety and energy consumption reasons, official regulations limit subway inclination to a maximum gradient of 3%."

8. Pentecost, Resurrection, and the Chasm of History (May 25) "In terms of early sources, the only vague candidate for such a mass appearance is the Pentecost scene in Acts 2, which as we know it today is not explicitly cited as a Resurrection appearance. But as I will suggest, that is what it was originally."

9. Return of the Jedi (1983) - Ace Mini-Review (May 25) "This leads to an ending that, in its own understated way, is remarkably ace-friendly.  Cinematic and storytelling conventions tell us that the hero’s happy ending should include heterosexual marriage.  And yet Luke, the quintessential hero, ends his story single and without a romantic prospect in sight."

10. China sends first civilian astronaut to space as Shenzhou-16 blasts off (May 29) "It is China’s fifth manned mission to the space station since 2021." Cool!

Monday, May 29, 2023

If God Metaphorically Made the World in 6 Days, What Does That Even Mean?

Gif of Jonathan Frakes saying "We made it up." Image source.

The first chapter of the bible, Genesis 1, says that God made everything in 6 days. On day 1, he made light. (I'll use "he/him" pronouns for God here because Genesis 1 does.) On day 2, he made the sky. On day 3, he made the land, the seas, and plants. On day 4, he made the sun, moon, and stars. On day 5, he made birds and water animals. On day 6, he made land animals and people. On day 7, he rested.

This is not a true story. None of this actually happened.

(I used to be a young-earth creationist, and really believed this story was true. If you ever want to hear about all the fan theories that creationists have come up with to explain how this story is true and set in the same universe we live in, I can tell you all about it.)

I've been thinking about this ever since I read the book "Inspired." (My review of "Inspired" is here.) There's a section in "Inspired" about creation stories, and comparing the creation story from the bible with the creation stories from other ancient cultures. The point of the creation story in Genesis 1 was to teach people to view the world as having a purpose and an order- it was made by God on purpose, in an organized way. To teach people to view God as being the One in control of everything- God speaks, and the creation bursts into existence. To teach people to view themselves as special, the crowning act of creation, with power over the earth and a responsibility to care for it. And to teach people that it's important to take time to rest.

From what I've read about these kinds of religious myths, ancient people weren't thinking in terms of what's literally true, but they used stories as a way to create their identity. In the case of Genesis 1, they wanted to be people who believe that the world has a purpose and an order, and God is in control. (This is contrasted with creation stories from other ancient religions, which had the world being formed as a result of gods fighting with each other, for example.)

So when modern Christians say it's not literally true, but it's metaphorically true, that's apparently what they're saying. 

But let's go a little further- what does that mean? So, we want to be the sort of people who believe in the sort of God who would create the universe in an organized way over the course of 6 days. Not that God actually did do that- we know They didn't, because the universe is way older than that- but They're the sort of God who would. That's the God we want to believe in. Or, taking it a step farther, maybe it's not important whether this God exists at all- it's just about us seeing ourselves as the sort of people who believe in a God who is the sort of God who would create the universe in 6 days.

I don't know, kind of sounds like a mess. I feel like the idea of believing something is "metaphorically" true but not "literally" true just doesn't make sense. So my position is, I don't think Genesis 1 is literally true or metaphorically true, but I like it as a story. (If I said Genesis 1 is metaphorically true, I would also have to say Star Wars is metaphorically true. That seems to me to be straining the definition of "true" way too far.)

Or... actually, it's more like, people believe in some story as sort of a shortcut to believing in a more abstract idea, and this more abstract idea is a beneficial thing for people to believe in. Is it important that the abstract idea is literally true? For example, maybe the abstract idea is about having hope that things will turn out okay, and you can make an argument that even if people are in a bad situation and will end up failing, it's still beneficial for them to have that hope. (But you could also make the argument that it's not good to have false hope, and that the "abstract idea" is only any good if it's literally true.)

The danger, though, is when the story teaches us an "abstract idea" which is harmful. For example, Adam was created before Eve, therefore it is argued that men have to be the leaders, and women can't be trusted because they are easily deceived, like Eve was deceived by the snake. (Or, if you ever read stories in the bible about how this or that shady character was the ancestor of one of the nations we don't like, well, that's not true, it was just made up as a way to justify their prejudice against the neighboring nations.)

Or there might even be an "abstract idea" that modern readers are getting from the story, which has no relation at all to what the author was trying to say, or how ancient readers would have read it. So these "abstract ideas" have to be judged on their own merits; it can't just be "it comes from a bible story, therefore it must be right." I love reading feminist/queer/liberation/trauma-informed readings of the bible, and these definitely view the text in new ways that the author did not intend. The bible is living and active, and we can interact with it and make it into something new; I love that. But it's not about "I interpret this bible story to argue my point, and since it comes from a bible story, my conclusion is automatically true and you have to accept it." It's about "I have a whole ideology that I believe in [for example, feminism], and I have logical reasons to back it up (and if you disagree with me, those 'logical reasons' are the place we should work on hashing out where we agree or disagree), and I am using this bible story as a convenient tool to help people connect emotionally with the point I am making."

And actually, if people believe the story is literally true, then everyone is welcome to pull out whatever idea logically follows from the story. They would all be literally true too, if the logic works. But if the story is not literally true, then the intention is only for one specific idea to be communicated by the story, and if you say it means something different, then you're "taking it the wrong way" and "the metaphor breaks down."

Here's a related example: I remember reading an article once, about a study where American children were surveyed to see what percentage of them wanted to be the president someday. I don't remember the exact numbers, but it was found that a much higher percentage of boys than girls planned on being president. Like 60% of boys and 40% of girls, or something like that. And the article was presenting this like it was a bad thing- specifically, that the percentage of girls was too low, and this was an indication of society's sexism.

When I read that article, I was SO CONFUSED. I was like... okay, you realize that only ONE PERSON becomes president EVERY FOUR YEARS, right? (Ballpark figure of 1 president every 4 years, though sometimes it's 8 years and sometimes it's less than 4 years.) 60% of little boys and 40% of little girls think they're gonna be the president? That's just patently absurd right there. Probably none of them are going to be the president. Like why do you want more girls to have this unrealistic belief? Why would that be a good thing?

Maybe a higher percentage of girls understand the realities of politics and the pressures of being in the public eye, how many years it takes working as a politician/senator/governor/whatever before running for president, what specific personality traits are required for the role of president, other influential leadership roles that may match her own personality better, etc. Maybe instead of being concerned that too few girls want to be president, we should be concerned that too many boys don't seem to have a realistic idea of what being president actually entails, and how to judge if that's something that's really a good match for one's own personality and skills.

What's actually going on here is, it's not literally about being the president at all. That's just being used as a symbol for being ambitious and believing you can reach your goals and be a successful important person. Believing that you can follow your dreams and not be restricted to certain types of jobs based on your gender. It really has nothing to do with actually becoming the president in reality; it's about this more abstract idea. And that abstract idea is a good thing for children to believe (regardless of gender).

Believing in these stories as sort of a shorthand for believing in these bigger ideas about your own identity and how you fit into this world.

(Suddenly, it occurs to me that adults asking children "what do you want to be when you grow up?" is ALWAYS about how the child views their identity and their place in the world, rather than about what they're actually going to be when they grow up. Huh. I guess I've been "taking it too literally" my entire life.)

Here's another example: People are always saying "representation matters"- ie, it's important that fictional stories contain a diverse array of characters. For example, people might say it's important that there are some female superheroes, because it conveys the message that women can be strong and clever and be leaders and save the world. If all superheroes were men, people might believe that only men can be strong and heroic like that, and women can't. But, let's dig into this a little bit- superheroes are actually not real at all, so why does it matter what specific demographics they come from? And if a movie shows a woman being strong and a good leader... well that's not real, it's just a fictional story, but in actual reality it is literally true that women can be strong and good leaders, and the movie conveys this implicit message. But how does a fictional story make its audience believe in a related claim about the nature of reality? How does that make sense?

And really, this is also why people criticize stereotypes and cliches in movies- even though everyone knows it's fiction, there's still some aspect of it that people are going to take as a true portrayal of how reality works. (For example, movies where stalking is romantic.)

Very interesting, how the human mind creates a connection between stories and truth, in a way that isn't necessarily right.

Anyway. Getting back to the question of the creation of the world. Well, what actually happened was the big bang, and then billions of years of star formation and rocks just kinda floating in space, and then the earliest life on earth appeared 3.7 billion years ago, and from there it was natural selection and animals being vicious to each other so that the weak ones died and the beneficial mutations were passed to the next generation, etc etc, and now here we are. There is evidence for this. (Like I said, I used to be a young-earth creationist, so I know all about arguing about the evidence, but that's off-topic for this post.)

But if you want to take this actual literal reality and pull out the abstract background ideas that tell us about our identity and purpose, it's, uh, kinda depressing? All of human existence is just this tiny blip compared to the time scales of the whole universe. We are just on one planet, out of all the millions of planets in the cold expanse of space. And survival of the fittest means the universe doesn't care who lives or dies. God- if any god exists- doesn't step in and stop the strong from taking advantage of the weak.

Aren't those things literally true, since they come from a story that's literally true?

Well... Yes, it's literally true that human history is just one tiny tiny thing in a vast universe with billions of years of existence, rather than humans being the pinnacle of God's creation. But if you go from there and then make a statement like "therefore our lives are not important" that's a bit of a logical leap. (What's the definition of "important"?) And if you take "survival of the fittest" and then say that it's right for the strong to take advantage of the weak, and that we should do more of that, well, that's also a logical leap. (And actually there's a lot of game theory stuff about why it's beneficial for people to cooperate with each other. Being heartless toward others isn't the optimal evolutionary strategy anyway.)

It doesn't have to be "depressing." I've read some really good articles from humanists/atheists about finding meaning and purpose in life, without religion. (Captain Cassidy and Bart Campolo come to mind. If you have more links about this, go ahead and share in the comment section- I'm really interested in this.) Generally it's along the lines of, we have to value this life because it's all we have. And being in awe at the sheer statistical improbability that you even exist- to even exist at all is so amazing. And the ability to create meaning ourselves is way better than a god assigning your life's meaning.

As for me, I'm a Christian. I literally believe in God. But, uh... if God exists, or if God is just a concept that we project our own ideas onto... does it make a difference? I don't believe that God intervenes in the world. Is there really much of a difference between God being literally real and not intervening in the world, or God being just an idea...?

Uh. Well I don't have an answer to that. I do literally believe in God, though.

And I literally believe in the resurrection of Jesus. And that someday the whole world will be literally resurrected. My feeling is that, for the idea of resurrection, there is a difference between "this is literally true" and "this is maybe not literally true but I want to be the kind of person who believes in it." I really believe what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

It really matters to me whether that's true. We need resurrection. We need real justice. We need it to be literally true that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It's not enough, to me, to be the sort of person who believes in the sort of God who would raise Jesus from the dead. To believe that it's something They would do- no, I believe it's something They did.

(Here's a thorny question, though: Isn't it a bit inconsistent that I don't believe Genesis 1 is literally true, but I believe the resurrection of Jesus is literally true? Is it just because believing in the resurrection is scientifically more convenient- like, it's just a one-off miracle, not something we'd expect to have scientific evidence for, whereas the evidence for the history of the universe and how it's billions of years old is EVERYWHERE, and you really have to put a lot of work into your fan theories if you want to argue for a young earth...? So I just believe in a literal resurrection because I feel like I can get away with it, in a way I can't get away with believing the universe was created in 6 days...? Uh yeah that's a question.)

So, in summary: When people talk about religious stories being not "literally" true, but "metaphorically" true, they mean that the story itself did not happen, but there's an abstract idea that the story is meant to represent, and that abstract idea is literally true- or perhaps even if it's not true, it [supposedly] makes us into better people if we believe it. In the ancient world, their stories weren't about what actually happened, but about understanding their identity. What kind of people are we? We are the kind of people who believe in this kind of God.

I wonder whether this makes sense at all, though. It feels very human, to use stories as proxies for communicating more abstract ideas. People will always do this, and it's beautiful, but at the same time, we should be aware we are doing it, otherwise we can easily fall into believing wrong ideas.



Sure Of What We Hope For 

No One Can Take The Bible From Me

Animals Screw Over Other Animals and Get Away With It

"The Author of Leviticus Would Have Been Cool With It"

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Great Sex Rescue: Intimacy

A pair of Olympic figure skaters. The man is holding the woman's hand to support her as she leans back almost horizontally. Image source.

Links to all posts in this series can be found here: Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue"


So, continuing with my review of The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You've Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended [affiliate link], now we are in chapter 2, "Don't Sleep with Someone You Don't Know." I have many opinions about this chapter, so I'm going to divide it into 2 blog posts. This post will cover pages 20-29.

This chapter is about intimacy. It's about how sex is supposed to be about fully knowing your partner:

That's why sex was created not only to be physically intimate but to be an emotional and spiritual "knowing" as well. When all three types of intimacy are present-- spiritual, emotional, and physical-- each works in tandem with the others so that they feed one another. The more you laugh and feel close, the more you desire each other and make love. The more you make love, the more connected you feel, which makes your commitment stronger.

Uhh. As an asexual, I want to say, not really??? When people talk about sex and intimacy like they inherently go together, it's very confusing for me. I can't figure out what they mean.

(Also, I would be really interested to hear an aromantic perspective on this! Probably this passage of the book excludes aromantics in a different way...)

There is a good point being made here in this chapter, but the ace-exclusion keeps hitting me and making it hard for me to connect with that good point. So let me try to summarize how that good point could be made, in a way that doesn't exclude aces:

Perfect Number's free advice on how to rewrite the "intimacy" chapter so it doesn't exclude aces:

Perhaps when you have sex with your husband, you feel like you are just following a role about what you're "supposed" to do as a good wife. The sex you are obligated to do for your husband. Or maybe it feels like he's just using you, and doesn't care about how you feel about sex. Maybe you're unhappy about this because you desire a sex life where sex is intimate- not just physically, but also emotionally/spiritually. 

We're here to tell you that your desires matter. It's right for you to communicate about what you want, and expect that that should matter to your husband. You are not obligated to have sex where you feel like you are being used and/or your own desires are being ignored.

Yes, my perspective- as a queer person- is that it's about knowing yourself and knowing what you want, and communicating and negotiating about how that lines up with what your partner wants. There's not really a "right" or "wrong" to it; instead, you follow the principles of consent, honest communication, caring for each other, etc.

But Gregoire and her co-authors seem to be coming at it from the perspective that it's wrong when a man ignores his wife's desires and the church tells her that's just the way it is (so far I agree, this is indeed wrong)- Gregoire says the reason this is wrong is that sex is supposed to be a wonderful emotionally-intimate pleasurable experience.

So I'm saying you shouldn't have to put up with that, because what you want matters. Gregoire is saying you shouldn't have to put up with that, because GOD SAYS the correct way to have sex is this amazing intimate spiritual/emotional connection.

I realize that my approach is a more difficult argument to make. It feels a bit weaker. The whole argument depends on you having the confidence to know what you want and to boldly say that you matter, as a person, intrinsically. I completely understand that some people coming from a conservative Christian background don't have the confidence to make that argument- how could they, when their entire life they've been taught to "put God first, others second, yourself last" and that every positive emotion they have should be viewed with suspicion because it could be "temptation" or "selfishness"? In this ideology, you don't consider the question "what do I want?" You just follow God's rules.

So... I do understand the value of hiding behind God when you make your argument that what you want matters. I understand that the argument "this is what God wants" comes across a lot stronger than "God doesn't have an opinion on this specific issue, but here's what I want, and that matters." And maybe when people are just starting to work their way out of that conservative anti-self ideology, it does help them if they hear messages like "here's the kind of sex you're supposed to have" because they simply don't have the ability to make a stand on "this is what I want, and that matters." (That would be "selfish"!)

You know, speaking of "hiding behind God"- actually, all the patriarchal Christian teaching is "hiding behind God." Like, oh look, a man is saying that the bible says men are the leaders, that he's not sexist but this is just what God said, by a wild coincidence men get to have all the power, etc etc etc.

But anyway, the problem with this "here's what God designed sex to be" teaching (that Gregoire is advocating) is that it will exclude people. If you try to make statements about the way sex is supposed to work for everyone, well, that's just ridiculous, because everyone is different. 

Okay, continuing on with "The Great Sex Rescue":

A few years ago, I was invited by a large news and lifestyle website to debate about sexual ethics. I was making the point that any two bodies can have intercourse, but when we reduce sex to being merely physical, we ruin intimacy.

Another guest, who had starred in some porn films and wrote a porn blog (how do I get myself into these things?), talked about how intimate she found sex. But all she could say was, "When I have sex with a man, even if it's a man I just met, the intimacy is amazing!" Can you truly be intimate with someone when you don't even know their name?

It's not just porn stars who confuse intimacy with sex either. When I'm on Christian radio talking about The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, it's generally assumed that I won't say the word sex in case children are listening. We have to say intimacy instead. But perhaps that's part of the problem-- we're treating intimacy and intercourse as if they're always synonyms. But are they?

Billions of people on this planet have had intercourse. I don't know how many have actually made love.


Like, what is this??? We're blatantly judging other people who have different feelings about sex than we do? This person is saying sex can be intimate even if you just met the other person, and Gregoire is like, hey everyone, look how obviously wrong this porn star is.

Not cool.

If I were having a conversation with someone who said that sex can be intimate even if it's with someone they just met, I would be confused about it (because I'm asexual) and I would ask them what they mean by "intimacy." They seem to have a different understanding than I do, and I'm curious about that. Actually, I have had conversations like this- and they always end with me still not understanding it because I'm asexual, but at least I am aware that this is a real feeling that some people have. There's nothing wrong with that feeling. I personally don't understand it, but hey, everyone is different.

Ugh. This chapter of "The Great Sex Rescue" should be addressing the issue of married women whose husbands are ignoring their sexual desires, treating sex like it's just about the wife performing the role that the husband wants, and placing no value on their emotional connection. See, THAT is a problem, that is definitely a problem that arises when people buy into the common Christian teachings on sex in marriage. That is what we should be arguing against here. But instead it's like, here is what sex is supposed to be, and everyone who thinks differently is wrong.

Moving along:

For sex to feel intimate, it needs to be about saying, "I want you," not just "I want sex." It needs to be about saying, "I see you. I choose you. I want to experience something with you, and only you. I want to know you better."

You is a key word. You are the focus. Sex is not just about me; it's about me knowing you and building us.

Again, as an asexual, I don't feel this way.

For me, if I wanted to do something that was just about "me and you" then it would be kissing and cuddling. (And other aces will have different answers on that.) If I wanted to do something that was about "me and you and an entirely separate hobby that we've spent a lot of time learning how to do" now that's sex.

I guess I could say that, for me, there's "intimacy" in the sense of "we've had to spend a lot of time working together very closely in order to figure out how to do this." Like two Olympic figure skaters. But I don't think that's what people mean when they talk about sex being "intimate."

Continuing on with the book:

But is this drive for intimacy the message that couples are getting from our evangelical culture? When we read through the bestselling Christian marriage books, this potential for sex to be about "knowing" is mysteriously absent. What we did find was that many of these books portray sex as primarily a man's need-- and a physical one, at that.

Okay, YES, this is a good point. I would like to see more discussion about this VERY REAL problem, and less dictating how sex is supposed to work for everyone.

Next there are some anecdotes from married women whose husbands' behavior during sex is basically an imitation of what they see in porn, rather than being about actually connecting with one's partner and understanding what they want. One of the anecdotes includes this:

But making love takes vulnerability, and it's scary to be vulnerable with another person, especially if you have a rough childhood like my husband. So I get it. But it just hurts and is frustrating.

I've heard stuff like this before- about how sex is "vulnerable"- and I assume it means saying out loud "I like when you did/ I did/ we did [specific action xyz] on [specific sexual body part]", how it's very very hard to say those words out loud because it's about what you like on a very raw and primitive level (rather than something that you can back up with an intellectual argument). And how, if people knew what those raw preferences were, they could draw conclusions about what kind of person you are. (And that can be even more true if you start telling each other what kinks/ power fantasies/ etc you have.)

Like, the weirdness/embarrassment of just simply liking something- something related to genitals, which are intrinsically weird anyway- without being able to rationally explain why. (Or, if the reason why connects to some uncomfortable/vulnerable emotion, like fear that your partner will leave you, possessiveness, fantasizing about having a dominant or submissive role, etc.) That's what's "vulnerable" about sex, right? This was my experience, and it is just now occurring to me that maybe that's not what people mean by it? I would love to hear from readers on this.

But actually, hold up a minute. I'm over here trying to convince myself that it makes sense to conceptualize sex as "vulnerable"- how about instead, we talk about what actually is emotionally intimate and vulnerable? It's talking about your feelings- your traumas, the reasons you need to go to therapy, your fears, your insecurities, mistakes you've made that still haunt you, and so on. You need to do that, in marriage. But also, you need to do that with other people besides your spouse- perhaps close friends, family, therapists, etc. It's not reasonable to rely solely on your spouse for this kind of emotional support. You need other people too. But anyway, it's likely that your spouse is the person you share these things with the most, and that's what it means to be emotionally intimate and vulnerable.

My speculation over whether sex is "vulnerable" because you tell each other which specific ways you prefer having your genitals stimulated... pales in comparison to the very real and deep vulnerability of talking about your feelings.

Maybe I'm totally off-base here, and when people say sex is "vulnerable" they aren't talking about how embarrassing it is to say the words "I liked when you did [specific action] to my [specific body part]"? Maybe somehow it's more meaningful than that?

Also, another anecdote is from a woman whose ex-husband used to always make sure she had an orgasm- but he approached it like it was about doing things to her, so that he could be a "hero," rather than actually caring what she wanted. This woman says that her ex-husband used sex toys on her even though she explicitly told him she didn't want that- and Gregoire says that this is sexual assault. Yes. Thank you for calling that out.

Next, Joanna (one of the authors) shares about a time in her life where she was struggling with health problems and a miscarriage, and how she continued to have sex with her husband even though she was not able to have orgasms, because she and her husband wanted the emotional connection from sex. She says that the sex was "healing" for her, even though she didn't have orgasms, and that this can be an important benefit of sex.

I'm curious about this because it's different from my experiences. But, good for her, knowing what she wanted to get from sex and being able to communicate with her husband in order to make it work for them.

In the next section, Gregoire and her co-authors respond to the Christian marriage advice (from books like "The Act of Marriage") that wives need to have sex with their husbands even when the husband is being abusive. Here is Gregoire's description of a passage from "The Act of Marriage": 

Bill had always treated Susie like a sex object, ignoring her boundaries when they were dating and doing things even when she asked him not to. Susie felt disrespected and invisible. Yet the answer? Realize that Bill needed sex. "Susie had three problems: she did not like sexual relations, she did not understand Bill's needs, and she was more interested in herself than in her husband. When she confessed her sin of selfishness and learned what loving really meant to him, it changed their bedroom life."

Susie had three problems, but apparently Bill had none. The book never suggests that Bill treat Susie as a person or apologize for his treatment of her or understand her needs. Susie just needs to give him more nookie.

(There's also another example of a husband who beats the children, and "The Act of Marriage" says that his wife needs to have sex with him.)

Yes. Christian marriage books say that a wife must continue to have sex with her husband, even if he abuses her/ disrespects her/ doesn't care about her. This teaching is BAD. Gregoire and her co-authors are calling this out. 

Gregoire is saying that yes, it makes perfect sense that you only want to have sex with someone who values you. You are right to feel that way, and it is NOT OKAY that Christian leaders want women to have sex with men who don't treat them right. Those Christian leaders seem to think that sex will magically fix these huge problems, but no, that's just not true.

Gregoire says this:

It is dangerous to tell a reader to have sex with an abusive spouse.

YES. Thank you for saying this.

And yeah I realize this is one of those "the bar is on the floor" moments, but there really are bestselling Christian marriage books which say women need to have sex with their husbands, even if the husband has this kind of behavior. Even if the wife feels unsafe, and the husband is not treating her right, she needs to understand that "men have needs" and that's all there is to it. Yes, this is a real thing they are teaching. So I'm glad Gregoire is calling out how BAD this teaching is.

It is perfectly reasonable to refuse to have sex with someone who does not value you. Even if it's your husband.

The next section in the book says that men also want that emotional intimacy during sex. If the wife just has sex because she's obligated to, and her husband's "physical needs" are met, that may still not be what he actually wanted. 

Yes, it is good that Gregoire is pointing out that mainstream Christian marriage books don't "mention that intimacy is a benefit of sex for men; only physical release and feelings of respect."

So, again, talk to each other. Honest communication. 

And I'll end with one more passage that's not inclusive of aces:

Sex can't be intimate if you feel like you don't matter. In fact, that's not even sex as we've defined it. That's only intercourse, and that's a pale imitation of what God intended. Sex, after all, is so highly personal. You're naked in a way that you wouldn't be with anyone else; you show a side of yourself to each other that you would never show to anyone else; you experience passion in a way in which you are most yourself, in which you let go of control and surrender to the moment. Because of that surrender and vulnerability, sex becomes the culmination of you as a couple, not just you as bodies. It is physical, yes, but it's so much more than that.

Yeah this does not fit my experiences. 

And also, when you have abdominal surgery you're also "naked in a way that you wouldn't be with anyone else" so, uh, this fails to convince me that sex is the super-important pinnacle of your life or whatever. Seriously, I would like to propose the "surgeon test"- whenever anyone says a reason why sex is so important, ask yourself if this reason is also true about having surgery. Sometimes it's even MORE TRUE about surgery, like if it's about the intimacy of entering someone's body, for example. If a "fact" about sex also applies to surgery, then it fails the "surgeon test" and I am not impressed.

Okay, so, basically, that's the first part of chapter 2. It's about the importance of intimacy in sex- and yes, this is a very real problem in Christian books about sex, which Gregoire is responding to. She is arguing against the harmful teaching that sex is just about a man's "physical needs" and that women should keep having sex even if the husband doesn't care about the wife's desire for intimacy. It's good that Gregoire is taking a stand on that. 

At the same time, though, she talks about intimacy and sex like they are inherently connected, like if you're doing sex correctly, it will be a beautiful culmination of the highest level of intimacy you can ever have with someone... and that just doesn't make sense to me as an asexual.


Links to all posts in this series can be found here: Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue"


If A Wife Is Required To Have Sex, That's Not "Intimacy"

Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue"

I am reviewing the book The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You've Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended [affiliate link]. Here are the links to all of my posts on it so far:

Asexually Reading "The Great Sex Rescue"
The Great Sex Rescue: "Sex Should Be..." (chapter 1)
The Great Sex Rescue: Intimacy (chapter 2, part 1)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Rocket Raccoon, Trauma, and Identity

Rocket Raccoon. Image source.

[content note: spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3"]

In the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," we find out where Rocket came from. Rocket appears to be a raccoon- though he keeps telling everyone "I'm not a raccoon"- and he was modified by the High Evolutionist, a powerful scientist character who creates new societies in space. The High Evolutionist was performing experiments on animals to try to develop perfect beings who could live in the perfect society he wanted to create. We find out about this in flashbacks- this happened way before the events of this movie. In this movie, Rocket gets injured, and Rocket's friends- the Guardians of the Galaxy- need to break in to the High Evolutionist's spaceship to get information to treat Rocket's injuries and save his life.

As we see more and more flashbacks throughout the movie, we realize how traumatic Rocket's backstory was. Nebula even says "this is worse than what Thanos did to me" when she sees the videos of the experiments that the High Evolutionist performed on Rocket. (Thanos had Nebula's body parts removed one by one and replaced with machine parts.) 

We see that Rocket was originally called 89P13 because he was from batch 89 of the animal experiments. We see that he became friends with several of the other animals. Together, they looked forward to when they could live in the perfect society. They even chose names for themselves- before this, they only had experiment codes like "89P13." 

We see how impressed the High Evolutionist was when Rocket was able to solve a problem that he'd had with the experiments. But, it turns out, that means the High Evolutionist plans to kill Rocket so he can study his brain and use the information to improve his future experiments. The High Evolutionist never intended to let Rocket or his animal friends live in the perfect society- they were just one step in the experimental process. Just a means to an end- to make improvements so the next batch of the experiment could be one step closer to perfection.

This trauma shapes the way Rocket sees his identity. He sees himself as just a failed experiment, created by a supervillain. He can't believe there's anything good in him, because he was created for a bad purpose- and after serving that purpose, he was supposed to just be thrown away.

But, during the events of this movie, Rocket realizes that he is more than what the High Evolutionist did to him. He can still choose who he wants to be. Yes, that trauma will always affect him, it will always be a part of him- but he can choose what to do with his life moving forward. 

He chooses to rescue the other animals on the High Evolutionist's spaceship. And when he finds a crate full of baby raccoons and frees them, he sees the word "raccoon" on the crate. I don't know how the movie made this into such a dramatic moment, just reading a word on a sign, but wow. Rocket finds out, for the first time, that he actually was a raccoon, before all of this happened. (It's interesting that, throughout the MCU movies that feature Rocket, there are many alien characters who call Rocket all kinds of things, like "rabbit" or "rat", and only Star-Lord calls him "raccoon", because Star-Lord is originally from North America and knows what a raccoon is. But every time, Rocket snaps at him and says, "I'm not a racoon." Well, it turns out he is a raccoon.)

And when the High Evolutionist discovers him there, freeing the animals, he tries to tell Rocket that he's worthless, and calls him "89P13", and Rocket stands up and faces him and says, "The name's Rocket. Rocket Raccoon." (And then there's a big fight scene.)

Rocket. The name he gave himself, because no matter what anyone else did to him, his life and his identity belong to him.

Raccoon. Where he came from, and who he was before all this happened to him.

The trauma will always be a part of him. It will always affect his identity. I'm not going to say "it doesn't define him" because it probably always will define him, to some extent. He'll never be able to 100% escape from its effects. But he can reclaim it, and make it his own, and he can choose how he wants to move forward with his life.


And here's a hilarious fun fact: I live in China, and here in China, raccoons are zoo animals. It's just the funniest thing ever, going to a zoo and seeing an exhibit with a bunch of raccoons. Trying to explain to Chinese people why it's so funny to me, like "in America raccoons are trouble because they get into people's trash cans" and then they ask me "Oh it's so cute, do people have raccoons as pets in America?"


The Super Carlin Brothers' review of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is worth watching:

I also felt like there are some similarities between the God of the bible and the High Evolutionist- they both believe there's nothing wrong with destroying a world full of flawed people, in order to create a perfect world. But I won't blog about that now, because it's similar to these other posts I've already written:

If Thanos Tells You To Build An Ark, You Say No

It Was Beautiful When Star-Lord Rejected the Gospel


"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is About Being an Immigrant 

Dr. Strange's Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


1. Thank you to the readers who have taken my 2023 Reader Survey! If you haven't taken it yet, go ahead and do it. (Survey will be open until June 19.)

2. The veil of gender ignorance (May 19) "To correctly follow the veil of ignorance argument, we ought to imagine ourselves not as ourselves, but as some random young’un who may or may not be like who we are in actuality. So we would have to imagine ourselves as many different things: as cis, as trans, as straight, as gay, as ace, etc. If you grew up today, maybe you would believe you were trans, and maybe you would also be trans."

3. The Shanghai Museum Keeping Memories Of Jewish Refugees Alive (May 18) An important bit of history. (I visited this museum in 2018, here are my photos.)

4. Celebrating #Affirming Sunday (May 16) Very cool- some churches are celebrating "Affirming Sunday" on June 4, the first Sunday of Pride Month.

5. Ecological Stations of the Cross: #6 – The Ruthless Death of Eco-Crucifixion (April 7) "On Good Friday, we remember the ruthless death Jesus endured in the crucifixion.  This year, 43,000 animals died a ruthless death from a toxic train derailment in Ohio.  It’s just one more example of eco-crucifixion."

6. May Anti-Trans Legislative Risk Map (May 20, via) "Every day, I’ve gotten messages from worried people wondering how they are supposed to assess their risk of staying in their home state. The messages range from parents of trans youth wondering if their children will be taken from them to trans teachers wondering if their jobs will be safe in coming years. Sometimes people just want to know if there is a safer state they can move to nearby."

7. Trans Teen Hatches Nefarious Plot To Undergo Years Of Medical Treatments And Counseling To Win At Swimming (May 16, via) "'It’s oh, so simple: several years of sweet-talking medical professionals, receiving hormone therapies, and enduring complex gender-affirming surgeries, and that swimming trophy will be mine!' said the 17-year-old high school senior, who provided a step-by-step account of her knavish conspiracy to take fourth or even third place in a high school or Division III collegiate swimming competition by transitioning to a female identity."

8. Rudy Giuliani accused of sexual harassment by ex-employee (May 16) [content note: sexual assault] Wow this is bad.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Separating Vaginismus From Asexuality

Meme that says "Are the straights okay?" (Please note, I actually am straight though. But I'm not heterosexual.) Image source.

[content note: sex, vaginismus, my sex life]

The Carnival of Aces topic for this month is Changing Labels, so I want to write about the time when I, after identifying as asexual for several years, seriously considered that I might not be asexual/ might not be asexual anymore. (At the time, I wrote this post about it: How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus).)

There's a "before" and "after" here. Before my baby was born, I had vaginismus. After giving birth, I no longer have vaginismus. And actually, in the "before" part, I didn't even know I had vaginismus, because I didn't have any point of comparison to tell me that what I was experiencing wasn't "normal." I had read about vaginismus, and thought "wow finally people are talking about sex in ways that make sense" but there were always little details about it that didn't exactly match my experiences, so I didn't think I really had it. It was only after I did not have vaginismus any more, that I was able to realize that I actually had had it. Because the difference was so huge, it was impossible to not realize that something had been very wrong before.

That's when I realized that my experience of asexuality had been so tied up with vaginismus. And I wondered, was I not "really" asexual, and it was "actually" "just" vaginismus? Now that I don't have vaginismus any more, am I not asexual any more?

And I didn't want to blog about it at first, because people are often telling aces that asexuality isn't a real thing and they need to go see a doctor. If the reason I thought I was asexual was actually because of something that literally is a real medical condition, does that mean I was wrong about being asexual, and I'm making all the aces look bad?

Well, let me start at the beginning. 

I thought I was heterosexual, because I'm attracted to men. And purity culture says that everybody has a desire for sex and you have to be on guard against it, because "temptation" might suddenly overtake you, and you'll somehow have sex without even trying.

Then I got out of purity culture, and when I finally decided to have sex with my boyfriend (who is now my husband- we had sex before marriage) it was because I love him, we'd been together for a long time and we feel really comfortable together... and I was giving myself so much anxiety trying to convince myself that there's this one specific arbitrary action (PIV sex) which is going to ruin my life if we do it... Asking myself "why not just try it?" and not having a good answer, but still terrified that it would "ruin my life" like purity culture said. I told myself "I don't believe that any more" but I was still terrified- what if they were right? It made no sense that this one specific action should be banned; we were already so comfortable with each other, but purity culture said that if you have sex, it totally changes everything and makes everything bad. (Unless you're married, in which case, sex is the best thing ever, apparently.) And it was taking such a toll on my mental health, trying to convince myself that there totally must be reasons why we must not do this one specific action.

And looking back on it now, I see that was an extremely asexual reason to have sex. Feeling like, I need to find out if there's a real reason people are making such a big deal about this. I just want to know if it's gonna "ruin my life" or not, so I can quit worrying and move on.

I was very happy to discover, it did not ruin my life! Didn't really change anything about our relationship. It just meant I didn't have to be afraid any more, which was great.

But, after a while, it occurred to me, wait, but isn't this supposed to feel good, like, physically?

Why was sex so difficult and confusing and painful? Why couldn't I find any sex-ed resources that were talking about what I was experiencing? Sex is PIV [penis-in-vagina], I thought, but I can't figure out how to get the penis to go into the vagina, and none of the sex-ed resources address that specific aspect. They just seem to assume that that part is not an issue at all???? Why does no one talk about how tricky it is to get the angle exactly right? Why does no one talk about how if you get it wrong, it hurts so bad that you just have to give up and maybe try again another day? Why does everyone seem to think the "default" sex position is with the man on top- how can that position even work for anyone at all? Why would you let the penetrating partner control the movement- they don't know how to go slowly and carefully to avoid pain.

When I thought I was heterosexual, I looked for help and couldn't find anything useful. I even asked doctors and they told me useless things like "just relax."

Then I found the aces. They were saying things like "I don't understand why people like sex." Like, wow, finally someone is talking about sex in a way that makes sense! (Which, as I said above, is also how I felt when I found people talking about vaginismus.)

It seemed to make sense. I know I'm attracted to my partner, it's just that sex doesn't work. So, doesn't that pretty clearly mean I'm a heteroromantic asexual?

One thing that tripped me up, though, was that I kept seeing sex-ed resources that said "Sex doesn't have to be PIV. Sex can be whatever you want!" And, I did enjoy doing other sexual things with him, which were not PIV. So, I wondered, maybe that meant I did like sex, and I wasn't asexual?

But... I could never get myself to really believe that sex doesn't have to be PIV. Like, can I really go around saying I'm a heterosexual woman and I like sex but I don't like PIV? Is that even possible? Heterosexual sex *is* PIV. Right? I know that I keep finding articles on the internet that say it doesn't have to be, but let's be real. 

(Maybe I'm wrong here... If somebody claimed to be heterosexual and said "I really like sex! But I don't do PIV" wouldn't everyone think that seemed a little contradictory? In an ideal world, yes, everyone would believe that sex doesn't have to have to involve PIV at all, and it's 100% as valid- but I have trouble believing that any straight people in the real world believe that. Maybe I'm wrong. It would be great if I'm wrong.)

And, actually, looking back on it now, I see that even though I enjoyed some sexual things that were not PIV, I didn't know anything about female arousal or female orgasm, and I actually was enjoying just being with him because we're in love. Just excited to do things that he was excited about, regardless of whether those things were sexual. Which, thinking about it now, sounds really asexual.

So, if I hadn't had vaginismus, I wouldn't have figured out I'm asexual. And, if I truly believed that sex didn't have to be PIV, I wouldn't have figured out I'm asexual. Yeah, I would have just continued believing that sex is something a woman does for a man, and I wouldn't have known anything about female orgasms, and I wouldn't have realized anything was wrong. 

That would not have been good, so I'm glad I found out about asexuality. And it gave me the freedom to figure out what I actually wanted- because aces said identity is something everyone can figure out for themselves. No one else can tell you what your identity is.

I then came up with this explanation for my difficulties with PIV: When a person is not aroused, their vagina is shut like a steel trap. For allosexuals, arousal is connected to their attraction to their partner, so when they're starting to do stuff with their partner, the arousal happens naturally, they probably don't even need to think about this process and how essential it is, and the arousal gets the vagina to open, so they can do PIV. And my issue was that because I'm asexual, attraction is not connected to arousal.

Looking back on it now, I think that some parts of this are true, but not all of it. At the time, I still didn't think I had vaginismus. I thought everyone's vagina worked that way.

But yes, at the time, that explanation made sense to me, and seemed to explain everything, and I was happy about it. I got to work figuring out other ways to get arousal to happen, since it didn't happen "naturally" for me, and eventually developed a process that could get PIV to be workable. So, that was all going much better. I figured it out my own damn self, no help from Heterosexual Land.

Anyway then I got pregnant, and then I gave birth vaginally to this big-head baby. And then in the months after that, I started to notice, wait, I don't really need to do this whole process any more? PIV isn't difficult any more. What a strange and new experience! It's like we can just have sex whenever we want, instead of it being this big complicated thing.

That's when I realized, it really was vaginismus before. So, did that mean I wasn't "actually" asexual before? Did that mean that since I no longer had vaginismus, I was no longer asexual? 

(And, it turns out, anything I wrote on my blog about asexuality before March 2021 was actually about asexuality and vaginismus.)

And, what's more, PIV started to feel good. ??? Before, it was like "I like this because I worked very hard to figure it out and I feel successful", but now it was like... it just feels good in a very straightforward stimulating-one's-genitals way, not a complicated-layers-of-internalized-societal-expectations way. And once I had experienced that a few times, and started to associate PIV with it, then I *did* have a desire for PIV. Did that mean I wasn't asexual any more?

So I thought about that, and I kept coming back to "I'm pretty sure I don't have sexual attraction though." And remembering how hard I worked, and how I was only able to do that work using the concepts I learned from the ace community, how I was eventually able to figure out a way to have PIV sex, and even to do it enough to get pregnant, and that led me to the point where the vaginismus was cured... so then I have to be heterosexual? Really? After all that? After not getting any support in Heterosexual Land, and finding the support I needed in Ace Land- and I don't know if I even could have gotten pregnant, if I had stayed in Heterosexual Land- now I have to go back to Heterosexual Land, where nothing makes sense and I'm supposed to understand what people are talking about when they talk about sex?

Ugh, no, do not want.

And at the time, it was difficult to untangle it... my asexuality was so completely connected with vaginismus. But now that I've had more time to think about it, I see there's so much more to it. I see asexuality as a bigger background concept that influences a lot of things in my life, and probably caused the vaginismus. Yeah, here's a hypothesis, just guessing based on my own experiences, so maybe it's wrong, but: Maybe aces are likely to just never masturbate. (Especially aces who have a religious background and were taught that masturbation is a sin.) But people with vaginas who masturbate are able to learn about their bodies gradually, going at their own pace, just based on their own interest and curiosity and not because there's any pressure about what they're "supposed" to do, and in that way they naturally figure out a way to do penetration that's not painful. And then when they want to have PIV sex with a partner, they already know how the physical parts will work, so they won't have vaginismus. And maybe aces have no incentive to masturbate (this is not true of all aces- some aces have a sex drive, also I can't speak to what it's like having a penis) and then they try to do PIV without having any related experience to draw from, and that leads to vaginismus. This is a huge generalization so I'm sure there are lots of people that this doesn't apply to... it's just some speculation from me about why vaginismus might be more common among AFAB aces.

So I wonder if it is correlated- but not in a "this means asexuality is not real" way, but in a "this medical condition is more common among aces" way. And, listen: if somebody wants to ID as asexual specifically because they have vaginismus, rather than because they don't have sexual attraction, would that even be wrong? If PIV sex is always painful for them, so they're not able to enjoy sex, so they just choose to never do it, how is that functionally any different than not having sex because of a lack of sexual attraction?

And, you know what, if I had decided not to ID as asexual any more, that would have been okay. If I had decided that I was wrong to ID as asexual, because it was "actually" vaginismus, that would have been okay. Or rather, if not IDing as asexual made sense and felt right to me, it would have been okay. Maybe some people have similar experiences, and end up changing their label because of that. That's fine. Or maybe if I decided to change to gray-asexual, that would have been okay. It's totally fine to use a label for a short time and then maybe change it if it's no longer useful to you.

But if I still wanted to be asexual but felt like I "couldn't", because sex wasn't painful any more, and that meant I had to be a confused heterosexual again- no. No, don't let that stop you from using the labels that feel right to you.

And again, I fear I'm talking about this wrong, because I do "want to be asexual," so everyone's gonna think my asexuality is fake and I just want to be different or something... But it's not that, it's... like this whole ace way of talking about sex, and analyzing different kinds of attraction and specifically what the differences are between sexual attraction, sex drive, etc- it just makes so much SENSE, and I feel really comfortable in this world. Whereas in Heterosexual Land, there was just no help. Everyone said things about sex that just felt completely unrelated to anything I had experienced. Like I can't figure out what anybody's talking about at all.

(Note that this is completely different from my experience with mainstream society talking about romance. Romance, I understand what people are talking about. Even though they just describe the edges of their feelings without describing the main shape of it, I understand what they mean, because my feelings have a similar shape and so I know where those edges fit in. But with sex, no, I have no idea of the overall shape of the thing.)

One more thing: I don't really understand what an allosexual vaginismus experience is. I have read blog posts by heterosexual or bisexual women, talking about vaginismus, and it always really confused me how they write their whole story about "here's why sex was so painful and I didn't like it" and they didn't conclude with "and that's how I realized I'm asexual." For me, it was like... I really thought I wanted sex, but then discovered it was painful, and felt like "if this is what sex is, then NO I don't have any kind of intrinsic desire for THAT" and that meant I'm asexual. I'm really curious about how someone can feel like "sex is painful, I don't like it" and then not be ace.

Surely, for allosexuals who have vaginismus, there must be some other indication that they like sex, even though they don't like PIV. Maybe they have experience with arousal and orgasm, and they know they want those things, even though PIV doesn't work for them? Maybe they just really really believe that the definition of sex isn't tethered to PIV? Maybe they think that IDing as ace would mean they aren't interested in working through those difficulties to learn how to have sex? Maybe they could fit the definition of ace but they choose not to identify that way?

Maybe they actually understand what sexual attraction is, and I do not?

Anyway, there you have it, that's my life story about the overlap between vaginismus and asexuality. Without vaginismus, I wouldn't have figured out I'm asexual. But if I hadn't figured it out, that would have been bad, because I really am asexual.



How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus) 

So this is new 

I'm Still Asexual 

Vaginismus Is Not A Problem, In And Of Itself 

Sea Monsters on Land, and My Life With Vaginismus

Saturday, May 20, 2023


1. My 2023 Reader Survey will be open until June 19. Please go take the survey- it's useful for me to know what kind of topics readers want to read about.

2. Died: Tim Keller, New York City Pastor Who Modeled Winsome Witness (May 19)

3. IKEA's New Ad Claims they Are 'Proudly Second Best' and It's a Stroke of Genius (May 14) I love this. Yes, I'm a mom and I can confirm, the baby doesn't want to sleep in the expensive state-of-the-art baby bed that you bought for them. The baby wants to sleep on Mommy.

4. Women Are Never Going to Cover Themselves Enough to Get Men to Shut Up About Us (May 12) "As The Rules become longer and more consuming, being on the wrong side of them becomes more and more eroticized. Today it's nursing moms, but tomorrow it'll be women holding babies, because babies make men think about nursing and nursing makes them think about breasts (if you think I'm exaggerating, remind me to tell you the story of the time I was reprimanded for hanging a swimsuit to dry where boys could see it at church camp). The rules create the fetish, not the other way around."

5. "Hey, stop!" Taylor Swift defends Baltimore woman during Philadelphia concert (May 15) "Taylor Swift might have bad blood with one particular security guard in Philadelphia. In a viral moment, the star defended a concertgoer during the middle of her set while performing her 2014 hit 'Bad Blood.'"

6. Israelite Divination and the Mysterious Teraphim (May 4, via [along with links 7 and 8]) "The story of Michal helping David evade Saul’s guards by putting a teraphim in his bed, dressing it up to look like him, and then telling the guards David is sick (found in 1 Samuel 19:11-16) while David escapes out the window does little to inform us of the teraphim’s purpose. It simply suggests that teraphim could be nearly life-sized, and that it was not unusual for a household to have one around."

7. Why the Carroll verdict might matter (May 15) "And yet, there was never a come-to-Jesus moment when conservatives repented their previous views and pledged to go a different way. Instead, a conservative sea change happens like this: People who used to be zealots for a particular view go silent for a while. And when they start talking again, they have the opposite view, which they put forward as if they had always believed it."

8. Florida bill would require patients to share their immigration status (April 28) Wow not cool. Aren't these lawmakers worried about going to hell? 

9. The Sudoku With Only 4 Known Solvers (December 20, 2022) "Oh you're jocking my straps, that is absolutely- I've got digits, I've got 2 digits. ... That... That... I've actually got tears in my eyes. That is un... That is unbelievable setting." (1-hour-25-minute sudoku solve video)

10. Beijing LGBT Center shuttered as crackdown grows in China (May 16) Sad news. I've seen people talking about this in WeChat groups- where it's a bad idea to say things about the Chinese government- and based on what they *weren't* saying, I assumed it had something to do with the Chinese government's dislike of queer organizations. This article from AP News comes right out and says it directly.

A similar thing happened to ShanghaiPRIDE a few years ago. The people involved with ShanghaiPRIDE are still around, organizing queer events, but are no longer doing it as part of one big organization, because that attracts the wrong kind of attention.

11. 5 Questions to Ask Before You Talk to a Woman About What She's Wearing (May 15) "She cannot do anything about being well-endowed. The issue can never, ever be about how her body is affecting the men around her; that’s on them." Wow, really amazed at this post about dress codes- the idea presented here is that it has to be about clothes, not about a woman's body. It has to be a standard about what clothes are okay to wear, and it has to be universally applied. 

This is completely different from modesty ideology, which says that if a skinny girl wears a modest outfit, that's fine, but if a girl with big breasts and curves wears the exact same outfit, that's not okay, that's not "modest"- and yes, it is ALL ABOUT her body type, modesty culture doesn't even try to hide that. The result of this modesty ideology is that for some girls/women, there's really no possible outfit they can wear that will satisfy the modesty police. And this intersects with race- women of color are seen as more "sexual", so even if they wear the same "modest" thing that a skinny white woman is wearing, they might still get labelled as "immodest" and sinning against the boys. NOT COOL.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

11 Years

A dog using a laptop computer. Image source.

So every year I make a post to announce my blogiversary and do a reader survey. Here's the one for this year. ^_^ I started this blog in 2012; now it's 11 years later and I'm still here.

I have A LOT of things I want to blog about still. A lot of draft posts, like, you have no idea. You can look forward to my whole series about "The Great Sex Rescue." I have read the first few chapters and wow I have a lot to say about it.

Anyway, here's the reader survey for this year. It is useful for me to know what topics people want to read about:

2023 Reader Survey

(survey will be open until June 19, 2023)

Also I have a Patreon:

Perfect Number's Patreon

And of course, thank you to all my readers! If you leave comments, if you share links to my blog, or if you just lurk, that's great, and I appreciate it.