Thursday, January 31, 2019


1. A spot of good news in an Ebola crisis: Vaccine supplies are expected to last (posted January 22)

2. The Kind of Sex I Thought I Wanted (posted January 24) "I thought that my partner would be dissatisfied and leave me because I wasn’t giving him sex. I thought that I was being a terrible wife because I couldn’t please my partner. I thought that my body was broken and betraying me because it couldn’t do the one sex act it was made to do."

3. Japan’s Supreme Court rules transgender people still have to get sterilised (posted January 24) "The Supreme Court of Japan has upheld a law which forces transgender people to get sterilised before they can legally change their gender." Whoaaaaaaa not cool.

4. Black Children Don’t Have Nick Sandmann’s Rights (posted January 25) "A black teen exercising his right to stand there or walk there or drive there or play there or exist there can be guilty of a capital offense in this country. But a white teenager can block a national freaking monument and get a pat on the head from the president of the United States?"

5. The Supreme Court Just Ended My Military Career (posted January 22) "The court is saying that government discrimination based not on evidence, but solely on animus against transgender people, is permissible."

6. The United States Is No Longer the World Leader in Resettling Refugees (posted January 23) "After the United States adopted the Refugee Act of 1980, it resettled more refugees than every other country in the world combined for more than 30 years in a row."

7. 打首獄門同好会 (Uchikubi Gokumon Doukoukai) - I don' t wanna get out of futon (posted 2018) A Japanese song about how it's too cold to get out of bed in the morning. OH MY GOD SO RELATABLE.

Note: The word they are translating as "futon" in the English subtitles is the Japanese origin of the English word "futon" but it doesn't actually mean a futon, it's just the Japanese word for a regular bed. So uh... something to keep in mind when you're watching the video and reading the subtitles.

Perfect Number: [watching video] [every 10 seconds] "... but why is it a futon?"

(Then I had to explain to Hendrix what a "futon" is. It's a couch that can turn into a bed, and therefore it's not comfortable as a couch and it's also not comfortable as a bed. Every American, when they hear the word "futon", thinks, "remember that time I was at my grandparents' house and there weren't enough beds and I had to sleep on that horrible couch?" So, uh, this mistranslation kind of changes the whole feel of the song...)

8. Speaking Black Dialect in Courtrooms Can Have Striking Consequences (posted January 25) "Researchers played audio recordings of a series of sentences spoken in African-American English and asked 27 stenographers who work in courthouses in Philadelphia to transcribe them. On average, the reporters made errors in two out of every five sentences, according to the study."

9. Teaching children about racism (posted January 28) "The goal is not to achieve respectability, to awkwardly brush a comment aside with, 'Don’t say that. That’s not nice.' The aim, rather, is to teach the child that such language is based on an unjust racial hierarchy. 'We don’t say this word because this is what people have said in order to treat people unfairly.' Get straight to the heart of the issue—that the injustice of racism harms human bodies in real and oppressive ways."

10. I Learned Latin and Memorized Old Poems–and I Wish I Hadn’t (posted January 28) "They were surrounded by people who told them that this was what a good education looked like; they believed them. That was that."

Monday, January 28, 2019

In Which John Piper Doesn't Tell You To Find A New Job

Liam Neeson on the phone (from the movie "Taken"). Image text: "Post doc job search- I have a very specific set of skills." Image source.
So the Lord laid a burden on my heart to respond to bad theology from Desiring God. Here's an article on that site, written by John Piper: How to Serve a Bad Boss. The advice in this article is just... not good. Mostly because it NEVER mentions anything about "maybe if you're unhappy with your job and your boss isn't treating you right, you should think about getting out of there and finding a new job."

It's a short article, so I'll just go through and respond to the whole thing [all italics are from the original]:
Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (Ephesians 6:7–8)

Consider these five things from Ephesians 6:7–8 in connection to your job.

1) A call to radically Lord-centered living.

This is astonishing compared to the way we usually live. Paul says that all our work should be done as work for Christ, not for any human supervisor. With good will render service “as to the Lord and not to man.”

This means that we will think of the Lord in what we are doing at work. We will ask, Why would the Lord like this done? How would the Lord like this done? When would the Lord like this done? Will the Lord help me to do this? What effect will this have for the Lord’s honor? In other words, being a Christian means radically Lord-centered living and working.
Umm, I don't really think this a helpful way to conceptualize job responsibilities, but, eh it's not that bad so I guess I won't say too much about it. Probably it's possible to imagine you're actually working primarily for God rather than for a company, and have that not necessarily lead to unhealthy things. Eh. Sure, I guess. Personally, though, I don't think it's a good idea, because it adds a whole extra unnecessary person into the system and puts your focus in a weird place, which could cause you to not accurately see the situation.
2) A call to be a good person.

Lord-centered living means being a good person and doing good things. Paul says, “With a good will [render service] . . . whatever good anyone does.” Jesus said that when we let our light shine, men will see our “good works” and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Yes, I agree with this one. Be a good person.
3) Power to do a good job for inconsiderate earthly employers.

Paul’s aim is to empower Christians, with Lord-centered motives, to go on doing good for supervisors who are not considerate. How do you keep on doing good in a job when your boss ignores you or even criticizes you? Paul’s answer is: stop thinking about your boss as your main supervisor, and start working for the Lord. Do this in the very duties given to you by your earthly supervisor.
Items 1 and 2 didn't mention anything about working for a bad boss, so I just assumed they are about average normal work situations, and sure, whatever. They're definitely not the advice to give someone working for a bad boss, but that didn't seem to be their target audience, so it's fine. But this one here, item 3 on Piper's list, is where we start getting into what to do if you have a bad boss.

And this here is BAD advice. Just keep "working for the Lord", if your boss "ignores you or even criticizes you"? What?

Okay, over here in reality, here is some advice: Maybe you can get them to treat you better, maybe by talking to them or some other influential person in the company. Or maybe you determine that your boss is sort of bad at dealing with people but it's not necessarily harming you; they are still doing their other boss duties good enough, so it's not ideal but you can at least accept it. You don't have to like each other, but at least you can coexist. Or you see if you can transfer to a different manager, or start looking for a new job entirely. Just a few suggestions I thought of off the top of my head. Obviously some of these will not work in some situations. You have to examine your own situation and decide what the best course of action would be.

But no, Piper wants us to just pretend it doesn't matter that your boss is treating you wrong. Just sort of try not to care about that, and force yourself to believe you are "working for the Lord." This is terrible advice.
4) Encouragement that nothing good is done in vain.

Perhaps the most amazing sentence of all is this: “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” This is amazing. Everything! “Whatever good anyone does.” Every little thing you do that is good is seen and valued and rewarded by the Lord.

And he will pay you back for it. Not in the sense that you have earned anything — as if you could put him in your debt. He owns you, and everything in the universe. He owes us nothing. But he freely, graciously chooses to reward us for all the good things done in faith.
Umm. No, this is terrible advice.

So Piper is saying that if you just keep doing the right thing, even when you're in a bad situation, good will come of it. This is just NOT TRUE, and it leads to people wasting so much time and emotional energy.

For example, when I was in college, there was a website that kept track of how many credits each student needed to graduate, and I noticed there was an error on the website- it said I had not taken a class that I actually had taken. So I sent a polite email to somebody about it. I got some polite response back that didn't really reassure me, and the website continued to claim I had not taken that class. A semester later, or a year later, I emailed somebody about it again, and got another "eh I'm sure it's fine" response, and nothing changed.

And I'm thinking, yeah it's easy for you to say "it's fine" when you're some administrative person in some office and this doesn't affect you, but this is my degree and this could potentially turn into a huge problem that stops me from graduating. I would like this problem solved.

It got closer to when I was supposed to graduate- maybe 1 semester or 1 year before graduation. And I concluded that my sending-of-polite-emails was not working. Maybe I was sending them to the wrong person. So I had to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT, see. Eventually I ended up going and talking to someone in person about it, and they DID get the website changed so it had the correct information. Good. And I graduated with no problems.

But if I had followed Piper's advice? Well, yeah, it wasn't my fault I was in that situation. It was someone else's mistake. I did nothing wrong. And I politely sent an email to point out the problem. Which is the right thing to do in that situation. And... if I was following Piper's advice, that would be it. He doesn't say anything about "look at reality and the results of your actions, and if you're not getting the results you want, you will need to try doing something different." No- his advice is literally the opposite. To people in a bad situation, he says to just keep doing what they're doing. Just be secure in the fact that you are doing the right thing, you are doing nothing wrong, and that's all you have to think about.

If you buy into this ideology, there's no way to notice "hey this is not working, therefore I should try something different." You're supposed to just force yourself to not care that it's "not working." You're doing the right thing, so God will handle the rest.

Hey, people have emotions. You can't just force yourself to not care. I remember how ANGRY and STRESSED OUT I was about this problem, so angry because that wrong information was there FOR YEARS and nobody seemed to care. Back before I realized I needed to try something different, that sending polite emails to this one unhelpful person was never going to solve the problem.

In reality, it doesn't matter that it's not my fault, and that I'm "doing the right thing." The reality is that if this problem didn't get solved, I would be the one who suffered for it. Of course that's not fair, but that's how the world works. And so I need to understand that that's the reality I'm dealing with. And that the person I emailed was not the right person who could/would actually solve the problem- which is also not my fault, but reality doesn't care about that. I need to actually see the reality of the situation and figure out what to do from there- not just naively "do the right thing" and feel good about how none of it is my fault, and trust that that means everything will magically be okay.

But the advice and morality lessons I learned in church (and other Christian sources, like VeggieTales) were always about abstract "virtues" that we should apply to our lives. There was no mechanism to actually examine a situation and understand all the practical aspects of what was happening, or realize what I'm doing is not working so I should change my behavior. I'm learning that VeggieTales morality doesn't fit with the real world, and now I believe in what I'm calling "boundaries morality" instead. I had to figure this all out on my own. It totally goes against what the church taught me.

I'd like to point out that in Piper's article, he doesn't say that if you just keep doing good, that means the situation will get better. He says you will be "rewarded by the Lord" but he doesn't say what that reward will look like or when it will come. Perhaps you will only get the reward in heaven after you die. So nobody can accuse him of claiming that following this advice would actually solve the problem.

I'm here to tell you you don't have to live that way. You don't have to just "do the right thing" and let injustices happen to you and try to have faith that you will be rewarded someday because it was other people's fault rather than yours. You don't have to let computers claim that you never took a class that you actually did take. You can STAND UP FOR YOURSELF. You can make a plan about how best to navigate the situation and solve the problem. Yes, I know it's not fair that you should have to do that, because it's not your fault you're in that situation- BUT THAT IS HOW THE WORLD WORKS. And life is so much better when you take steps to solve your own problems, rather than waiting for God to "reward" you.

(I gotta put a disclaimer on that, because I'm a feminist and I know it's bad when people try to tell marginalized people to just work harder or have a better attitude or whatever, and that will solve their problems- without trying to do anything about the systemic injustice that caused those problems in the first place. I'm not talking about people who are stuck in a bad situation with no options because of systemic injustice. I'm talking about how evangelicalism trained me to not even look for what options I had.)

When I read Piper's advice in item 4, about how you should just stay in a bad situation but keep "doing good," I think of how the church tells women in bad marriages to just submit to their husbands more, just be an even better wife, just keep praying for him, and then magically it will fix your marriage. And people get stuck there and waste years of their lives. Just naively believing that because they're "doing good", good will come of it. No, it does not work that way. They're just wasting their time and their emotional energy, and it's not going to solve the problem. You are valuable and you deserve to be in a better situation- so get out when you're able to get out. There's nothing good or virtuous about continuing to stay and suffer in a bad situation.

One last thing about item 4: Gotta love how Piper finds an opportunity to tell us God "owes us nothing." Wouldn't want people to misunderstand his article and think that they deserve good things. Piper thinks we all deserve to go to hell, and God is well within his rights to just kill you at any time for any reason.
5) Encouragement that insignificant status on earth is no hindrance to great reward in heaven.

The Lord will reward every good thing you do — “whether he is a bondservant or is free.” Your supervisor may think you are a nobody — a mere bondservant, so to speak. Or he may not even know you exist. That doesn’t matter. The Lord knows you exist. And in the end no faithful service will be in vain.
Ughhh. If your supervisor really doesn't care about you that much, maybe find a new job where people appreciate you? SERIOUSLY. Why on earth would you just try to tell yourself "that doesn't matter", if you have a chance to get out?

In this whole article, Piper never once says anything about your happiness, or getting into a situation that's good for you. Instead, it's all about how to stay in a bad situation and force yourself to not care when people mistreat you. Because in Piper's ideology, we don't matter. All that matters is our obedience to God, and how we are glorifying God. It's like it never even occurs to him to mention anything about pursuing your own happiness. He really doesn't care about that. It's not a priority at all in his belief system.

That't the end of Piper's article. Coincidentally, I read another post this week about somebody with a bad manager, so I'd like to talk about that. The post is What can I do about doing badly on an impromptu coding test?, posted on Workplace Stack Exchange by a user named Cloud:
I have been at my organization for around 18 months. I took a technical programming test (basically a C# kata of sorts) in the interview and flunked it. However, they said they liked my attitude and could see I had other skills (outside of .NET) and so agreed to hire me. I agreed to accept on the condition I received the support and training required.

The short story is the last 18 months have been very dramatic. I've had personal issues with my manager and have struggled to complete some work (and also successfully completed work within my skill-set) and feel I haven't learnt from the team as I hoped I would.

I have been studying for around 5 - 10 hours a week in my free time and feel I have improved my C# / .NET skills by a decent amount since starting.

Yesterday, my manager came to my desk, asked me to close all applications and turn off my internet connection. He then inserted a flash drive into my machine and said I had 30 minutes to complete a programming challenge. It was the same one I was given in the interview (I hadn't attempted it since).

There were 9 'stages' to the challenge. I believe I could have completed all of them but due to the time constraint I only managed 3.

In a follow up meeting, I was told that a 33% success rate is not good enough and that I need to show significant improvement in the next 6 months.

I feel that this kata didn't represent my learning, it was very niche and I didn't get to demonstrate all of the things I've learnt that were outside the scope of the challenge.

What can I do to show 'significant improvement' from here? I have asked what I should be learning specifically but just get told 'it's your career, you decide', which frustrates me.
Cloud here is in a bad situation. Their manager says they need to "show significant improvement in the next 6 months", so Cloud feels quite worried and asks for advice on "What can I do to show 'significant improvement' from here?"

And the response? Here's the top answer, written by a user named Twyxz:
The way your manager has sprung this test no you is completely unfair and clearly an attempt to prove that you are not able to work here when realistically the time restraint was likely too short and the notice was non-existent. The way he approached you was outright rude to begin with.

Your best choice here given your past experience and current situation is to spend the next 6 months continuing as you are and starting a job hunt. Look for a new job as the way you are being treated is unacceptable and you should not have to tolerate it.

Your manager has:
  1. Not told you what to improve on which is completely unfair especially when you're trying to.
  2. Specifically targeted you with a test (potentially triggered by something else)
  3. Given you bad training and caused issues in the past.
The bottom line is Get out of there ASAP!

Your manager is targeting you and is doing anything he can to get you fired without breaking any rules per se.
YES. Cloud wants to know how to improve so their manager will be happy with them, but the other users in the forum recognize that's not going to happen. The manager is treating them in a way that's completely unprofessional and unfair, and there's likely nothing Cloud can actually do to please him and keep from getting fired.

You don't stay in a situation like that. You get out.

(Isn't it nice to read some reality-based advice, not written by John Piper? Love it.)

To me, Cloud sounds very young, like maybe this is their first job and there are a lot of things they don't understand about how "the real world" works. (Sounds a lot like me when I first started working as an engineer.) They don't understand what a manager's job is- a manager should give feedback on your performance, and they should give you training if there are skills you need to learn. They shouldn't wait 18 months and then suddenly tell you you're not doing good enough. Cloud seems ready to blame themself, and thinks they can fix the situation if they just try hard enough to improve. But that's not how it works. And the other posters explained that it's not right for your manager to treat you that way, you deserve better, this isn't a situation you can fix, so you should look for a new job.

But I can imagine someone with an evangelical background, equipped with nothing but Piper's "you're working for the Lord" advice and VeggieTales morality lessons (like me...), being told by an authority figure "you need to show improvement in the next 6 months" and naively believing it. Staying in that situation because it never occurs to them to think about other options, or because of simplistic Sunday School lessons about "quitting is bad." Just trying to obey what the authority figure says, just trying to work hard and "do good" and trust God that it will be okay. And then 6 months later suddenly getting fired and being COMPLETELY SHOCKED and devastated and blaming themself.

They never taught us how to recognize when a situation is bad and GET OUT. It was always about how to try to change other people's behavior and solve the problem, or how to help yourself accept the situation. It was always about "doing the right thing", picking the right "virtue" to apply. I was never told to prioritize my own health and happiness and just GET OUT because IT'S NOT MY JOB TO FIX OTHER PEOPLE. (Boundaries!) No, I'm supposed to say to "set a good example" and be "the only bible they'll ever read."

And sometimes I think, well that's because I was just a little kid when I was taught these things, and kids don't really have the option of getting out of a situation they don't like. Their parents make decisions about where they go to school, where they go to church, what friends they see, what extracurricular activities they do, and so on. So sometimes I think maybe it makes sense that I was never taught about how to recognize an unhealthy situation and get out. But then I read things like Piper's article, which is definitely for adults, who HAVE THE OPTION to send out their resume and find a new job, and not once does he say anything about "consider looking for a new job" or anything about getting yourself into a situation where you'll be more happy and healthy.

I've embarked on a quest to review all the VeggieTales movies, and there's a lot I criticize about them. And sometimes I think, well this is just a movie for kids, they had to simplify things, that's why the advice comes across badly. But... when I reached adulthood, I never got an updated version of those things. There was never a Sunday School lesson on "you know how we said don't spread rumors? Well actually here is a more nuanced perspective on when it does or doesn't make sense to repeat information you've heard about another person."

And John Piper's article about "How to Serve a Bad Boss" ... it's not any more grown-up than "VeggieTales: The Ballad of Little Joe." The advice is the same. Just keep doing the right thing, and even though you're being treated badly, God cares, so eventually you'll be rewarded.

You don't have to live that way. Just because some authority figure tells you "you have to do XYZ" doesn't mean it's true. Look for your other options, and get out if you find something better. It's not your job to stay for the sake of people who aren't even treating you right. You deserve better. You deserve happiness. But of course John Piper doesn't believe that.


From "Virtues Morality" To "Boundaries Morality"
I knew Desiring God ideology is spiritual abuse, but wow.
Christianity Taught Me I Don't Matter

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Image of Dr. King, with the text: "I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro's greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not ... the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who prefers a negative peace (the absence of tension) to a positive peace (the presence of justice). Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963." Image source.
1. Domestic abusers can trap their victims with financial debt. This Texas bill seeks to provide a way out. (posted January 14) [content note: domestic violence] "Attorneys and researchers who specialize in domestic violence say survivors are often also the victims of economic abuse, a form of exploitation that financially benefits the perpetrators and makes it more difficult for their partners to leave."

2. Stevie (youtube channel) [content note: some of these videos are NSFW] A sex-ed youtube channel that focuses on lesbian sex. I'm finding it useful even though my partner is a cis man because it's helping me learn about my own body. (As I said in Monday's post, it's not all about him.)

3. The Truth About The Wolves In Beauty and the Beast | Disney Theory (posted January 15) "What gives is that I don't think the wolves actually care about eating anyone."

4. Vatican Will Only Let Infertile Women Get Hysterectomies at Catholic Hospitals (posted January 17)

5. Four women found guilty after leaving food and water for migrants in Arizona desert (posted January 19) "One of the volunteers with the group, Natalie Hoffman, was found guilty of three charges against her, including operating a vehicle inside the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, entering a federally protected wilderness area without a permit and leaving behind gallons on water and bean cans."

6. Calling transgender youth by their name dramatically reduces their chance of suicide (posted January 8)

7. The Trump Administration Quietly Changed the Definition of Domestic Violence and We Have No Idea What For (posted January 21) "So, for example, a woman whose partner isolates her from her family and friends, monitors her every move, belittles and berates her, or denies her access to money to support herself and her children is not a victim of domestic violence in the eyes of Trump’s Department of Justice."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"Desiring God" Goes Full Toxic Masculinity

Plastic forks. Image source.
What even is this? This article from Desiring God, Grooming the Next Generation, like, what on earth? It's a response to the backlash about Gillette's advertisement about how men should fight against toxic masculinity. And it's ... wow it's bad.

The writer, Greg Morse, says there are actually TWO TYPES of "toxic masculinity." One is what people typically think of as "toxic masculinity"- about how it's normal for men to be violent and sexually harass women and so on. Morse says yes we need to fight against this. But he also says there's a second type of "toxic masculinity"- where men are ... uh... how to even define what he is talking about? I'll just quote from the article:
Too often we swing from decrying chauvinism and abuse to producing a society of plastic forks, nonfat lattes, and men who don’t mind going to church because of the free babysitting. When our children look at men today — the kind in television shows, homes, and the classroom — what do they see? What is this masculinity of tomorrow we are all concerned with?

Manicured Manhood

Just having returned from a visit to “the greatest place on earth,” my wife and I were shocked at how many men boldly acted like women. Lispy sentences, light gestures, soft mannerisms, and flamboyant jokes were everywhere to be seen — on display for a park flooded with children. No hiding it. No shame. No apologizing. This perversion of masculinity warranted no commercials.
... what?


Morse thinks it's ... bad... that some men are ... "lispy" and "flamboyant" and use plastic forks? What? What on earth? The plastic forks actually appear 3 times in this article. What on earth is Morse's obsession with plastic forks and how they are apparently not manly? What?

Why are plastic forks not manly? I'm so confused. And Morse claims he is promoting "biblical masculinity." Where in the bible does it mention plastic forks?

And okay, what Morse is really saying here is it's bad when men act in ways that are typically seen as "queer." He's horrified that such behavior is "on display for a park flooded with children. No hiding it. No shame." Oh god what on earth even is this? Why should people be ashamed about expressing themselves and being who they are? Why does Morse think that's inappropriate for kids to see?

You know what? Queer men are courageous as hell. Men who ignore these rules about how "real men" shouldn't do this or that, shouldn't use plastic forks- men who don't care about that but instead just be themselves- that's courageous. Why on earth would it be a good thing if a man is like "I wish I could wear pink/ paint my nails/ have a nonfat latte but then people would make fun of me and take away my man card"? Why does Morse want men to be ashamed?

And then it gets worse:
Instead, our society celebrates what Paul calls literally “soft men” (Greek malakoi), a group that will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). And discomfort at this will-not-inherit-the-kingdom version of manliness is exactly a symptom of what the APA finds malignant in traditional manhood. But as much as the APA and LGBTQs protest it as hate speech, the effeminate shall not enter the kingdom of God, and it is unloving not to say so.
HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS? Like I knew Desiring God is extremely anti-queer, but like, WOW. Wow this is messed-up.

(For those of you following along at home, yes, this is hate speech. Also, unloving. AND ALSO, mocking men who don't act "manly" enough, as Morse does here, IS TOXIC MASCULINITY. And also, I find his clear disdain for "acting like women" extremely misogynistic.)

Throughout the article, Morse makes it clear that he's not saying men shouldn't be gentle. He says yes, it is good and masculine for men to be gentle and compassionate. But he says it's bad when men are "passive, complacent, spiritually and emotionally frail", "soft, fragile, weak, or effeminate". Why on earth he thinks these qualities have anything to do with one's gender presentation or plastic forks is BEYOND ME.

I gotta say, my favorite part of the article is this:
And too many classrooms that celebrate this perversion act as accomplices to confusing the boys (and girls) of today.
What is it with conservatives claiming that if people don't fit gender stereotypes and/or are queer, it's "confusing" to children? In reality, it's... not actually confusing? You know what's confusing? I'm actually still stuck on the whole "plastic forks" thing. Whyyyyyyyyy are plastic forks not manly? What is that all about? What does Greg Morse do when he's at a barbecue and wants to eat potato salad? I want to know!!! Why should people be limited in what they can do and what they can wear- limited by their genital shape, of all things? Now THAT'S confusing.

This article is ... wow it's really something else. It's an absurd, nonsensical mix of gender roles, misogyny, queermisia, and just generally being an unloving jerk. It claims to be about "biblical masculinity" but is actually about modern American Christians' stereotypes about what is and isn't "manly." None of it even makes sense at all!

Long ago, when I was a good evangelical, I respected Desiring God and saw them as a good godly resource of correct beliefs. I bought into complementarian and anti-queer ideology. So I understand where they're coming from- but wow, I can't even make sense of this article. It's bizarre. It makes ridiculous claims about how men are supposed to be, without even trying to support those claims. As if it's self-evident (and biblical!) why plastic forks are unmanly and there's no need to explain. Like... what?


Feminism 101: Toxic Masculinity and Fragile Masculinity
I'm a woman, and God created me to do math and build robots
BREAKING NEWS: Purity Culture Adherents Completely Miss the Point
Don't Invite Anybody From 'Desiring God' to Your Funeral

Monday, January 21, 2019

My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life

Two heart-shaped carabiner clips, clipped together. Image source.
Unlearning purity culture is a WHOLE PROCESS, y'all. You think you've finished, and then you discover ENTIRE NEW FRONTIERS of messed-up beliefs you still hold.

A few years ago, I thought I had completely escaped all that Christian teaching about "sexual purity", because I no longer believed unmarried sex is a sin, I had sex with Hendrix (this was before we got married), I didn't feel bad about it, and actually it was extremely good for my mental health because I learned I don't have to be afraid of sex anymore. Sex is not some momumentally-big deal that will completely change what kind of person I am AND RUIN MY LIFE. It's just a thing I can do with my partner if I want. It is what it is.

Growing up, I was taught this "sexual purity" ideology that's OBSESSED with people's pasts. If you've ever dated anyone, if you've ever kissed anyone, if you've ever had sex, then you're not marriage material. Your spouse will be heartbroken over those things you did in the past- and they have every right to be! It's cheating on them! Or, that's what the church taught me.

I rejected that. Instead, I believe it's totally fine if you've had other relationships in the past. That has nothing to do with your ability to love your current partner. You weren't with your current partner back then; how could you possibly owe them anything?

They defined "purity" as a lack of experience with romantic and sexual things. And they said "purity" is obviously inherently good, and is the best way to guarantee you will have a happy marriage. I reject that concept entirely now. So I thought I was out of purity culture. I thought I was done.

(Note that another important tenet of this "purity" ideology is that everyone is heterosexual. Marriage is "one man one woman." Same-sex attraction is EVIL and BAD. I also 100% reject that. But I'm straight [straight, but not heterosexual] so that part doesn't affect me personally.)

It was a really really big deal for me to reject the concept of "purity." It took a long time to get out of all that "dating is bad" and "sex will ruin your life" nonsense. But, at the same time, someone might look at my marriage and say I basically did follow the rules. I've only ever done sexual things with one person- who is now my husband. We are different genders. We are monogamous and intend to be together for our whole lives. Yeah, chronologically speaking, we started having sex before our wedding date, but other than that it pretty much looks like the model of marriage that I learned in church.

And that's a problem, because I've realized there were a lot of things wrong with that model of marriage. There's a lot I still need to unlearn. Purity-culture beliefs that have nothing to do with one's past- because I've already rejected all those- but with what my marriage is supposed to look like right now. How my husband and I relate to each other in the present.

Basically, I was taught that my body belongs to my husband. He is the rightful owner of every aspect of my sexuality. In the same way, his body belongs to me, and I own every aspect of his sexuality. In theory, it's symmetric... but they taught us that in reality, men REALLY REALLY need sex and women don't like sex that much. So his body belonging to me wouldn't really mean much to me. But my body belonging to him means that I have to have sex with him basically whenever he wants. Of course I didn't think my husband would physically force me or anything like that, but I FULLY EXPECTED that if I didn't say yes "enough," he would tell me that's not okay, I'm not allowed to do that, I'm not holding up my end of the deal.

When I started learning more about consent, I learned that no, being married does NOT mean that you have the right to have sex with your spouse even if they don't want to. So I sort of updated my model of "what marriage is." But of course I still believed my body belongs to my husband, and that the whole entirety of my sex life- all my sexual experiences, all my desires, everything- has to be about him. I had never ever heard anyone suggest that a monogamous marriage could work any other way.

Some of my ex-purity-culture friends are into casual sex or non-monogamy, and I think those could be really good and healthy ways to develop a better ideology of what sex is, and how you don't "own" another person's body. But I personally am not interested in those things. So ... so I could have been just stuck here. Thinking I've gotten out of purity culture, but still buying into its teaching on what sex is in a marriage.

But these two things got me un-stuck:
  1. My husband is not a Christian
  2. I'm asexual
First of all, my husband, Hendrix, is not a Christian, and WOW this is SUCH A GOOD THING. He wasn't taught any of this effed-up crap about "my body belongs to him." He has no experience with that kind of ideology at all. He has much more healthy beliefs about bodily autonomy. I find myself shocked, over and over, at how he TOTALLY DOES NOT hold these misogynistic views that I always thought were totally normal, self-evident facts about "what marriage is."

It was Hendrix who told me it's okay to masturbate and watch porn. He told me those are completely normal things that most people do, and it's not "cheating." (Yes, I used to believe that masturbation was basically cheating because you're SUPPOSED to get all your sexual everything from your spouse. If you get it from yourself then that's WRONG. One of the biggest Christian talking points for why masturbation is a sin is "what if you like it better than having sex with your spouse, so then you don't want them anymore, that would just be disastrous.")

And second, I'm asexual. When Hendrix and I started having sex, I thought he was the be-all and end-all of my sex life, that every single part of it had to be about him, or else that's "cheating." Of course that's what I thought; I had never heard of anybody in a monogamous marriage not believing that. I tried, I tried to live that way, but I couldn't. I went looking for answers, and concluded I'm asexual.

I thought I was heterosexual, and I thought sex would just *work*. I thought we both take off our clothes and lay in bed and the next steps after that are obvious and will basically happen automatically. (LOL. Nope.)

I thought we would just mindlessly "go at it" and that would feel amazing. I thought there would be no thinking, that we'd be driven by our love and attraction and just do what feels good.

I knew basically nothing about my own genitals. Not only did I have no experience with touching my genitals to know what feels good and what doesn't, I didn't even know that "what feels good and what doesn't" is the sort of thing that would be important to know about myself before trying partnered sex.

I thought Hendrix was in charge of my pleasure and whatever he did would be the right thing for me. And if it was mediocre then I would just have to accept that.

I remember one time during sex, I discovered that it felt good if I used my hand to rub my clit, but then I immediately felt ashamed, like I shouldn't do that. Because it's me giving myself sexual pleasure, and has nothing to do with him. It doesn't affect him at all. Even though it's AT THE SAME TIME I AM HAVING SEX WITH HIM, it's still kind of like masturbation, so it's kind of like cheating. It's "selfish"! (Which is one of the worst things a Christian can be accused of...) During sex, my whole attention should be on him, right? I focus on him, not myself, he focuses on me, not himself, and that's how everyone's needs get met. Right?

I tried to play that role but I couldn't. I tried to be a good wife for him, to say yes to him, to center my entire sex life around him... I couldn't. Sex was painful and confusing, because I knew basically nothing about my own body. The only opportunity to learn about my genitals and what feels good was during sex with my husband- I can't do it by myself, that would be cheating!- and I didn't think he'd really have the patience for sitting through a bunch of scientific experiments while we're trying to have sex.

I had to find answers on my own. I had to discover my sexuality on my own. I had to develop an understanding of my body and my identity BY MYSELF. For me. Just me. Separate from my husband. I have to be in control of this. I'm the only one who knows my own needs.

So I did. I did research into asexuality and concluded I'm asexual. I read a lot of sex-ed materials. (Guess what, it turns out "sex ed" can mean "learn how to have sex in a way that feels good, so many interesting possibilities, so much amazing stuff to learn" rather than "we hope that no one has sex but if they do then at least let's make sure they use a condom" which was what it was in my high school health class.) I bought some sex toys and I masturbate in order to learn about my body. I'm not interested in watching porn, but I read sexy fanfiction which I think is a good resource for learning about different feelings or motivations people might have related to sex. Like, I don't assume any of it is "realistic" or "normal", but it's better than only knowing what Christian leaders told me I'm supposed to feel about sex.

And all along the way, I found myself asking for Hendrix's permission. Will he let me identify as asexual? Is he okay with me masturbating? And so on. Because, my whole sexuality is supposed to belong to him, right? I thought that was what the deal was, when we got married. It turns out he never thought that. It turns out he doesn't believe he has the right to tell me how I can identify and what I am allowed to do with my own body.

Wow. Like I said, SO GLAD I married a non-Christian.

So I've come to this understanding: That my sex life does NOT revolve around my husband. Yes, we are monogamous. I'm not talking about doing sexual things with other people. I'm talking about knowing myself first, rather than just naively showing up in bed and assuming everything will just *work* because we love each other. 

I no longer believe "my body belongs to him, his body belongs to me." I believe we both have to be our own people first. I develop my own understanding of my sexuality, my desires, what I want, my goals. From there, we communicate with each other and do sexual things that we both want. And it's okay if he doesn't necessarily fulfill everything I want, because I can masturbate or have my own fantasies or whatever. We're monogamous so we won't do anything with other people, but that's not the same thing as saying we need to get all our sexual everything from each other.

And YES, me understanding my own body and my own desires makes partnered sex 100 times easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Even though I consider myself to have gotten out of purity culture, I can easily imagine still being stuck in its understanding of marriage. If my husband was a "good Christian"- like I always imagined I would marry- who forbid me from masturbating or exploring my sexuality separate from him, I would have seen that as completely normal. I would have 100% believed he had the right to control that part of my life. That's what I was taught in church. I've never heard anyone suggest it's possible to be monogamous and not believe that.

And if I wasn't asexual ... Well, I used to think I was heterosexual, and I used to think sex would just *work*. I have no idea if it really does "just work" for people who really are heterosexual. But I imagine, if sex wasn't confusing and painful, if it didn't cause me to go looking for answers about what was wrong... if it was generally a good experience... I would have just continued to believe that my whole sex life belongs to my husband, and I would have continued to know almost nothing about my own body. I would have been happy with that, and I would not have known about all the cool things my body can do, and how much more enjoyable this can be.

So thank Lady God for making me asexual.

And this realization, that my sex life shouldn't be entirely focused on my husband... Feels like such a new and revolutionary idea to me. (Of course, I explained it all to Hendrix to make sure he would "allow" me to think that way... he was like, "if it all makes sense to you, then what's the problem, what's stopping you from just believing that and being fine?" and I told him I had to make sure he was okay with it... and again discovered he totally does not see himself as the owner of my sexuality, which, again, is a nice surprise.) So new, so completely different from everything I was taught about marriage and sex. And it's exactly what I need.


A Post About Masturbation
I’m Really Really REALLY Glad I Had Sex Before Marriage
They said it was about "valuing our bodies." That was a lie.
"Is it Okay for Christians to Use Sex Toys?" (An Exercise in Missing the Point)


This post is part of the January 2019 Carnival of Aces, an asexual blog carnival. This month's topic is "asexuality as a blessing."

Thursday, January 17, 2019


A sleeping cat. Image source.
1. China Shares Pictures Taken by Rover and Spacecraft on the Far Side of the Moon (posted January 11) China sent a robot to the moon! Cool!

2. Evangelical group wants gays removed from anti-lynching bill (posted January 10)

3. Free Toy Included (posted February 2018) "I mean, I’ve spent a good portion of my life thinking I’d hate having a bird crap on my face, but maybe I haven’t met the right bird. What the hell do I know?"

4. Border Patrol agent accused of killing 4 in South Texas enters not guilty plea (posted January 10) [content note: murder] "In December, Alaniz described Ortiz as a self-proclaimed vigilante who wanted to 'clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting individuals he deemed to be disposable and that no one would care about. People he did not give value to.'" HOLY HELL.

5. After nearly 70 years, Florida Clemency Board pardons Groveland Four (posted January 11) [content note: lynching] "Some call the treatment of the four men one of the worst episodes of racism in American history."

6. What Christians Don’t Want to Admit About Celibacy and Homosexuality (posted 2017) "So I’m just gonna say it: The social landscape of modern America is making celibacy practically impossible."

7. Evangelicals Know Exactly How to Persuade Atheists: A Nice NDE! (posted January 8) "It is downright creepy and weird that Christians fantasize so much and so vividly about the torments that they think would need to happen to reduce atheists to such a shambles that they’d finally believe nonsense for no good reason."

8. You Can’t “Culturally Appropriate” a Weighted Blanket (posted January 10) "It isn’t unusual for a news outlet to run a piece about autism without the voice of a single autistic person, as is the case with Fetters’ essay. Our parents and even grandparents are sufficient proxies. We can’t speak, or what we have to say is too precious and childlike to matter. Perhaps I could do an amusing card-counting trick or play a tune I’ve only heard once by ear."

9. The Problem With Chinese Universities? Not Enough Dropouts (posted January 15) "Beginning as early as elementary school, young Chinese find themselves caught up in a cutthroat competition for a precious spot at one of the country’s top universities. Those that succeed are rewarded with what amounts to a vacation: China’s undergraduate programs are notorious for low standards and easy classes — and once you’re in, you’re practically guaranteed a degree."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales "Sumo of the Opera" (2004)

That's the sunk cost fallacy!


To see all my VeggieTales reviews: Perfect Number Watches VeggieTales (Master Post)