Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stone Age Sex, Modern Polyamory

The new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality has been getting a great deal of buzz lately, especially with the co-authors' strong refutation that monogamy is not natural for humans. A number of polyamorists and sex radicals have been posting "told-you-so" commentary on blogs and social network pages -- and I can only imagine what more conservative folks are thinking.

Having studied social and behavioral science, I'm always skeptical of any extreme claims about human nature, whether it's about being "hard-wired" one way or another, or the old-fashioned "blank slate" theory. Neither is entirely accurate, even when talking about something as instinctive as sexuality.

For one thing, humans have enormous variability, even in the most basic elements. Some individuals have powerful libidos, while others have little to none. The question of sexual behavior -- how we channel that desire -- is as much molded by culture and psychology as it is by hormones and neurons.

Sex at Dawn provides great scientific insights, and challenges long-held preconceptions about human sexuality. But it's far from a handbook on sexual ethics. Even if we are "wired" for promiscuity, that doesn't mean we're compelled to get it on with anyone and everyone who turns us on. Our brains are also wired for more complex emotional relationships, and to anticipate long term consequences. And a sound ethical approach is one which finds a balance between primal instinct, social necessity, and individual variation.

Human nature is complex, including human sexuality. Just as we need to be skeptical about the false dichotomy of biological determinism versus tabula rasa, we also need to reject the either-or fallacy of "traditional morality" versus "moral chaos". Hopefully the buzz around this book will open people's eyes to the ethical approach adopted by polyamorists and others -- one based on consent and respect, including respect for the realities of human diversity.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just a thought or two on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" ...

So many folks are commenting about Par51, also known as the Cordoba House project, also erroneously being called the "Ground Zero Mosque." And how, you might ask, does this tie in with sexuality and spirituality?

Bear with me.

First off, the proposed Islamic center is not being built on Ground Zero, but a couple of blocks away. There are already several businesses there -- bars, street vendors selling baseball caps and cheap souvenirs, a McDonald's, a betting parlor.

And a couple of strip clubs. Yup, strip clubs near the "hallowed ground" of Ground Zero. If you don't believe me, read for yourself.

And what do the strippers think of all the brouhaha? Well, if the ladies that Andrew Grossman are a representative sample, they're fine with it. They support religious freedom -- if you can have churches and synagogues in lower Manhattan, then no problem having a mosque.

Doesn't surprise me.

Lots of folks in the erotic trades tend towards libertarian attitudes. Given the nature of their business -- and the prevailing social attitudes towards them -- its a necessity. And, just like everyone else, many exotic dancers and sex workers are spiritual people.

Fits nicely in another way, too. Because the fellow who wants to build this center is not a rabid extremist, but a Sufi who has been doing years of work reaching out to people of all faiths, making it clear that what the 9/11 terrorists did went completely against the core values of Islam. Obviously he didn't have a problem with having a couple of strip clubs nearby. After all, there had been two mosques in the area, even closer to the World Trade Center, prior to the terrorist attacks. And a makeshift worship site has been set up at the Park51 location to take in the overflow for them. Seems to me that making the arrangement permanent is more than appropriate.

So here's the rub for all those "decent" folks who are opposed to this project. If the ladies who work at the Pussycat Lounge and New York Dolls have no problem with having the center there, and the Imam looking to build the center has no problem with the strip clubs being nearby, isn't that a better example of the kind of world we want to live in than the rancor and hysteria being promoted by Sarah Palin and Company?