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March 30th, 2007


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11:01 am - On personal squicks and legal prohibitions
In a response to someone else's lj post, where I discussed how I did not understand homophobes, one of the things I wrote was, " I've also never remotely understood how someone can hate, strongly oppose, or even particularly care about any actions by willing adults that affect only these willing adults"

Upon thinking further about that statement, I realized how completely true it was. There are plenty of things I have no objection to because I enjoy them (homosexuality, polyamory, certain fairly mild forms of S&M), there are many other things I don't object to because while I may not personally enjoy them or ever wish to do them, I do not find them in any way disturbing or problematic – complex & elaborate bondage, or moving away from sex, whole ranges of hobbies or pursuits, from stamp collecting to being a serious fan of professional sports, to adopting a child. I imaging everyone has both a range of things they find either generally positive or personally enjoyable and a range of things which they find neutral and completely non-objectionable.

What I do not understand is the idea that some people can find wholly consensual acts between other adults so disturbing that they wish to ban them or direct abuse at people who perform them. I quite literally cannot think of a single act that inspires either of those responses in me. There are plenty of such acts that deeply horrify or disgust me – scatological sex acts, donating internal organs while still alive, playing Russian roulette, or as I discuss at some length here, people wanting to have their own healthy limbs amputated. I would never do any of these acts, I would be disturbed to have any of my loved ones do any of these acts, but I also can see absolutely no reason that people should be prevented from doing these acts if they truly and honestly wish to do so. In fact, if someone honestly wished to be a sacrificial victim in an Aztec human sacrifice, where they had their heart cut from their body (in such cases, I can see checking into issues of informed consent very closely indeed), and the person clearly understood what they were doing, then I would likely have no objection (that sort of truly extreme case is one that I'm not 100% certain of).

I can see prohibiting some irreversible or potentially irreversible acts as part of commercial transaction, because someone (for example) being forced to sell a kidney or play Russian roulette because of financial hardship is completely vile [[1]]. However, people performing such acts because they honestly wish to do so, in the absence of any pressure of coercion (including any form of financial pressure or coercion) does not seem something in need of any prohibition whatsoever. I simply do not understand the motive for interfering with the affairs of other consenting adults. I understand perfectly well that queer sex disgusts some people, and that's fine, I disagree, but as long as such people do not interfere with the actions and choices of others, I also do not have to care. I can also clearly understand wishing to prohibit acts that are not consensual or where consent is impossible, such as many acts involving young children. However, the impulse to prohibit adults from freely doing something to themselves or with one or more other consenting adult, regardless of what that act is utterly eludes me. I do not in any way understand how or why anyone's (or even most people's) squick should ever be reason do deny someone's freely made choice and also believe that regardless of the reasons that doing so is deeply wrong.

[[1]] I oppose such commercial transactions for exactly the same reason that I strongly support health and safety laws in the workplace. I believe that allowing people to sell and donate their organs while they are alive is little different from allowing people to work in unsafe environments like factories or coal mines, without adequate safety gear or in manufacturing jobs where working conditions are such that repetitive stress injuries are exceedingly likely. People should never be forced to harm themselves or seriously risk harming themselves in order to make a living.
Current Mood: confusedconfused

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From:alobar
Date:March 30th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
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there are many other things I don't object to because while I may not personally enjoy them or ever wish to do them, I do not find them in any way disturbing or problematic

Does that include voluntary enslavement and castration?
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From:heron61
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
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If done for non-economic reasons and without coercion (and determining these things might be tricky, but are likely possible) then certainly. I think such acts are impressively stupid, but I also don't think it's my place to stop someone from doing them.
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From:heron61
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
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I think this psychology is partly due to the conditioning that "happiness", serenity, and a feeling of accomplishment only come from suffering, denial, and sacrifice.

*nods* Indeed, which is also why I am always highly suspicious of the idea of deferred gratification as anything other than a relatively short-term activity.
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From:bright_lilim
Date:March 30th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
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I agree with you. I'd just add "self-centeredness" and "narrow-mindedness" to "insecurity", because so very often I come across people who are just amazed that, gasp, *other people think differently than they do*. (Or maybe I just hand around the wrong places. :))

I also think that some remnant of the Middle Age community -thinking might account for some of it. The idea that if one person in a community "sinned" the whole community would be punished for it and so everyone must be watched and made to obey. But I don't know how widespread that was.
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From:heronheart
Date:March 31st, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
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I also think that some remnant of the Middle Age community -thinking might account for some of it. The idea that if one person in a community "sinned" the whole community would be punished for it and so everyone must be watched and made to obey. But I don't know how widespread that was.

Actually this goes back to at least the Romans. The reason they (the Romans)were so anti-christian had to do with the Romans belief that the entire city would be punished by the gods if a significant portion of that city's population failed to scrifice to that city's patron diety.

There are also significant social reasons for some of these phobias. As social animals it's vitally important for humans to know what the social "rules" are. If the rules are rapidly changing, that causes significant social anxiety. Sexual rules are even trickier. If homosexuality becomes socially acceptable, the number of possible people who's sexual advances someone might have to refuse doubles. Refusing a sexual advance always involves the risk of ill-feeling and possible reprisals. Polyamory makes things even trickier because the "wedding-ring" defense no longer works.
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From:bright_lilim
Date:March 31st, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
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Mm. To my eye, the Middle Ages were much, much stricker on the deviants. Romans did tolerate the whacky one-god-people to an extent while the Middle Age communites didn't tolerate deviants at all. Or that's how I've come to see them.

True, about the social reasons. Although once again, I seem to be weird because I don't think that anyone should have to give reasons or excuses for refusing an advance. A no is a no and end of story.
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From:heronheart
Date:April 1st, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
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Mm. To my eye, the Middle Ages were much, much stricker on the deviants. Romans did tolerate the whacky one-god-people to an extent while the Middle Age communites didn't tolerate deviants at all. Or that's how I've come to see them.

My view is that the one grew out of the other. The Romans believed that entire communities could and should be punished for the actions of some of their members. Roman Catholicism extended the idea in the Middle Ages.

A no is a no and end of story.

In a perfect world, perhaps. But even in a perfect world, the person making the advance has taken a risk and is going to feel unhappy and rejected. Those are definite social issues.

Even if somebody says "yes", there's a whole tangle of social relationships with that person's friends, family, and other lovers. I recently took part in a poly discussion about "degrees of seperation". One person felt that it was extremely inappropriate for their lover's lover to take the first person's son as a lover without at least informing the first person about it. Another person felt that the first person was being extremely controlling and that it was perfectly appropriate for them to have had a father and son as simultaneous lovers. Regardless of the merits of the arguments, these are cases where differing expectations can create significant social friction. These things can of course be negotiated, but the negotiations themselves can be extremely tedious, time-consuming, and friction-producing themselves.

Living in a world where others have few expectations of us can be extremely liberating. Living in a world where we can have few expectations of others can be extremely stressful and lonely. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't "go there", but it does mean that we have to be aware of the issues and be gentle with ourselves and with others.
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From:used_songs
Date:March 30th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
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I was just having this conversation with my sig other in the car not 30 minutes ago. We saw one of those "marriage=man figure+woman figure" bumper stickers and I had a mini-tirade about why people like that think they are entitled to an opinion on something that is none of their business.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)
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Yeesh. I am, personally, repulsed by anal sex and do not wish to ever have to hear about it, yet I am aware that gay men and, for that matter, straight people, enjoy it. I would never wish to prohibit such a thing, no matter how much it disgusts me. That is as silly as prohibiting people from eating Marmite because you think it tastes nasty.

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From:kitten_goddess
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
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*scratching head*

What about donating bone marrow or a kidney to a loved one, which involves no money changing hands at all? What's wrong with that? I was taught that such acts were commendable, because the donor suffers no health risks apart from those associated with any other routine surgery, and the recipient is spared years of agony and sickness on the transplant waiting lists.

Or are you talking about selling organs only?
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From:heron61
Date:March 30th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm only against selling organs. I'm squicked by the idea of a living person donating a kidney (bone marrow is different, since it grows back and little is needed), and would never do it myself, but (as with most everything else) see no reason to prohibit it.

Of course, totally off topic, it seems obvious to me that the easiest way to deal with transplants is to say that unless someone has made other arrangements (ie signed a specific notarized form) everyone's organs can automatically be harvested after they die. I remain puzzled as to why this wasn't made law decades ago.
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From:antayla
Date:March 31st, 2007 07:25 am (UTC)
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Because organs belong to the person from whom they come, not "society." If even our bodies don't belong to us and we don't have the right to the control of our organs/DNA etc. what the hell DOES belong to us?

Actually, it is really easy to become an organ donor; when you sign up for a driver's license it is an option. I signed up myself Although, come to think of it, if I could get money for my organs in advance, I would be sorely tempted to do so. Hey, maybe I could buy health care services with the money! >:).

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From:heron61
Date:March 31st, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
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If even our bodies don't belong to us and we don't have the right to the control of our organs/DNA etc. what the hell DOES belong to us?

I'm all for bodies belonging to people when they are alive. However, if you don't specifically make other arrangements, I'm all for people's bodies not belonging to them once they are dead - it's not like you will ever use it again. The dead own nothing, that's sort of what being dead is all about.
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From:antayla
Date:March 31st, 2007 08:04 am (UTC)
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"The dead own nothing, that's sort of what being dead is all about."

Wouldn't being able to make specific arrangements be based on the assumption that a person had rights to not be desecrated if they so choose? I think the law errs on the side of religious caution ATM.

Right now, I think it is family that has the legal right to choose... I don't know this sort of law all that well.
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From:heron61
Date:March 31st, 2007 08:34 am (UTC)
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I'm willing to accept people choosing not to have their organs harvested once they are dead. All I'm asking is implied consent if someone doesn't file a form to prevent this. Currently, people (or their families) need to consent to having this done and it cannot be done w/o consent. I would remove the ability of someone's family to deny consent if the person didn't file the appropriate paperwork (I see no more reason for someone's family to own their corpse than for the state to do so) and say that w/o denial of consent by the person while they are alive, it is automatically given. Thus, people with strong religious objections can file the paperwork, and those who don't care or who are too lazy to bother are assumed to have consented. Given that the dead feel nothing and own nothing, I'm perfectly OK with this.
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From:xuenay
Date:March 30th, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
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I can see prohibiting some irreversible or potentially irreversible acts as part of commercial transaction, because someone (for example) being forced to sell a kidney or play Russian roulette because of financial hardship is completely vile

I'm not sure about this one (not sure as in "haven't made up my mind", not "actively disagree"). I agree that somebody being forced to sell their kidney in order to manage hardship is a pretty vile situation...

...but on the other hand, "forced to sell" implies that all the other options are even worse. Presumably, if they had a better way out, they'd take it instead. That would imply, then, that banning organ trade would be making their situation worse than it would be if selling organs was allowed.
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From:queerbychoice
Date:March 31st, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
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"I've also never remotely understood how someone can hate, strongly oppose, or even particularly care about any actions by willing adults that affect only these willing adults"

Define "willing." Free and informed consent is a spectrum, not a black and white issue, and no choice in the whole world is ever likely to be 100% free or 100% informed.

Also, define "affect only these willing adults." To some small extent, everything anyone ever even hears about affects everyone who hears about it.

I'd also ask you to define "hate" and "strongly oppose," but it's not really necessary since the sentence also included an "or even particularly care about," and I can say with certainty that I do particularly care about some things that other people choose to do, that don't particularly affect me personally. For example, I care whether people continue believing in the myth of innate heterosexuality, and whether they join fundamentalist churches or tolerate sexism or racism or other prejudices, even if they are only the victims of the prejudices they tolerate and thus their toleration of being treated this way might be regarded as consensual submissiveness that doesn't significantly affect anyone other than themselves. I care about these things and many others, not particularly because of whatever small ways they may affect any unwilling bystanders, but rather primarily because of how they affect the people who are choosing these things themselves. I care because I care about those people's well-being, and the fact that they are choosing these things is not adequate evidence to convince me that they are making a properly informed choice that will actually benefit them. I believe they are making choices that actually hurt them, and therefore I care about trying to educate them to take better care of themselves.
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From:heron61
Date:March 31st, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
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I believe they are making choices that actually hurt them, and therefore I care about trying to educate them to take better care of themselves.

I'm always quite suspicious of such attitudes because such actions are incredibly easy to abuse. Giving someone help when they ask for help is from my PoV an unqualified good. Attempting to help adults who are not asking for aid and who you attempting to help because you believe they have made bad choices is however, fraught with risks of assuming the other person is in some way less than you are or that their choices are in any way less valid for them than yours are for you. Sometimes, these things actually turn out to be true, often they don't.

I have absolutely no problem with people holding and practicing extremely intolerant fundy beliefs, as long as they do not interfere with anyone who does not share their beliefs. I'd be very happy if such beliefs died out because I find them abhorrent. However actively working to eradicate them in any fashion beyond living a happy life as an example of someone who does not hold such beliefs and working to prevent such people from harming or coercing others seems no better than the fundy's vile and frequent attempts at evangelism. I'm fairly strongly against evangelism of all forms.
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From:queerbychoice
Date:March 31st, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
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I don't have the spare time or energy, nor the faith that it would be the slightest bit effective, to go around talking to individuals and trying to convert them. But I do write websites partly in the hope that some of those people will random stumble onto my websites and read them and start rethinking their lives, and that seems to be to be a little bit more than just living a happy life as an example of someone who does not hold such beliefs. Not much more, especially in view of the fact that I write the websites primarily for people who actually already agree with me - but still, a little bit more.
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:March 31st, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
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The thing that really gets me is the obsession that many of the homophobic people have with homosexual sex. I don't get it. They aren't that obsessed with what various heterosexual people do in the bedroom, so why care about what homosexuals (that they presumably would not be friends with anyway if they're homophobic)? It just doesn't make any sense to me, other than the closet theory, which is true in some cases but there are plenty of other cases where they just plain hate for hate's sake. I don't think I understand this, probably never will.
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From:antayla
Date:March 31st, 2007 07:58 am (UTC)
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"People should never be forced to harm themselves or seriously risk harming themselves in order to make a living."

Ah. Supposing someone is flat out incapable of making a living (say they are murderously mentally ill or simply have really bad arthritis and a learning disability)... who should be FORCED to care for them? What you are saying is that it is not okay for a natural circumstance of birth to exert what you call "force" (I do not call it force because for someone to be forced you have to have someone doing the forcing. I don't believe in God, sooo...) But it is okay for humans to force others to support someone who is incapable of supporting herself. You do see the inconsistency here, don't you? You simply replace a "force" isn't really force at all with actual force by human beings upon other human beings.

If someone is born incapable of making a living, who is forcing them into it? Are other people responsible for circumstances of birth or genetics (or "acts of God", even?) I have more sympathy for the "public safety" argument for socialism than I do for the "people are being forced to (gawds forbid!) make a living" concept. Of COURSE we have to work to eat... it's common sense. If you don't like it, take it up with "God" (since someone MUST be oppressing those poor people.)

I'm not arguing that people should not be taken care of, but I disagree that it should be by a system of (albeit spread out) social slavery. I don't need a government to tell me how to be good. And I don't think it is a good thing for altruism to be forced. It isn't real altruism, and it detracts from people having a true sense of conscience. They do "good" because they are forced to, not because of a developed sense of social responsibility. Until people are allowed to develop that sense of social responsibility on their own, we are going to continue to struggle with problems of personal integrity in all the social spheres. Integrity doesn't come from outside a person... it is purely an internal quality.

As for safety expectations, it wasn't the government that ever pushed for them, it the labor unions (people who banded together willingly) that did it back in the day. In fact, they were opposing the government at the time. I just know that I would quit any job where they expected me to do anything unsafe... not unless they gave me a hefty raise to compensate for the risk I was taking. In fact, that is the case even now at my workplace, where I don't trust the saws enough to use them. I've said time and again if they want me to saw anything, they can give me a raise in the immediate form of a better saw :P.
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From:heron61
Date:March 31st, 2007 08:53 am (UTC)
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Ah. Supposing someone is flat out incapable of making a living (say they are murderously mentally ill or simply have really bad arthritis and a learning disability)... who should be FORCED to care for them?

That's easy, the state, paid for by all of our taxes. This is the only just and fair answer - every citizen shares a (very) small portion of the financial burden of caring for those who cannot care for themselves and who have no one willing to care for them. The care is then provided by trained, licensed professionals paid by the state. That is precisely the situation that taxes are best suited for, since all other options rely either upon private charity, which is far from guaranteed to be sufficient for everyone's needs, or allows some people to live (or die) in appalling conditions because they have no one to care for them.

I also strongly believe that taxes should be highly progressive, with no taxes owned by people making the poverty line and the wealthy paying a significantly higher percentage of their income than the middle class. I'm perfectly willing to tell someone rich that they can't buy a second yacht because disabled or severely mentally ill people need housing and care. In fact, that's one of the best possible reasons I can think of for such taxes.

I don't need a government to tell me how to be good.

That's likely quite true. However, it the lesson of both recent and older history clearly prove that a great many business owners, especially owners of large businesses who are insulated from the conditions of their workers very much do need people telling them how to be good. Without such government force, you end up with horrors like the Triangle shirtwaist Factory fire. Obviously people need to work. However, they should be assured that no matter how poor or desperate they become, they will have working conditions that are as safe and non-damaging as they can be. Look at coal mines in Appalachia today - several decades of Republican rule has made enforcement of safety regulations more lax because of fewer inspections, and so people die more frequently in mine accidents. I wish owners are large businesses did not need to have their practices regulated and that everyone was willing to put basic humanity over greed, but many people are not, and for that reason that state needs to step in and force them to act in a humane manner to their employees.

Part of my annoyance at the idea of libertarianism is that it seems built on the naive (or in some cases deliberate) denial that everywhere that regulations on businesses are lax, workers suffer because owners of business will often abuse or neglect their workers in their pursuit of profit if not prohibited by strictly enforced regulations.
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From:bright_lilim
Date:March 31st, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
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"They do "good" because they are forced to"

But that's how things have been done as long as we have a written history. In all of the religions there are some deeds that the higher power considers good and/or necessary and in essence people are told to do them and then they will be saved. That's true even in Christianity, where supposedly there's no need to do good deeds, but just have faith. There have also always been social pressure to do the good deeds. Every law is also based on the reverse of that: don't do bad things and you won't be punished.

The idea of pure altruism is really very young.
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From:heron61
Date:March 31st, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
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And I don't think it is a good thing for altruism to be forced. It isn't real altruism, and it detracts from people having a true sense of conscience. They do "good" because they are forced to, not because of a developed sense of social responsibility.

As an addendum to my previous response, I care far more about results than theory or reasons. I don't care nearly as much why wealthy business people aren't abusing their workers than that they are. Sure, it would be nice for them to do so because they are good and humane people. However, no one has figured out how to cause people to be humane and good, and until they do, I'll stick with results.

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