Tag: human sexuality

42 Splices and Counting: Nine Facts You Should Know About the Planned Parenthood Smear Campaign

Source: Valerie Tarico.com

Emphasis Mine

Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.

Like me, you probably can think of five things you said in the last week that you would cringe to hear on the evening news. But would a selectively edited patchwork of your worst (or most easily misinterpreted) moments accurately reflect who you are? Almost certainly not.

The scraps of conversation with Planned Parenthood employees that were recorded and released by fundamentalist Christian David Daleiden and his front organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), sounded shockingly nasty. But as details of the smear campaign emerge, we probably should be surprised that they didn’t sound worse.

Here are nine facts that put what you heard in context:

42 Splices – According to forensic analysis by Fusion GPS, the first five videos released by Daleiden and CMP, contained 42 splices where sentences were cut and patched to create the appearance of a seamless conversation. By design, these edits changed the meaning of individual sentences as well as the overall conversation. In one example, a Planned Parenthood staffer’s comment about lab protocols was edited to sound like she was talking about abortion procedures. Her words got echoed repeatedly by mainstream media who falsely assumed they knew what she was talking about.

Contradictory Evidence Omitted – In a Colorado interview, a Planned Parenthood employee said 13 times that all fetal tissue donations must be reviewed by attorneys and follow all laws. All 13 times were omitted.

Edits in “Unedited Videos” – The “unedited” videos released along with shorter excerpts were themselves edited, rendering them useless as evidence in legal cases or regulatory hearings.

Thousands of Hours of Recordings – To shock audiences and create the appearance of callous wrongdoing, abortion foes selectively released less than one percent of their recordings, compiling even smaller fragments to create viral videos. By Daleiden’s own report, CMP agents recorded “thousands of hours,” from which they selected the ten or twenty hours of (moderately edited) recordings to obtain a few minutes of (heavily spliced) inflammatory sentences.

Expensive Taxpayer-funded Investigations Find No Wrongdoing – A growing list of government committees in states including Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia and Pennsylvania have now cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, and in California and Texas lawmakers have also called for investigation of fraud by the Center for Medical Progress.

Yuck Factor – Rather than seeking to expose wrongdoing, the campaign appears optimized to trigger a frenzy of disgust among religious conservatives, activating them for the upcoming campaign cycle. Research suggests that, in contrast to liberals (who base moral judgments primarily on questions of fairness and harm), many conservatives fail to differentiate between physical disgust and morality. Conservative campaigns leverage this fact. Homophobes wielded the “yuck factor” effectively for decades to block gay rights and are deploying the same strategy against reproductive rights. Repeated reference to fetal remains functions as a powerful arousal trigger for the Religious Right.

Gallows Humor – Because black humor is a way people deal with stress, CMP was virtually guaranteed to catch shocking “callous, inappropriate” comments if they recorded long enough. Gruesome humor is particularly common among soldiers, doctors, EMT’s, medical researchers, farmworkers, nurses and others who work around bodily fluids and death. One friend commented that her nurse colleagues will joke rudely about their patients at one moment and then will be crying for the same patients an hour later.

Letting Down – From a psychological standpoint, things we say and do in private (or among trusted, like-minded friends) are particularly vulnerable to being distorted by people with ill intent. That is because we rely on the other person to interpret any given statement within their experience of us. For example, after my bike is stolen, I can safely rant among friends about capital punishment for bike thieves only because my friends and family already carry the rest of the context: they know I oppose capital punishment. A Planned Parenthood employee joking about wanting a Lamborghini relies on the same unspoken understanding.

Not About Abortion – The CMP smear campaign was designed not to reduce abortion but rather to control who has sex, by heightening the threat of pregnancy and STI’s among young women. Secondarily, it was timed to feed Tea Party Republicans fodder for election campaigns .   Since public dollars pay for no abortions, defunding Planned Parenthood would eliminate only their preventive care services, including birth control, with the ironic effect of driving up need and demand for abortion. It is part of a broader anti-birth-control campaign aimed at protecting biblical (Iron Age) family structures and gender roles.

Don’t be deceived: The religious conservatives behind the Planned Parenthood smear campaign have shown repeatedly that they are willing to harm women and families and even drive up abortions in order to control the sexuality of females and youth. This isn’t about their hatred of Planned Parenthood, the healthcare nonprofit, it is about their hatred of planned parenthood, with two small “p’s.” It’s about their hatred of the changes in society that allow young people to create the lives and families of their choosing, free from the biological constraints that for most of human history have made pregnancy the price of sex.

Speaking of young people, online youth collective, Ultraviolet, has done a little selective splicing of their own. They just released a video in which Sean Hannity interviews Deleiden about Mike Huckabee’s sale of fetal squish. It is not to be missed.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author ofTrusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

See: http://valerietarico.com/2015/08/31/42-splices-and-counting-nine-facts-you-should-know-about-the-planned-parenthood-smear-campaign/

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Why the True Definition of ‘Pro-Life’ Makes Anti-Abortion Republican Heads Explode

Source: AlterNet

Author: Leslie Salzillo

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: it might be noted that the ‘pro-life’ stance does not have, and never has had, anything to do with life: it is all about SEX.)

In one simple quote, Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. sums up the hypocrisy in the ‘pro-life’ movement:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

This quote applies well to many Republican lawmakers and anti-choice extremists who continue to introduce/pass misogynist laws restricting a woman’s reproductive rights, as they work to shut down women’s health clinicslike Planned Parenthood. You don’t hear of these same extremists adopting children from unplanned pregnancies. But you do hear of these extremists cutting simple programs like schools lunches for children, cutting aid to families who are homeless/in need, and blocking free college tuition. No, the goals of these hypocrites seem to be to control women, their bodies, their families, and their futures. It’s good to hear a Catholic nun define the GOP double talk so well.

An outspoken advocate for women, Sister Joan Chittister is an author of 50 books and a lecturer. Holding a Ph.D. from Penn State University, she is also a research associate in a division of Cambridge University. Other subjects of her writing includes women in the church and society, human rights, peace and justice, religious life and spirituality. She has appeared in the media on numerous shows including Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, Bill Moyers, BBC, NPR, and Oprah Winfrey. You can visit Joan Chittister’s website at Joan Chittister.org.

 

Excerpts of this story were taken from an earlier Daily Kos diary: ‘Anti-Choice Extremists Shut Down Planned Parenthood Website’

See: http://www.alternet.org/gender/why-true-definition-pro-life-makes-anti-abortion-republican-heads-explode?akid=13342.123424.WcgKs8&rd=1&src=newsletter1040127&t=7

5 Crazy Myths About Sex From the Religious Right

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

Despite the fact that people have been having sex since literally before there were people, the religious right never stops acting like sex is some great conspiracy to bring about the end of human civilization. You have to give them credit for coming up with endlessly creative ways to go into full-blown panic at the idea that people are still having sex. Here’s five of the latest and silliest myths and legends about sex being floated by the religious right.

1) Sex education is an attempt to get kids “hooked” on sex, which is apparently an addictive drug now. Right Wing Watch found this video from the Christian right group Alliance Defending Freedom that is attempting to scare people about a proposed sex education curriculum in Tempe, Arizona. Even though Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the curriculum in question—outside of being mentioned in its materials, accurately, as a place where one can go to receive sexual health care— ADF is valiantly trying to imply that they’re the secret masters behind this sex education curriculum.

“The question now is, is Planned Parenthood simply seeking to develop future customers and make a profit akin to tobacco companies providing cigarettes to kids?,” the video narrator asks. You start to get the impression that religious conservatives think that Planned Parenthood invented sex itself, just to trick kids into getting pregnant and getting abortions. It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood cannot “profit”, because it is a non-profit and all of its money goes right back into the organization so that it can better serve the health needs of the various communities it serves. Also, sex—and abortion—existed long before Planned Parenthood and will continue on even if the anti-choice movement was successful in wiping Planned Parenthood out.

2) Gay rights activism is a conspiracy to steal women away and turn them feminist. Fanatical misogynist blogger Robert Stacy McCain put up a post that was bizarre even by his remarkably low standards recently, arguing that feminism is run by “academic radicals who relentlessly strive to teach girls that lesbianism is the feminist ideal” and that the “one purpose of education now is to prepare young people for their lives as gay adults”. It’s a garbled, pretentious mess, but a wonderful encapsulation of a bunch of right wing myths and fears: Anger about women getting education, accusations that gay people are trying to recruit, fear that feminist arguments really are compelling.

But above all else, you get the strong impression that McCain and his male readership are deeply afraid that if women are allowed to have choices, they won’t choose men like McCain and his readers. Not an unreasonable fear—the only evidence-based one they probably have—but certainly not a legitimate reason to rail against higher education for women or gay rights.

3) Planned Parenthood is trying to push your kids into having kinky sex! Lila Rose, with her organization Live Action, is single-mindedly obsessed with trying to take down the Planned Parenthood. Her ostensible reason is that the health care organization offers abortion, but it becomes clear, when engaging with her work, that the real objection is that Planned Parenthood offers support to people who want to have happy, healthy sex lives, and Rose really does not want people to have those happy, healthy sex lives.

This became exquisitely clear in her latest “sting” operation on Planned Parenthood, where she had volunteers go into Planned Parenthood offices, present themselves as people asking for information and advice on sex, and then filming the workers—and this is supposed to be shocking—answering the questions asked of them. The volunteers pretended to be young, sexually active people who had been reading Fifty Shades of Gray and wanted to know what bondage and S&M were. By and large, the sex educators responded to a direct question asking about a sexual practice with accurate, warm-hearted responses, with an emphasis on practicing bondage safely. Apparently Rose thinks they should have pretended to be shocked and thrown their patients out. Offering help to people who ask for it? Next thing you know, they’ll start letting people read about stuff they are curious about and then where will we be?

4) Lesbians can’t be pretty! The Christian singer Vicky Beeching has come out as lesbian, a process that was extremely stressful for her, considering her conservative background and her current conservative Christian fan base. Ed Vitigliano of the American Family Association reacted by being confused about how it could be that someone who is pretty to him might not be into men. “I think most men would think that Vicky was a very pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking,” he writes. “This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.”

He then goes on to explain, at length, how women really do it for him, as if this were information that anyone cares about at all. “I don’t know what it’s like to feel that way toward a man,” he adds. Okay, well, it seems that’s true of Beeching as well, making his attempts to make this seem stranger and more alien than it is even sillier.

Vitigliano reluctantly accepts that gay and lesbian people must feel the way they say they do—an admission he treats like it’s a huge favor he’s doing them—but concludes that they must therefore be “broken”, because “the human race is clearly designed as male and female”. In other words, pretty ladies are put here for men, and if you pretty ladies want something else for yourself, well, your mistake for thinking you belong to yourself.

5) Contraception is a conspiracy to ruin the family. Anti-choicers used to try to bother to keep up the pretense of being “pro-life” by sticking to picketing clinics that offer abortion, but those days are over. As Robin Marty chronicled for Cosmopolitan, anti-choice activists in Minneapolis are desperately trying to shut down a new Planned Parenthood there, even though it doesn’t offer abortion. Their reason? Contraception itself is an evil that must be stomped out. Anti-choicers have blanketed the area neighborhoods with flyers “urging residents to avoid the new Planned Parenthood, which they say offers ‘dangerous contraception,’ ‘promotes and encourages sex without limits,’ and is ‘destroying families.’” They argue that sex should only happen with no “medication or barrier devices” and only for couples “open to new life”.

In reality, contraception is actually quite good for families and marriages. Cristina Page accumulated the historical evidence showing that greater contraception use correlated strongly with lower incidence of child poverty and happier marriages. In contrast, religious conservatives and people who live in communities controlled by religious conservatives have higher rates of divorce, no doubt in part because their ambivalent or hostile attitudes towards birth control and abortion cause a lot of hasty commitments that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

See: http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/5-crazy-myths-about-sex-religious-right?utm_source=Amanda%20Marcotte%27s%20Subscribers&utm_campaign=13e26a5219-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-13e26a5219-79824733&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

How the Right Wing Has Been Wrong on the Question of Virginity

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

In the past couple of decades, the Christian right has aggressively championed the idea that “virginity”–an abstract concept that usually means someone has never had sexual intercourse before–should be elevated to an aspirational, even holy status. The argument is that being a virgin, at least for women, somehow makes you “pure” and that you should wait until your wedding night to have sex in order to give your husband the “gift” of your virginity, as if your vagina is a piñata that gets busted open once and releases the candy, never to be the same again.

This notion that non-virgins are tawdry and unworthy was pushed by the Bush administration, which manipulated federal funding to try to get “abstinence-only” programs teaching this view of sexuality into every public school in the country. It also surged within Christian right circles with the rise of virginity pledges, purity rings and even purity balls aimed mostly or exclusively at girls to send the message that you somehow become dirty or impure if you have sex without being married.

Well, new evidence has emerged showing that this effort to turn virginity into the measure of a young woman’s worth has been a big, fat failure. New research published in the Journal of Sex Research shows that, for women over the past three decades, feelings of guilt over losing virginity have been in decline. Women who lost their virginity in the years 1980-1991 rated their feelings of guilt as an average 4 on a scale from 1-7, but women who lost their virginity between 2002-2012 rated their feelings of guilt at 3.5.

More interestingly, taking pleasure in their first intercourse, which stayed at a steady 4.9 average rating for men over the decades, went up even more dramatically for women than feelings of guilt went down. The 1980-1991 cohort reported a low average 2.75 score on a scale of 7 when it came to enjoying their first sexual intercourse, but had gone up to 3.3 for the 2002-2012 cohort. Still too low, but the number is moving in a promising direction.

All of this increase in pleasure and decrease in guilt has occured despite the dramatic uptick in Christian right guilt-tripping over sex and pushing the idea that virginity equals purity. Even as Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson were making big public fusses over how they were supposedly virgins, ordinary young women were refusing to feel guilty about sex. The Bush administration tied sex education funding from the federal government to the requirement that schools shun contraception education to push the silly idea that everyone should wait to have sex until marriage, but young women bucked that pressure by having better, less guilty first times at sexual intercourse.

Now, it is possible that all the virginity pressure slowed down the rates of improvement. After all, having to take off that virginity ring in order to have sex was bound to invoke some guilt in women who otherwise wouldn’t have felt bad about sex. (What the virginity rings didn’t do, however, was actually cause young women to wait until marriage. A few did, but by and large , most virginity pledgers also have premarital sex, just like their non-pledger peers.) The most all this guilt-tripping about sex did was slow down a general trend. Overall, the numbers show that women are rejecting the idea that they should want to be virgins and that they should hang onto that status out of fear that they’re somehow spoiled if they have sex.

That’s good, because it just so happens to be true: There’s nothing wrong with not being a virgin. After all, 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex, and the world has not stopped spinning on its axis. In fact, the truly harmful behavior may actually be putting a premium on virginity. The myth that virgins are somehow “pure” and that a man takes something from a woman by having sex with her can do immense damage to women’s self-esteem, even if they do follow all the arbitrary rules and wait until marriage to have sex.

Earlier this month, the writer Samantha Pugsley, writing for XO Jane, described the serious damage done to her life and her marriage by her “choice,” made when she was a mere 10 years old, to take a virginity pledge, a pledge she actually kept by waiting until her wedding night to have sex. Despite Christian propaganda pushing the idea that waiting until marriage leads to better sex, Pugsley found that her feelings of awkwardness and guilt about sex persisted even after the ring on her finger supposedly made sex okay. “Everyone knew my virginity was gone. My parents, my church, my friends, my co-workers,” she writes, adding that she felt “soiled.” “My virginity had become such an essential part of my personality that I didn’t know who I was without it.”

Eventually, her misery around sex caused Pugsley to get help and eventually come around to seeing that “the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality.” But the concept of virginity and the idea that women who “lose” it are somehow spoiled and should be ashamed has ramifications beyond just the individual damage done to women’s psyches and relationships.

It’s not a stretch to say that much of the Christian right’s current activism is built around the idea that women–at least single women–should remain virgins. The relentless attacks on abortion access, the fight to remove contraception from the list of mandatory services covered by insurance, and the increasing attacks on family planning clinics all go back to this idea that women who choose to have sex outside of the narrow parameters set by the religious right are bad girls who need to be punished. (Yes, married women use contraception and abortion services, but that just goes to show how much the guilt-tripping about sex hurts even women who supposedly have permission from the Christian God to have sex.) Even the right-wing obsession with women who have children “out of wedlock” goes back to the idea that a woman who has sex is used up and worth less than a woman who hasn’t had sex.

So it’s a good thing, for women’s individual lives and for society as a whole, if women are shrugging off efforts to make them feel bad for having sex. There’s still a lot more work to be done, but this new research shows that the trends are heading in the right direction.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/how-right-wing-has-been-wrong-question-virginity?akid=12124.123424.Rr3VND&rd=1&src=newsletter1015426&t=5

Atheists Enjoy it More!

Atheists Do It Better: Why Leaving Religion Leads to Better Sex

A new study shows that religious people have as much sex as atheists, but with less sexual satisfaction and more guilt.
(N.B.: so, what else is new?)

Do atheists have better sex? Yes. According to science, that is — and more specifically, according to the recently released “Sex and Secularism” study.

In January 2011, organizational psychologist Darrel Ray, Ed.D. (psychologist for 30 years and author ofThe God Virus as well as two books on psychology) and Amanda Brown (undergraduate at Kansas University, focused on sexuality and sex therapy) conducted a sex survey of over 14,500 people — atheists, agnostics, and other people in the secular community. The survey was looking at religion, atheism, and sex: how religion affects sex, how leaving religion affects sex, whether lifelong atheists feel differently about sex than people who have recently deconverted, and so on. The report — “Sex and Secularism: What Happens When You Leave Religion?” — is on the Internet, and if you want all 46 pages of the naughty details, including the charts and graphs and personal stories, you can download it free (you just need to register on the site).

But if you just want to know the gist?

Leaving religion improves people’s sex lives.

lot.

Atheists and other non-believers, as a whole, experience a lot more satisfaction in their sex lives than they did when they were believers. They feel much less guilt about their sex lives and their sexuality. The sexual guilt instilled by so many religions tends to fade, and indeed disappear, when people leave religion — much more thoroughly than you might expect. And according to the respondents of this study, non-believers give significantlybetter sex education to their kids than believers do.

Now, when it comes to people’s actual sexual behavior, religion doesn’t have nearly as much impact as you might think. Religious and non-religious people have pretty much the same kinds of sex, at pretty much the same age of onset, and at pretty much the same rate. Believers are just as likely to masturbate, watch porn, have oral sex, have sex outside marriage, and so on, as non-believers are, and they start at about the same ages. So it’s not like religious sexual guilt is actually making people abstain from forbidden sexual activity. All it’s doing is making people feel crummy about it. And when people leave religion, this crumminess decreases — at a dramatic rate. Believers and atheists are having pretty much the same kinds of sex… but when it comes to the pleasure and satisfaction experienced during this sex, it’s like night and day.

Okay. Before anyone squawks, I’ll start the squawking myself: There are some demographic problems with this study, and it shouldn’t be relied on as the absolute final word on this topic. In particular, the participants in the study aren’t statistically representative of the population: they’re statistically representative of whoever heard about it on the Internet, and they’re disproportionately represented by readers of the hugely popular atheist blog, Pharyngula. (In fact, in several places throughout the report, the researchers themselves freely acknowledge the limitations of their research.)

But that being said: The results of this report that aren’t new? They’re entirely consistent with the results of other research. Lots of other research, both on human sexuality and on religion/ atheism. And that makes those results a whole lot more plausible. As researcher Darrel Ray told me, “Our data is virtually identical to other national surveys on the basics of when and how people start sexual behavior.” (Citations of those studies are in the report.) Yes, it’s virtually impossible to get completely accurate, statistically representative information about human sexuality under any circumstances: there’s not really any ethical way to get information about sex other than relying on people’s self-reporting, and it’s a topic that people tend to, you know, lie about. But on the reliability scale of human sex research, this report seems to rank on the higher end.

You might also argue — as I myself did when I first saw this research — that atheists are often pretty hostile to religion, and aren’t going to give a fair assessment of their sex lives when they were religious. I think this is a valid question, and one that’s worth investigating: in fact, I sincerely hope this report is the beginning of research into this topic instead of the end of it, and I’d be very interested to see studies of people who are currently religious and how they see their sex lives. (I’d be especially interested to compare the “Sex and Secularism” results to people who have converted from one religion to another, and whether they view their sex lives differently with the new religion.)

But I’d also point out that the atheists who responded to this survey didn’t give homogenous answers. Not by a long shot. Their responses varied a fair amount, depending on which religion they used to belong to, and how intensely religious their upbringing was. Their responses ranged from “ZOMG, my sex life totally sucked and now it’s beyond awesome, I was blind but now I see”… to, “Meh, it’s a little better, but it’s really not all that different.” So the idea that this report simply reflects a knee-jerk atheist hostility to religion… it’s worth considering, but it’s probably not what’s going on here.

So what is going on here?

What, specifically, does this report say?

And what is its take-home message — both for believers and atheists?

If there’s one take-home message from the “Sex and Secularism” report, it’s this: Atheists fuck better. Or rather: Atheists have a better time fucking. They feel less guilt about it; they experience more satisfaction with it; and the effect on their sex lives of leaving religion is almost universally positive.

These differences do vary based on the religion. According to the “Sex and Secularism” report, some religions have a harsher impact on people’s sex lives than others. People raised as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, ranked much higher on the sexual guilt scale than people raised as, say, Buddhists and Episcopalians. (And no, we shouldn’t just assume that Catholicism is the guiltiest party. In fact, when it comes to which religions make its practitioners feel guiltiest about sex, Catholicism lands pretty much smack in the middle. The top of the list is Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, and Baptist. One of many results from this report that run counter to conventional wisdom.)

And a similar pattern shows up again and again throughout the report. Conservative religions have a much more harmful effect on people’s sex lives than more moderate or progressive ones — in terms of guilt, sexual education and information, the ability to experience pleasure, the ability to accept one’s sexual identity, and more.

But with only two exceptions — Unitarianism and Judaism — atheists experience less sexual guilt than religious believers of any denomination. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no sexual guilt and 10 being extreme sexual guilt, atheists and agnostics ranked at 4.71 and 4.81 respectively… and except for Unitarianism and Judaism (which ranked slightly lower, 4.14 and 4.48 respectively), all other religions ranked higher in sexual guilt: from 5.88 for Lutherans, to 6.34 for Catholics, all the way up to a whopping 8.19 for Mormons.

And sexual guilt doesn’t just go up with more conservative religions. It goes up with more religiosity, period. The more religious your upbringing is, the worse your sexual guilt is likely to be. Of people raised in very religious homes, 22.5 percent said they were shamed or ridiculed for masturbating (to give just one example)… compared to only 5.5 percent of people brought up in the least religious homes. And of people raised in very religious homes, 79.9 percent felt guilty about a specific sexual activity or desire… while among people raised in the least religious and most secular homes, that number drops to 26.3 percent. That’s a huge, huge difference.

But one of the most surprising conclusions of this research? Sexual guilt from religion doesn’t wreck people’s sex lives forever.

According to conventional wisdom — and I will freely admit that I held this conventional wisdom myself — religious guilt about sex continues to torment people long after the religion itself has lost its hold. But according to “Sex and Secularism,” that’s rarely the case. Once people let go of religion, people’s positive experiences of sex, and their relative lack of guilt, happen at about the same rate as people who were never religious in the first place.

Ray was surprised by this result as well. (Surprising results — a sign of good science!) “We did think that religion would have residual effects in people after they left,” he told me, “but our data did not show this. That was a very pleasant surprise. That is not to say that some people don’t continue to experience problems, but the vast majority seem to shake it off and get on with their sexual lives pretty well.” So letting go of religion means a rebound to a sex life that’s as satisfying, and as guilt-free, as a sex life that was never touched by religion in the first place.

Now, some hardcore religious believers might argue this isn’t a good thing. “People should feel sexual guilt!” they’d argue. “These kinds of sex are bad, mmmkay? God doesn’t like them. People should feel guilty about them.”

But it’s worth pointing out two things. First of all, the activities being studied in this research are, from any rational perspective, morally neutral. This report isn’t looking at rape, or non-consensual voyeurism, or groping people on the subway. It’s looking at masturbation, oral sex, non-marital sex, homosexuality, etc.: sex acts and sexualities that are consensual, egalitarian, reasonably safe, and harmless to society. The taboos against them are just that: taboos. If there were ever any solid practical or moral reasons behind them, they’re buried in the mists of history. And different religions have entirely different sets of these sexual taboos: some religions denounce some sex acts and accept others, while other religions accept Column A and denounce Column B. Without any apparent rhyme or reason. If God has a message for us about who and how he wants us to boff, he’s not being very clear about it.

And maybe more to the point: According to the report, religion has essentially no effect on people’s actual sexual behavior. Atheists and believers engage in the same practices, at basically the same rate, starting at essentially the same age. We’re all doing pretty much the same stuff. Believers just feel worse about it. As Ray told me, “Our data shows that people feel very guilty about their sexual behavior when they are religious, but that does not stop them: it just makes them feel bad. Of course, they have to return to their religion to get forgiveness. It’s like the church gives you the disease, then offers you a fake cure.” So the argument that religious sexual guilt is good because it polices immoral sexual behavior falls down on two fronts. The sexual behavior it’s policing isn’t actually immoral… and the policing is almost entirely ineffective.

Oh, by the way? This improvement in people’s sex lives when they leave religion? It isn’t just about sexual guilt. It shows up in many aspects of people’s sex lives, such as (to give just one example) their willingness to share sex fantasies with a partner. And, most importantly, it shows up in people’s assessments of their sex lives overall. This is primarily true of people who had been heavily religious before their deconversion. On a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being a sex life that was much worse after leaving religion, 10 being a sex life that was much improved — people who’d had the most religious lives averaged at the very high number of 7.81, and 61.6 percent gave an answer of 8, 9 or 10 — greatly improved. People with little or no religion in their life before they became atheists mostly report that their sex lives didn’t change that much.

In fact, for the handful of atheists who reported that their sex lives worsened when they left religion — 2.2 percent of participants — almost all tell the exact same story: Their sex lives got worse because… well, to put it bluntly, their partners or potential partners were still religious, and now that they were atheists, they weren’t getting any. Their spouses got upset because they’d become atheists; their pool of potential sex partners dried up. As one respondent commented, “My wife said to me, ‘How can I sleep with someone who doesn’t share my faith?'” And another, somewhat more waggishly: “When I was a Christian I could lay any girl in church, now that I am an atheist, they won’t even talk to me.”

And perhaps one of the most powerful messages in this report — if one of the least surprising — is the decidedly negative effect of religion on sexual education and information. People raised in more strongly religious homes ranked the quality of their sex education as significantly worse than people raised in less religious homes: 2.4 on a five-point scale, as opposed to 3.2 from the less religious folks. And more religious kids were less likely to get sex information from their parents than the less religious ones — 13.5 percent, as opposed to 38.2 percent — and more likely to get it from personal sexual experience and pornography.

In case the irony of this is escaping anyone, I’m going to hammer it in: The highly religious, “family values” crowd are more likely to get their sexual information from porn and fooling around… while the less religious folks are more likely to talk to their parents. And in case anyone’s wondering why sex information is being included in this study on sexual happiness: Accurate sex education and information has been consistently shown to be one of the cornerstones of a happy, satisfying sex life.

Which, again, atheists are a lot more likely to have.

Happy Endings

So what should this research say to believers?

Well, the most obvious message should be: “Come on in — the water’s fine.”

In debates with atheists, many believers will argue for religion on the basis of how good it makes them feel. They’ll argue that religion is emotionally useful, psychologically useful, socially useful: that religion gives people a sense of meaning, moral guidance, comfort in hard times, etc. It’s an argument that drives many atheists up a tree — myself included — since it has absolutely nothing to do with whether religion is, you know, true. (Believing in Santa Claus might make kids happy and better-behaved, but you wouldn’t argue that people should keep putting cookies by the fireplace on Christmas Eve well into their adult years.)

But if this report is to be believed, then this argument is conclusively shown to be bogus… even on its own terms. At least when it comes to sex. (It’s probably bogus when it comes to the rest of our lives as well — or rather, it would be bogus if our society didn’t privilege religious belief and treat atheism with bigotry and contempt. Countries with higher rates of atheism actually have higher levels of happiness and social functioning than more religious countries. But I digress.)

Religion doesn’t make people happier. Not in the sack, anyway. Religion makes people less happy. Leaving religion makes people happier. There’s no reason to hang on to beliefs you don’t actually believe in and that don’t actually make sense to you, just because you can’t imagine a happy and fulfilling life without them. We know that leaving religion can be a scary and painful process… but once it’s behind you, life is good. And the sex is great. Come on in. The water’s fine.

And what does report this say to atheists?

This report, people, is our sales pitch.

Again, I will make this very clear: The fact that atheists fuck better has no bearing whatsoever on whether atheism is correct. And atheists should not pretend that it does.

But when believers make the argument from utility — when they argue that religion is important and necessary because it makes people happy — we don’t have to just tear our hair out and say, “Does not! Does not!” We can print out this report, and hand it to them with a smile.

A satisfied smile.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.
Emphasis mine.

Change is coming!

The nightmare of a “permanent republican majority”, with its fundamentally puritanical, anti-sex mentality, will not survive the younger generations…

Frank Rich writes in the NY times: “…The most potent word in our new president’s lexicon — change — has been heard much less since his inspiring campaign gave way to the hard realities of governing….

the increasingly live-and-let-live society we inhabit — particularly younger America. In a Times/CBS News poll in April, 57 percent of those under 40 supported same-sex marriage. The approval figure for all ages (42 percent) has nearly doubled in just five years. On Tuesday theCalifornia Supreme Court will render its opinion on that state’s pox on gay marriage, Proposition 8. Since Prop 8 passed last fall, four states have legalized gay marriage and New Hampshire is about to. This rapid change has been greeted not by a backlash, but by a national shrug — just as a seemingly gay “American Idol” victory most likely would have been.

And yet the changes aren’t coming as fast as many gay Americans would like, and as our Bill of Rights would demand. Especially in Washington. Despite Barack Obama’s pledges as a candidate and president, there is no discernible movement on repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy or the Defense of Marriage Act. Both seem more cruelly discriminatory by the day….

Anyone with half a brain in the INCREDIBLLY SHRINKING G.O.P. knows that gay bashing will further dim the party’s already remote chance of recruiting young voters to replenish its aging ranks, much as the right’s immigrant bashing drove away Hispanics. This is why Republican politicians now say they oppose only gay marriage, not gay people, even when it’s blatant that they’re dissembling. Naked homophobia — those campyfear-mongeringNational Organization for Marriage ads, for instance — is increasingly unwelcome in a party fighting for survival. The wingnuts don’t even have Dick Cheney on their side on this issue.

Most Congressional Republicans will still vote against gay civil rights. Some may take the politically risky path of demonizing same-sex marriage during the coming debate over the new Supreme Court nominee. Old prejudices and defense mechanisms die hard, after all: there are still many gay men in the party’s hierarchy hiding in fear from what remains of the old religious-right base. In “Outrage,” a new documentary addressing precisely this point, Kirk Fordham, who had been chief of staff to Mark Foley, the former Republican congressman, says, “If they tried to fire gay staff like they do booting people out of the military, the legislative process would screech to a halt.” A closet divided against itself cannot stand.

But when Congressional Republicans try to BLOCK gay civil rights — last week one cadre introduced a bill to void the recognition of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia — they just don’t have the votes to get their way. The Democrats do have the votes to advance the gay civil rights legislation Obama has promised to sign. And they have a serious responsibility to do so. Let’s not forget that “don’t ask” and DOMA both happened on Bill Clinton’s watch and with his approval. Indeed, in the 2008 campaign, Obama’spromise to repeal DOMA outright was a position meant to outflank Hillary Clinton, who favored only a partial revision.

So what’s STOPPING the Democrats from rectifying that legacy now? As Wolfson said to me last week, they lack “a towering national figure to make the moral case” for full gay civil rights. There’s no one of that stature in Congress now that Ted Kennedy has been sidelined by illness, and the president shows no signs so far of following the example of L.B.J., who championed black civil rights even though he knew it would cost his own party the South. When Obama invoked same-sex marriage in an innocuous joke at the White House correspondents’ dinner two weeks ago — he and his political partner, David Axelrod, went to Iowa to “make it official” — it seemed all the odder that he hasn’t engaged the issue substantively.

“This is a CIVIL RIGHTS moment,” Wolfson said, “and Obama has not yet risen to it.” Worse, Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is now giving cover to every hard-core opponent of gay rights, from the Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean to the former Washington mayor Marion Barry, each of whom can claim with nominal justification to share the president’s views.

In reality, they don’t. Obama has long been, as he says, a fierce advocate for gay equality. The Windy City Times has reported that he initially endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage when running for the Illinois State Senate in 1996. The most common rationale for his current passivity is that his plate is too full. But the president has so far shown an impressive inclination both to multitask and to argue passionately for bedrock American principles when he wants to. Relegating fundamental constitutional rights to the bottom of the pile until some to-be-determined future seems like a shell game.”

EMPHASIS MINE

see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/opinion/24rich.html?_r=1