Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Evolutionary Psychology

I'm not a big fan of evolutionary psychology as I generally encounter it online.  The greatest sin, I think is treating evolutionary success as some sort of moral endorsement.  A close second is that absolutely annoying tendency to produce unfalsible, "just so" narratives for why the particular trait the writer is already invested in must have been advantageous to our early hominid ancestors. Working from the conclusion to build a narrative rather than looking at the facts and letting them lead one to the conclusion. 

Still, just because I give the practice little to no credence doesn't mean I don't recognize the value a certain segment of the population ascribes to these "just so" narratives.  I'm not proud and am more than willing to meet people on their own intellectual battlefields in order to advance my causes.  So while I'm no fan of evolutionary psychology narratives, I've constructed one for the benefit of those in the audience who do value them. 

Some people seem to have taken the bizzare standpoint (often used against any sexuality besides 1 man 1 woman to make a baby), that pedophiles are evolutionarily "wrong" because they don't reproduce.  Well, there are a few benefits from the point of view of pedophilia as a reproductively viable strategy. 

Consider that our species suffers from a very prolonged maturation period, during which we accumulate information and experience.  Our bodies do not reach full maturity for a ridiculously long time as compared with other animals.  This extended period of childhood means more time and effort must be spent protecting and rearing the young. 

As a result, individuals with tendencies that draw them to spend more time with children will expend more such time and effort.  As a result, the offspring of these individuals (or if they have none, the offspring of their siblings which carry their genes as well) are more able to survive to adulthood, and learn essential skills due to the increased expenditure of resources on those children by the adult in question.  The more children carrying your genes that survive to adulthood, the more viable it is as an evolutionary strategy. 

To take a somewhat more extreme track:

Neoteny, or pedomorphism is the process whereby an organism retains traits from its immature stages into sexual maturity.  Humans are a neotenous species, resembling juvenile great apes more than we resemble the adults.  The brain plasticity that pushes us out ahead of the curve in terms of mental ability is a side-effect of that process.  We see the same thing in other neotenous species (comparing dogs with wolves for example), it's just more pronounced in humans.

With domesticated animals, neoteny tends to be a side-effect of our selective breeding choices.  With humans not having anyone selectively breeding them, that only leaves the one option for how those traits were selected for.

Treating "Yes" The Same As "No"

There is an incredibly harmful narrative that's wormed its way into the mainstream discussion about sexual consent.  The idea that we should ignore "yes" and "no" when it comes to sexual consent.

What's that?  That isn't mainstream, you say?  That's rapist talk?  Why yes, that is rapist talk, but that doesn't mean it isn't mainstream. 

I am, of course, talking about those underage individuals who desire and pursue sexual relationships with older individuals.  The very fact that the age of consent exists as a law is proof of the existence of such individuals, since you don't make laws against things that never happen.

The politically driven policy is to treat the kids who said "yes" exactly the same as the ones who said "no".  I'm not talking about the adult not having sex with the kid, for those of you still unsure where I stand on that.  I'm talking about how society is to treat those kids who did end up having sex with someone in violation of the age of consent. 

What happens when you treat someone like a rape victim?  They start acting the part.  So much of the trauma that comes from rape stems not from the mere act of forced sex, but from the societal reaction.  To take one example, the feelings of bodily impurity that may come about naturally when someone is forced into sex are added to by a cultural narrative that says that a person who has been raped will never be the same again.  If the person didn't feel violated or sullied before, the cultural narrative can do the job of making them feel violated retroactively all on its own. 

By treating "yes" the same as "no", we make damn sure that everyone who said "yes" and meant it ends up exactly as traumatized as the ones who said "no" and meant that. The pattern is so consistent, an alien observer would be forced to conclude that was the point. 

The virgin/whore false dichotomy is at the root of a lot of harmful ideas the mainstream of society has about sexuality, and here we have yet another example.  The people pushing the agenda of treating those young people who honestly and enthusiastically said "yes" precisely the same way we treat those who've been the victims of force or coersion aren't doing so because it's healthy for those kids. They're pushing that agenda because in their narrow minds the only other option is to call the kid a slut and move on with their day. 

There is no inherent need to make such a child devalue his/her own choices and judgements.  There is no value in making that child feel vulnerable and exploited. If we were actually concerned with the health and sanity of those kids, we would be looking for any way to make them feel safe and empowered, rather than deliberately imposing a victim narrative on those who haven't reached that point naturally. 
The crime of rape is the crime of ignoring another person's explicit consent.  Whether they said "yes" or "no", the rapist does what he/she was going to do anyway.  Consent is all about the importance of that distinction.  By ignoring that "yes", we're making sure that whether they said "yes" or "no", someone is going to ignore their opinion on the subject and mistreat them accordingly.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Age Appropriate Content

I am a hardcore believer in the idea of free speech, open exchange of ideas, and the fundamental goodness of knowledge.  Censorship in all its forms is anathema to me.  The best use I can think of for a time machine would be to go back and save copies of the books that were burned throughout history.

I'm also a person who believes that children are people, and deserve to be treated like human beings.  These two passions of mine combine whenever the phrase "age appropriate" is uttered to send me into a sputtering, incoherent rage.  Thank goodness for the written word, where I can be articulate even in moments like these where I can't vocalize anything beyond threats and obscenities at best and animal snarls at worst.

Somehow the adults of this society have fallen into thinking that information about sex has the same effect as cracking open Lovecroft's Necromonicon.  I mean this quite literally with numerous pieces of propaganda being spread that claim that children "exposed" to "age inappropriate content" display the same symptoms as those who were directly sexually abused.  If I believed for one second that molesting a child would do no more harm than them seeing a RedTube video, I would have done so ages ago. 

Since the dawn of the internet, an enormous industry has sprung up to censor it.  Governments try to block content they don't like, and not just dictatorships like China.  The likes of Sweeden have gotten into the act of censoring explicit sexual content for everyone "for the children".  Home based firewall solutions have been the flavor of choice for the rugged individualists in the United States, but whether the nanny is the state or the parent, the internet is being censored. 

The censorship efforts don't stop at blocking the content itself, however.  After all, if the consequences were really so horrific, it would be criminally irresponsible to stop there.  No, efforts are made to ensure that young people never develop the knowledge base to frame the questions that might lead to them seeing something "age inappropriate" in the first place. 

Avoiding the subjects of sex and sexuality isn't a silent, seamless act.  A five year old can tell when you're dancing around a subject you don't want to talk about.  That's where shaming starts.  They know that whatever it is you don't want to talk about, it's shameful and taboo.  That is, in fact, the first thing they learn about it when you behave this way.  This discourages them from asking questions, because that would mean violating the taboo they've already learned is in place. 

Of course, discouraging questions is more thorough than that.  When adults do respond to questions about sex, they always give as little information as possible.  The idea, of course, is that they should only give them as much information as they explicitly ask for, lest they be "exposing" those children to sexual knowledge.  The trouble with this method is, again, a five year old can figure out that you don't want to give a complete answer for some reason, and will thus be discouraged from asking those followup questions that this method theoretically relies upon. 

If you're old enough to ask the question, you're old enough to know the answer.  The whole answer.  If you can articulate the question of how to define acceleration mathematically, you're old enough to learn calculus.  If you're old enough to ask about sex, you're old enough to get a thorough overview of the subject matter. 

But what of that most universal followup question to the clinical minimalism so many people prefer?  "Why would anyone want to do that?"  It's the most important question in any discussion of sex, and it's the one that's explicitly left out of sexual education curriculums and parental lectures alike.  Surely answering that question will just make them go out and do it, right? 

They asked the question.  They're going to want to know the answer, and it can either come from you actually answering the question, or it can come from them experimenting in whatever unsupervised time they have available.  And they'll wait for the unsupervised time because, again, by not answering the question, you're communicating that the subject is taboo and that any further attempts to get answers should be hidden from you. 

I'm not above exploiting the violent hysteria and frothing hatrid people have for my kind in order to advance my causes, and this is one that matters to me.  The children who are most vulnerable to child molesters are the ones who are most ignorant and have been taught most thoroughly that sex is a taboo.  If they don't know what sex is, they've no reason not to believe that this new "game" is legitimately just that.  Your efforts to silence their awkward questions also silences any hope of them telling you they've been molested.