Ignorance Bisexuals Contend With

This guest post is written by DirtyNerdy and was originally written for her blog The Dirty Nerdy, where it is titled “Leaving my school’s LGBT group”. I think it makes a number of important points and so I am grateful for her permission to reprint the piece in full. The Dirty Nerdy is one of the bloggers at the new website Secular View. Her posts there will focus on women’s rights and politics.

This report from the San Francisco Human Right Commission outlines how bisexuals are discriminated against and made invisible by both the heterosexual communities and the homosexual communities. It got me thinking about how I’ve been treated by my local lgbt community at school.

The report highlights different forms of biphobia. I’m going to go through them and talk about the ones that I know have affected my life with an emphasis on how my own support group for lgbt people has engaged in many of these.

1. Assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual or homosexual

I am often confused by others as being heterosexual or being homosexual. I have even been told that I’m not actually bisexual and I have to pick one (which is actually encompassed by another form of biphobia). I’ve had people who assume I’m hetero go on rants about the “gay agenda” in front of me, only to be very surprised and taken-aback when I correct their assumptions–not only that I’m not heterosexual, but also that even if I were, it wouldn’t have guaranteed that I agreed with their homophobia. I’ve hung out with lesbians from my school’s lgbt group who assumed I was a lesbian and spent a good deal of time making fun of anybody who would find a penis attractive.

2. Automatically assuming romantic couplings of two women are lesbian, or two men are gay, or a man and a woman are heterosexual.

My boyfriend has a friend in his classes who is a lesbian. They often study together. He recounted to me his experience having to defend me (aww, how sweet) and my orientation to her friends who said outright that bisexuals don’t exist. They said that a bisexual person coupled with somebody of the opposite sex is obviously straight and trying to get attention and a bisexual person coupled with somebody of the same sex is obviously gay and trying to hide it. My boyfriend called shenanigans on that and asked if that means single people are all asexual.

3. Expecting a bisexual to identify as gay/lesbian when coupled with the ‘same’ sex/gender.

I’ve experienced this from former girls with whom I almost had relationships. They would tell me I need to just say I’m a lesbian because I’m dating a girl now. Suffice it to say, those “relationships” didn’t last long.

4. Expecting a bisexual to identify as heterosexual when couple with the ‘opposite’ sex/gender.

My ex-boyfriend. I told him about my experiences with girls from the beginning of our relationship, but he just chalked it up to alcohol or “trying to get attention.” Toward the end of our relationship, I finally started self-identifying as bisexual and I told him so. He claimed he didn’t believe me, but just to be sure, he used it as an excuse to try to police my female friends as well as my male friends, and later accused me of cheating on him with both (which, incidentally, never happened).

I’ve also had a couple people in my lgbt group at school tell me that it’s so great to have an ally–these are usually people who are new or didn’t know I was bisexual and assumed from their knowledge of my boyfriend that I’m heterosexual. I have had to explain at more than one meeting that I’m bisexual and for people to please accept that. There are two other bisexual girls in the group, but they both have girlfriends and they are infrequent members.

5. Believing that bisexual women spread HIV/AIDS to lesbians.

During at least one discussion in my lgbt group (which is quickly turning into an LG group), I was told by many of the girls that they would never date a bisexual girl because of the fear of contracting std’s.

6. Thinking bisexual people haven’t made up their minds.

While the comment wasn’t directed at me (because they don’t know my orientation), I have heard both of my sisters and my brother disparage bisexuals as just gay people who don’t know what they want. This attitude is also displayed in the media quite often. Where a character goes back and forth between dating men and dating women, all the while anguishing over what they are. Hello script writers: why can’t you just make them bisexual?

7. Refusing to accept someone’s self-identification if the person hasn’t had sex with both men and women.

For me, this one has affected me because I haven’t had any long-term relationships with women. It happens more often at my lgbt group’s meetings because they tend to expect me to just sit there and shut up while they talk about how somebody had called them a “fag” or otherwise oppressed them. The moment I open my mouth to say anything, I get a barrage of comments from a few people who seem to think that my current hetero-romantic relationship and my lack of former long-term homo-romantic relationships disqualifies me from talking about the struggles of lgbt people.

8. Assuming a bisexual person would want to fulfill your sexual fantasies or curiosities.

Again, my ex-boyfriend. Even before I came out as bisexual, he tried to pressure me to have threesomes because as he put it “You’ve been with girls before, what’s the difference?” The difference is that I wanted to back then, and he was just trying to use me to fulfill his own needs without regard to how I felt or what I wanted. At the time I was still struggling with my identity, and having a threesome would have just confused me even more.

I’ve never had any women do this to me, but plenty of men, on finding out I’m bisexual, insist that I describe in detail any sexual relationships I’ve had with women because they’re “curious.”

9. Assuming that bisexuals would be willing to “pass” as anything other than bisexual.

This goes back to what I said before about how I try to speak up at meetings. Many times I’m told that it’s easy for me, because if I don’t say anything, nobody has to know and I can just seem normal. I don’t want my orientation to be invisible, and I don’t want my identity to be hidden. I don’t want to pass as heterosexual.

10. Believing bisexuals are confused about their sexuality.

This goes hand-in-hand with being told “it’s just a phase or stage or whatever.” Many people don’t seem to understand that I was very confused about my sexuality before I discovered and accepted being bisexual. It seems more likely to me that they are confused about what bisexuality means, and they assume that I must be confused as well.

11. Feeling that you can’t trust a bisexual because they aren’t really gay or lesbian, or aren’t really heterosexual.

This has been used at least three times by my partners in order to try to control me or get me to change my identity. I’ve even had women partners “play” with me by asking if I’m sure I like it after everything we do in bed–then saying they feel insecure because they’re sure I’ll dump them for a man. Of course, I wasn’t the one to end those relationships, the women were. Then there’s my ex-boyfriend who as I said before started policing my relationship with friends because he thought that since I came out as bisexual I would just sleep with anybody.

12. Assuming bisexuals are incapable of monogamy.

A girl at school from the student group for cultural diversity came to our lgbt meet-up to observe and ask questions. She’s young (just out of high school I think) and she honestly wanted to ask questions and get information. When she found out I’m bi, she immediately asked me how my relationships work and assumed I couldn’t possibly be monogamous. I explained to her, that while my current boyfriend and I are trying out polyamory, that before that agreement and in every relationship before that, I’ve always been monogamous and never cheated on anybody. The conversation quickly turned into an interrogation of how polyamory works and the ethical questions surrounding it, but she seemed to get the idea that bisexual people can be, and usually are, monogamous.

I also started a discussion in the group once about my feelings of inadequacies when it comes to women. As I’ve been rejected by women far more often than I’ve been rejected by men, and every time part of the reason was my orientation. After pouring my heart out about how hurtful it was, two lesbians in the group came out and said they would never commit to a relationship with a bisexual. I almost cried. I asked why and one girl said that she was cheated on by a bisexual girl and the girl ended up dumping her and going back to her ex-boyfriend. The other girl had had no such experience but said she’d heard about it happening enough to feel justified. I asked all the lesbians there if they had ever been cheated on by a lesbian, and almost all of them said yes. Then I asked why they still trust lesbians, but they don’t trust bisexuals. Why is one bisexual woman’s actions representative of all bisexuals, and one lesbian’s actions not representative of all lesbians? They had no answers for that and just started spouting about how bisexuals don’t know what they want, can’t commit, and probably have a disease. It’s like they couldn’t comprehend that I, a bisexual woman, was sitting right in front of them on the verge of tears. The one group that I had hoped to find solace in, seemed to not want me. Sure, they would count me in their numbers, but I wasn’t expected to be treated with respect or have my voice heard.

There are other problems with the group that have troubled me–such as anti-feminism and transphobia and a penchant for meetings to turn into a gossip session. All in all, in a group that I thought could help me and provide support, I’ve found three or four people who I’m actually friends with. I will continue being friends with those I have gotten close to, but I don’t think I can stay active in the group.

For more from Dirty Nerdy, I recommend starting with her post on figuring out her sexuality. And from now on keep track of her and a number of other talented women bloggers on at Secular View.. Her first pieces there are on Wendy Davis’s filibuster and then US Congressional Representative Louis Golmert’s regressive anti-sex ed statement that “mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody. And now we feel like, oh gosh, people are too stupid to unless we force them to sit and listen to instructions. It’s just incredible.” Read The Dirty Nerdy’s fisking of Gohmert here.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • erin.nikla

    Really good piece. I’m sorry your LGBT club was so terrible; I often avoid them for similar reasons.

    Queer communities can be (often are) truly terrible when it comes to respecting and including non-binary identities. Look at what happened recently with Ozy Frantz (an excellent, if sometimes quite wrong, genderqueer blogger.) Some people in the trans* community didn’t like some things zie wrote, and within a couple tweets of discussion it turned to “zie’s just genderqueer for the attention.” Ultimately, zie deleted zir blog and left the internet, which I think is quite a loss.

    I think a lot of the problems binary people have with non-binary people* stem from difficulties dealing with the fuzzy area between what one is, what one identifies as, and how one communicates one’s identity through action. The first is a matter of fact: depending on choice of terminology (bi vs. pan vs. omni vs. etc.), someone attracted to people regardless of gender is bisexual. But such a person might choose to pursue exclusively homosexual relationships and identify as homosexual because of that. Or pursue exclusively heterosexual relationships but continue to identify as bisexual. And I think a lot of people experience a huge amount of cognitive dissonance when these three don’t line up into identity=being=action.

    *using the term here both for gender binary and the sexual-orientation binary

    • picklefactory

      Argh! I was wondering why zir blog was no longer updating. More evidence — as if we needed any! — that any time people are in a group there’s a chance of awful and toxic behavior.

  • UrsaMinor

    It’s a diverse world we live in, and insisting on putting everyone into either Box A or Box B for sexual orientation isn’t realistic. Adding a Box C for bisexuals doesn’t really help all that much, because bisexuals are themselves a very diverse lot. Being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean that you are attracted to both sexes with equal frequency. Most of us fall to one side or another of that theoretical midpoint, at varying distances. And how we choose to live our lives is a very individual thing- there’s no script to follow.

    Social identification as a bisexual is tricky, as it can become almost instantly politicized, or turn into a lengthy question-and-answer session. I let the situation and my mood guide me. Most of my acquaintances think of me as homosexual, because I’ve been with one man for the past twenty-two years (legally married for the last two, thank you New York State for finally making that possible). It’s not something that I go out of my way to correct 95% of the time- but my friends are aware that I’m bi (and not a few of them are bisexual themselves, so not only do I not have to explain it to them, I have somebody to talk to who understands). But I can’t count the number of acquaintances who have raised a confused eyebrow when I’ve mentioned former girlfriends in conversation. If you have a same-sex partner, it is unquestionably the path of least resistance to socially identify as gay or lesbian.

    I could be wrong, but my impression is that there is a slowing growing awareness that bisexuals exist and are not just heterosexuals or homosexuals who haven’t made up their minds. This is the sort of thing that only changes on generational timescales. Maybe some day bisexuality will be an accepted and noncontroversial category in the collective cultural consciousness.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003194979553 Leiningen’s Ants

      Sure would be nice. For a People’s Movement(R) that has the rainbow flag as its number one symbol and an equals sign as a secondary, there sure is a butt load of that black and white type of polarized thinking going on. I’m always relieved to find out I’m not the only one who notices or, worse, goes/went through these things. “LG Club” indeed.

      The question-answer sessions are the worst. It’s like nobody’s ever just taken a moment to ditch what they suppose the implications of the word means and thought, just for a moment I remind you, about the simple dictionary definition of the word. It has to be worse to several powers of ten for our Trans brothers and sisters. Hell, it took me a while to understand and wrap my head around the idea that gender is 100% artificial, but I kept trying, and now I think I have sort of a handle on it, and I’ve sure as hell gotten over the initial “huh what wait why?” reaction. People is people, bodies be bodies, love are love, you dig?

      At least with some sci-fi nerds, being Bi is a little easier (for me) to explain: “Okay, you know who Jack Harkness is? Yeah, well it’s sort of like that, minus the immortality. I know right?” (Protip: This explanation segues nicely into flirting with Whovians)

    • 3lemenope

      At least with some sci-fi nerds, being Bi is a little easier (for me) to explain: “Okay, you know who Jack Harkness is? Yeah, well it’s sort of like that, minus the immortality. I know right?” (Protip: This explanation segues nicely into flirting with Whovians)

      I’ve always thought there was just a teensy bit of space between “bisexual” and “omnisexual”. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003194979553 Leiningen’s Ants

      Naw, babe~ ;D

  • http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/ Chris

    My cousin, a gay man, told me that he didn’t think bisexuality existed until he met someone or other. It’s a confusing thing, and I think the media sensationalism of the LGBT community has contributed to the polarized gay vs. straight narrative.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’ve had most all of these happen to me as well.

    I’ve left more than one LGBT community after getting a fair amount of crap about how I “don’t understand” what it’s like to be a non-straight, since I’m in a long-term relationship that can pass as heteronormative.

    These people never knew that my family disowned me for my Bisexuality. They never had the opportunity to learn that I’ve been a real eye-opener for my boyfriend; how I’ve been the sole reason he knows anything more than “non-straights exist,” and how I introduced him to the concept of people not accepting their birth-assigned gender (and how this process isn’t exactly a walk amongst roses for me). They never heard about how my gender fluidity sometimes causes problems with him, or how his parents flipped out so hard they’d have powered a couple Earth rotations when they found out that I’m Bi. (His dad sat him down and told him that my being Bisexual meant that I would demand he allow me to have “multiple relationships and no sex boundaries”–And this man has several degrees and teaches psychology at a local college.)

    But, nope. I look normal, so I have no idea what they go through.

    There’s an old saying. Goes something like “Never assume, because assuming makes an ass out of u and me.” I don’t agree with that…These peoples’ assumptions only made an ass of themselves. They just hurt me.

    • http://fancystephanie.wordpress.com/ fancystephanie

      “His dad sat him down and told him that my being Bisexual meant that I would demand he allow me to have ‘multiple relationships and no sex boundaries…’ ”

      Ugh, one of my cousins had a rant on FB last week about how now that gay marriage is legal in California, bisexuals would want legal gay marriage too! I was like, “Idiot, they already do!” Apparently he thought “bisexual” means “I want to marry a guy AND a girl!” I had great fun letting him know he was completely mistaken!

    • Baby_Raptor

      Dear Boyfriend was quick to educate his father on the matter. I’m not sure how much his dad believed him, though.

      I honestly haven’t thought much on legal polygamy. All I know is that a lot of proponents see handling legalities like taxes as the big hurdle.

  • Dirty_Nerdy

    I want to thank Dan Fincke for this opportunity. All of us at Secular View are also thankful for the shout out.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Thank YOU!

  • wombat

    I’ve self-identified as bi for several years, because my attractions are fairly evenly split between male and female (and the occasional non-binary). But I’ve only had relationships with men, and I am a mother, and this makes my orientation invisible. That makes life easier (not having to deal with homo/biphobia) but it makes me feel like I’m denying a very real, and very strong, part of me. I also sometimes feel like I’m in some way betraying the queer community by staying invisible.

    • UrsaMinor

      Sure, it helps to be visible, but it’s not some sort of betrayal if you aren’t. Not everyone is in a position where it is safe to be visible. You are not required to be cannon fodder for The Movement.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    Bi guys get #5 pretty bad, too with the idea they give straight girls HIV. It’s basically rooted in traditional and the idea that sex with men somehow taints you.

  • TheodoreSeeber
    • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker (Skeptimus Prime)

      I read your article and there are no words to describe how bizarre and nonsensical your argument is.

  • Ivan Dicks

    I thought it odd as she’d just gone, without any proper ‘goodbyes’.
    I was really unhappy as deep down I felt that we should be together. Then i ask for help when i saw Dr. Wicca’s ad on the internet and phoned him, within a few minutes I just knew that he would help me, he’s so helpful, and really understands what you are going through. I have recommended him to anyone who are having troubles because my girlfriend came back into my life within 32 hours just like he said it, We solved our issues.
    Well, I can now confirm that Dr. Wicca is totally amazing and i’m so happy that he has been able to do this for me. He helped me get a new job, its working in a factory, basic pay but I am happy, every weekend off, many thanks to Dr. Wicca. I would highly recommend Dr. Wicca’s work to anybody, he will tell you if he can help you or not, straight talking or whatever problem you are experiencing. Contact him on dr.wiccahightemple@gmail.com or cell #+2348097350565 or find him on facebook on: Wicca temple

    Ivan Dicks from London

  • DavidMHart

    Actually, the reason your argument is bizarre and nonsensical is because you are playing humpty-dumpty with the ordinary meaning of words.

    Pretty much everyone understands ‘rape’ to mean ‘sex without the active consent of one of the parties’ or something close to that. On this understanding, to call non-procreative sex between informed, consenting adults ‘mutual rape’, as you do, is a total oxymoron – if consent is mutually freely given, then (leaving aside the obfuscating cases of underage persons), by definition it cannot be rape.

    You seem to be defining it as ‘sex engaged in simply for the enjoyment of both/all parties’. You are welcome to use this definition, as long as you are upfront about the fact that it is completely at odds with the normal understanding of the word, and as long as you don’t try to equivocate the normal meaning with your extremely esoteric and idiosyncratic meaning.

    But really, you’d be far better using a different term – why not just say ‘non-procreative sex’? Then everyone would understand you, and no one would be able to accuse you of trying to confuse a horrible predatory crime with a blameless activity.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Thank you very much. I wrote you a huge response, then erased it, because you just gave me the missing link that I have been missing in discussions on this topic for many, many months.

      Contraception indicates a lack of consent on the part of one or both partners, because it denies the procreative aspect of sex. Since denial of consent is implied in the use of birth control, that turns sex into rape.

      Going back to edit the blog posting, and once again, THANK YOU!

    • DavidMHart

      Okay. Once again, you’ve lost me. As you are well aware, consent to sex is not the same thing as consent to pregnancy. It may be consent to run a small risk of conception; a risk which both parties can take steps against, but that is not the same thing.

      You are welcome to present a reasoned argument, if you wish, as to why we should deem people who consent to sex to have consented to pregnancy (horrible though that would be), but if you try to equivocate the two by pretending that they are already identical, then you are once again playing humpty-dumpty with the ordinary meaning of words and shouldn’t feel aggrieved when people who are operating on the normal meaning are baffled as to what you are talking about.

      In the meantime, in the real world, people are perfectly capable of agreeing that they want to have sex with each other while also agreeing that they don’t want to get pregnant, and taking steps to minimise that possibility – i.e. contraception. Just like people are perfectly capable of agreeing to go for a drive in a car while also agreeing that they both don’t want to be injured in a crash, and taking steps to minimise that risk, such as driving safely and wearing seatbelts.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Sex is the way to get pregnant. How is consent to sex done properly (which takes 35 years and may include paying for a college tuition) NOT consent to becoming pregnant? Only if the law is utterly divorced from biology, which I will grant you it currently is- but should not be.

      I find the current risk of car crashes to be unacceptable as well. But I’m not at all sure automation of car driving is the answer. And certainly, contraception isn’t exactly fool proof, and fails to actually limit the risk.

      I completely disagree with your insinuation that sex can be divorced from procreation, and a million murders a year prove me right.

    • DavidMHart

      Sex is one way to get pregnant. There are other reproductive technologies available, mainly artificial insemination and IVF. But we humans have never been a species that engages in sex solely for reproduction, however keenly you wish we were. Sex is also a way of bonding with a partner, and of simply having a good time with someone similarly inclined. If you think that people shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the pleasures of sex without trying to minimise the risk of pregnancy (which sounds like it’s what you’re suggesting), then, again, you’re welcome to present a reasoned argument, but you are not entitled to declare by fiat that consent to sex equals consent to pregnancy.

      If you don’t like my car analogy, here’s another: Consent to eating cheezeburgers is not consent to obesity. If you eat enough cheezeburgers, there is a good chance that you will become obese. But to say that people who don’t want to become obese should never eat cheezeburgers would be obviously nonsensical. You can enjoy cheezeburgers while avoiding obesity by only having them every so often, and doing enough exercise that your calorific intake does not dangerously exceed your calorific output.

      What you seem to be getting at is starting to sound like an enormous instance of the naturalistic fallacy- the idea that humans in a state of nature had no reliable way of decoupling sex from the risk of pregnancy, and it is somehow therefore wrong to try. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that such thinking would also make it unethical to attempt to cure disease using medicine, to attempt to secure shelter by using high-tech materials, to secure our food supply by using farming technology, to increase our collective intellectual capital using writing, to enhance our decision-making potential by using maths and statistics and so forth.

      Well, I’m sorry, but you don’t get to do that. If you think that it is unethical for two people to agree between themselves that they will enjoy each other’s sexual talents, but that they will also take steps to prevent any conception as a result, you need to present a reasoned case as to why you think this is so. You can’t just call it ‘rape’ and expect to be taken seriously.

      And if you are concerned about abortion, as your ‘million murders a year’ comment suggests, then you ought to be entirely in favour of better, more affordable contraception, and better, more widespread education on how to use it, since there is literally nothing that promises realistically to reduce the number of abortions than technology that reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies.

      I suspect that your attitude is something along the lines of ‘people won’t get pregnant if they don’t have sex’. Unfortunately for you, we live in the real world, where abstinence, while being technically the most effective form of contraception, is also the most unreasonbale to expect people to consistently use, given human nature. I would have thought that someone so keen on the naturalistic fallacy ought to be able to respect that. In the real world, if you preach abstinence to everyone, some people will be abstinent, but enough people will ignore you than in order to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions), making good-quality contraception and sex-education widely available is going to be far more effective.

      If that’s actually what you want. If what you really want is to police other people’s sex lives, then that’s a different matter, but you should be upfront about that.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Being an obese person myself- and knowing full well the cure, I’m sorry, but eating cheeseburgers (or pick your other favorite fatty-calorie-dense-enough-for-a-full-meal-in-one-bite food here) is indeed consent to obesity.

      I’ve got a question though- if contraception is so good, why do we still need to kill a million people a year that are produced *despite* contraception?

      After all, contraception is widely available, at a cost of course. Abstinence is free. Why would you teach the version that costs rather than the version that is free, especially when being draconian on parental responsibility will do the trick equally well?

    • smrnda

      Because one is more fun than the other. I mean, the only 100% safe way for me to ride a bike is not to ride one, but that wouldn’t be fun.

      Being draconian on parental responsibility will just make people miserable.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Because one is more fun than the other.”

      And taking crack cocaine is more fun than being sober.

      “Being draconian on parental responsibility will just make people miserable.”

      Not really- there are great rewards with parental responsibility.

    • smrnda

      I have used a number of drugs and had quite a lot of fun with that. I’m sure some people would argue that it’s an unnecessary risk, but people never really agree on these things.

      Not everybody would agree with you that being a parent is a good thing. Yet again, it’s a subjective preference. Plenty of parents resent their kids and abuse them, and I’ve seen a few marriages fall apart once kids were in the picture. Plenty of people who are unable to have kids desperately want them. Not everybody is the same.

    • DavidMHart

      Sorry to be late back to the party, but here goes:
      You seem to be trying to conflate consenting to taking a risk of X happening when you do fun thing Y with consent to X actually happening when you do Y, and then trying to claim that because you did Y which carries a risk of X, you have agreed to suffer X regardless of how much effort you go to to minimise the risks of X. This is patently untrue; you know full well that it is possible to eat cheeseburgers in moderation and in conjunction with exercise, and stand very little chance of putting on weight. and you also know that it is possible to combine the pill, IUDs, condoms and whatever other contraceptive measure to lower the risk of pregnancy to near zero.

      Just because you personally are unable to imagine how two people can want to have sex with each other while not getting pregnant, does not mean it doesn’t happen. That is simply an argument from personal incredulity.

      And on a related note, please stop it with the “killing a million people a year” baloney. A foetus is not by any stretch of the imagination a person, in the sense we usually understand it (of being a sentient, conscious human being with a personality). If you want to argue that a foetus should be afforded the same legal rights as a person, you are welcome to present a reasoned argument as to why, but you are not entitled to just define a foetus as a person by fiat. Personhood develops gradually, making it impossible to draw a hard and fast line on where it begins, but it definitely doesn’t begin at conception or at any point before any entity has developed a sufficiently complex nervous system to have consciousness.

      Contraception sometimes fails, sure. But abstinence fails spectacularly in the real world because it is impossible to persuade enough people to refrain from sex all the time. The fact that there would be no unwanted pregnancies if nobody had sex (we’ll leave aside the issue of pregnancy from rape for now since I’m not sure I even want to hear your attitudes there given your take on everything else) is true but useless because our policies have to be tailored to achieve the best outcomes for actual human beings, not imaginary, totally obedient humanoids. In the real world, some people will have sex despite not wanting to be pregnant and we therefore need there to be contraception available to them, and it needs to be good, and they need to be fully educated in how to use it.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “This is patently untrue; ”

      Because you claim it is? I don’t think so.

    • smrnda

      Because you can compute risks using statistics and check the correlations between bad outcomes and the risk management tactics employed. Combining methods of contraception can be quite effective, particularly things like vasectomies that are more of a long-term strategy.

      You can then compare the % risk given the risk management strategy and compare this to risks one is already taking.

      It’s not hard to point out the irrationality of demanding that sex be 100% risk free when no other activity is held to the same standards.

    • DavidMHart

      Are you seriously suggesting that agreeing to take part in a risky activity while taking all possible steps to minimise that risk, and taking part in the same risky activity while taking no steps at all to minimise that risk, are the same in terms of the degree to which it is reasonable to deem you to have consented to suffering the materialisation of that risk? If you think that that isn’t patently untrue, I’d like to see a more reasoned explanation than your last comment, which basically boils down to ‘nuh-uh!’.

    • smrnda

      You’re assuming that there is a right way to have sex and a correct purpose. I see no reason to believe that there is.

      Just because sex leads to pregnancy doesn’t mean that this is inherently good, any more than it’s inherently good or bad that mushrooms grow in my lawn. Value judgments depend on someone’s preferences and desires. If I want to grow mushrooms, then they are a great addition to my lawn. If I want a suburban golf turf style lawn, then they are bad, but the capacity of the lawn to grow mushrooms is just a possibility, neither good nor bad in and of itself. It depends on whether I’m using my lawn aesthetically or if I’m using it for a garden.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Ah, I see, you’re the kind of bigot that believes that human beings are mushrooms.

    • smrnda

      My only point was that whether or not the reproductive capacity of sex is good or bad is subjective. You seem to imply that it is inherently good all the time. That is all the comparison is meant to explain.

    • smrnda

      I’ll provide a less loaded comparison.

      It is possible for me to install linux OS on a computer. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the opinions of the person using it. Even though I strongly prefer it, I agree that it isn’t necessarily the best for everyone.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Sex isn’t computers.

    • erin.nikla

      Nor is sex procreation.

    • smrnda

      In what way is it different? People have preferences for computers, people have preferences for sex. Preferences entail different problems that you have to either deal with, work around or accept. If I *chose* to use a different OS I would be stuck with different problems and some software might not be available that I like, though there might be other software available.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I do not believe anything about physical biology is “subjective”. And resent your attempt to insert subjectivity into science.

    • smrnda

      It is objective that sex can lead to pregnancy. It is subjective that this is always a good thing or that it should not be changed. Science does not really make value judgments like that.

      Resent me all you like, I don’t really see any reason to take your opinions seriously as the best tactics you can come up with are to either use private definitions for words or the naturalistic fallacy.

      Nature presents us with limitations that we can either accept or work around. Science helps us understand those limitations and conditions, but it also helps us find workarounds.

      Let’s look at your cheeseburger example. Right now, eating food like that could cause health problems. If you want to be healthy, you’ll probably need to avoid those foods. Let’s say someone found an ecologically feasible way to produce meat and cheese that tasted great but which had very little fat or cholesterol. It would be a way that a person could indulge their desire for burgers without the health consequences. It’d be using science productively.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “It is objective that sex can lead to pregnancy.”

      You can stop right there- that’s an admission that many in this country won’t make at all.

    • smrnda

      If I stopped there, I have left out the most important part. Don’t be patronizing.

      Being out in the sun in summer can cause heatstroke. However, even though this is a possible consequence, there exist technologies to avoid it, and with proper precautions, the risk of heatstroke can pretty much be eliminated.

      Basically, technology is awesome because it permits us to defy nature and do what we feel like. It’s worth working out possible unintended consequences (like the ecological hazards posed by the use of fossil fuels) but, overall, I feel sex can be made safer than eating raw oysters.

    • John Alexander Harman

      Citation needed to show that “many in this country” will not admit the objective fact that “sex can lead to pregnancy.” I have yet to meet any of these “many” of whom you speak, and thus conclude that you you are talking out of your nether orifice.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I see them all the time- every time I meet a woman who “accidentally” got pregnant.

    • John Alexander Harman

      That a woman regards her pregnancy as accidental does not mean that she doesn’t know that sex can lead to pregnancy; it just means that she’s using a standard English definition of “accidental” in which her actual, conscious intentions are relevant, and not the Seeberese definition in which having sex means she intended to get pregnant whether she knew it or not.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      That’s a pretty novel definition of accident. Where I live, an accident is “something I didn’t intend to do”- intention is at the center of the definition.

      If she consented to sex (note, rape not included) then how can the pregnancy be accidental? What definition are you using that doesn’t include intention?

    • John Alexander Harman

      My definition does include intention. I see it’s not the definition of “accident” you’re confused about, but rather “consent” and “intend” as they applies to sex. In real life, as opposed to the bizarre little Seeberverse inside your head, people frequently intend to have consensual sex without getting pregnant; that’s why we use contraception. If contraception fails, that’s an accident — the people using it intended it to work.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      And thus, contraception is removal of consent.

    • John Alexander Harman

      Only by the Seeberese definition of “consent;” English-speakers generally have no problem consenting to protected sex.

    • smrnda

      If I was cooking a steak, and it turned out well-done instead of rare that could be described as an accident.

      The % of slipping on ice while skating for an inexperienced skater may be high. It’s highly probable that an inexperienced skater will fall while skating, and an inexperienced skater may even expect to fall on the ice, yet we would still call falling an ‘accident.’

    • John Alexander Harman

      As an actual biologist, by education if not by current occupation, I resent your attempt to misappropriate biology in support of your personal, subjective value judgments.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      As an actual biologist, what non-technological act causes pregnancy?

    • John Alexander Harman

      Sex causes pregnancy; it does not follow that causing pregnancy is the sole purpose of sex among highly social mammals such as humans, chimps, bonobos, or dolphins, and the sexual behavior of those four species demonstrates that sex serves purposes other than reproduction in each of them.

      Also, to jump from the fact that sex can cause pregnancy to the value judgment that nobody should have sex unless they want to create a pregnancy is an instance of the naturalistic fallacy, impermissible in rational discourse.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Sex causes pregnancy;”

      And thus, to have an “accidental pregnancy” would indicate to me that somebody doesn’t know what causes pregnancy.

      No value judgements need be added, nor the use of sex in lower mammals. It is enough to state the fact that sex causes pregnancy, and that the normal way to get new human beings is sex.

      Value judgements are only for adding rationalizing behavior.

    • John Alexander Harman

      “And thus, to have an ‘accidental pregnancy’ would indicate to me that somebody doesn’t know what causes pregnancy.”

      Only because you’re willfully obtuse. The vast majority of humans want to have sex a lot more frequently than they want to get pregnant or get their partners pregnant; that desire is part of our innate, biological nature. We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t — our ancestors had sex because they wanted sex long before they ever understood that sex causes pregnancy. When a person’s conscious intent during a sexual act is not to create a pregnancy, then any pregnancy that results from that act is accidental.

      Every single time I have had sex, my intention has been to make myself and my partner feel good without getting her pregnant. Because my partners and I have always taken precautions to minimize the probability of pregnancy, we have managed to achieve the “not getting her pregnant” part of that intention every single time, and the “both of us feel good” part on the vast majority of occasions (the few exceptions generally involved someone getting an acute hamstring or abdominal muscle cramp that interrupted the act).

      Had one of my partners gotten pregnant, it would have been accidental, in the ordinary, standard English sense of an unintended and undesired outcome. That it wouldn’t have fit the Seeberese definition of “accidental” is irrelevant to me and the women I have had sex with, as is the fact that the sex we have had wouldn’t fit the Seeberese definition of “consensual.”

    • smrnda

      I refer you to my ice skating analogy above. Or would you argue that an injury sustained during an athletic pursuit cannot be an ‘accident?’

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I most certainly do consider injuries sustained during athletic pursuits to not be accidents. In fact, let’s not even go with ice skating- let’s go with something *really* dangerous, like extreme skiing. I had a cousin who tried repeatedly to commit suicide. One of his methods that failed, was to go on the double-black-diamond trails. When he did succeed with a gun, his immediate family got double-black-diamond tattoos in memory of him.

    • smrnda

      If you consider an accident sustained during an athletic activity to *not* be an accident, then there is no such thing as an accident. Is a workplace injury an accident? I mean, mining isn’t a safe occupation – is there no such thing as a mining accident then?

      Now, you could make a case that sports are not essential, therefore, doing them is simply reckless. All said, with ideas like that (that we should simply live lives of blandness, doing only what Dick Tater Ted deems ‘essential’ ) I’m just happy that people have fought for centuries against people with ideas like yours. The whole product of contemporary civilization has been to tell people with views like that to piss off as the rest of us aren’t interested in living under the Inquisition or in the Dark Ages.

      If I exit my house, there is a non-zero probability that I will be hit by a car. There is no way anyone driving a car can guarantee that they won’t accidentally hit anyone, no matter how good of a driver they are. By your logic, if I got hit by a car, then it’s not an accident since I knew cars went on roads and I got near one.

      In other words, you pretty much have the same perspective of the evil robber barons – workers ‘consent’ to the risks of any job they take, therefore, nothing that happens to them is an accident. Since no job can be made totally safe, any attempt to make them safer is a futile task (according to the robber barons) and is not only a waste, but dishonest.

      Your perspective uses the word ‘accident’ in a way which pretty much excludes anything from being an accident, meaning that since you don’t believe anything is an accident, you have an idiosyncratic worldview missing a few concepts that the rest of us are using, like ‘accident.’

      So, when I slipped on ice a few years ago, that was intentional? I mean, I have bad eyesight – corrected its about 20/500. I walked from my house to a store. Since the probability of slipping on ice in the winter is >0, you’re telling me that’s not an accident?

      Either you’re saying that nothing is an accident, or the Grand Inquisitor gets to determine what activities are ‘essential’ and ‘frivolous’ and you can put anything that happens into the later category as ‘not an accident,’ but last I checked, I hadn’t seen you appointed to be the Arbiter of Good Taste and Master of Reality.

    • smrnda

      Q – would you prevent anyone from ever being convicted of reckless driving on the grounds that consenting to driving is consenting to injury and death? Good luck getting that one passed.

    • smrnda

      Occasionally, buildings collapse. In the long run, they all will. So is ‘building collapses’ not an accident then?

    • TheodoreSeeber

      When it is due to a lack of maintenance, as warned by materials engineers, yes, building collapses are not accidents. They are artifacts of the greed of building owners.

    • John Alexander Harman

      The law is only divorced from your own bizarre, fallacious understanding of what biology supposedly implies is “proper” (a word indicating a value judgment based on an impermissible jump across the is-ought gap).

      Here’s the way consent works in a society that values human autonomy: consent must be continuous throughout the sex act for it to be an act of consensual sex, and may be withdrawn at any time before the conclusion of the act. An act of sex becomes rape the moment one of the people engaged in it informs the other that the he or she wants it to stop, and the second person continues the act against the first person’s will.

      Now, if pregnancy is part the sex act, as you would have it, then forcing a woman to remain pregnant without her continuous consent to the pregnancy is continuing a sexual act against her will, and is therefore an act of rape, and any person who enacts or enforces a law against abortions is a rapist. Even if blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses were “persons,” no person has the right to live by functioning as an endoparasite of another person without that other person’s continuous consent.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      And since contraception is a withdrawal of consent, that makes contraception into rape.

    • John Alexander Harman

      Nope. In real life, a person can consent to sex and not to pregnancy; it’s only in the Seeberverse that consenting to sex on the condition that contraception is used is the same thing as not consenting at all. Fortunately, the Seeberverse exists only inside your skull, and you can’t force anybody but yourself to try to live there. Note I said try to live there; even your own attempt at doing so is doomed to failure, because you exist in the real universe, of which the one in your head is a highly inaccurate model. You’re trying to interact with other human beings using a map that bears very little resemblance to the territory you’re trying to negotiate, and you refuse to correct the errors in your map.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “a person can consent to sex and not to pregnancy”

      Only if sex never causes pregnancy. And only if contraception isn’t just fraud.

      I think what you’ve failed to notice is I have no interest in the fraudulent position you’re trying to maintain.

    • John Alexander Harman

      Consenting to sex would only be equivalent to consenting to pregnancy if sex always resulted in pregnancy; it doesn’t. Contraception would only be fraud if it did not reduce the probability of pregnancy; it does. Also, you’re back to the idiocy of claiming that one can’t choose to drive without choosing to die in a car accident; your understanding of “consent” is divorced from human preferences and intentions, and is thus completely alien to the ordinary meaning of the word.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Consenting to sex would only be equivalent to consenting to pregnancy if sex always resulted in pregnancy; it doesn’t. ”

      It does if it is done properly. Of course, sex done properly also takes 35 years due to our economic and cultural issues surrounding it.

      Yes, one cannot choose to drive without consenting to the possibility of dying. So what?

    • John Alexander Harman

      Fine. You keep judging other people’s sex lives by your own idiosyncratic definitions of things like “consent” and “sex done properly;” the rest of us will keep living our lives as though your opinion did not matter — because it doesn’t. It appears, from the amount of time you apparently spend blogging and commenting about these topics, that you have a desire to persuade people to agree with your positions, and change society to make it more closely fit your values; if that is indeed your goal, you are failing miserably, and will continue to fail miserably.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      You are right, my opinion doesn’t matter. Only the facts matter, and the fact is, sex causes pregnancy- no matter how much you wish it were otherwise.

    • Alex Harman

      I’ve had quite a lot of sex without causing any pregnancies. I don’t “wish it were otherwise;” I’m just happy to live in a time when we have a very high degree of control over the probability of pregnancy resulting from any given sex act, and over whether a pregnancy results in a new person or not.

    • smrnda

      Since sex doesn’t result in pregnancy most of the time, even if you’re trying to get pregnant, then pregnancy should be considered the exception rather than the norm.

    • smrnda

      However, if you are killed by a reckless driver, the person might still be found to be legally at fault for creating greater than reasonable risks. Are you suggesting that nobody can be held accountable for accidents, since after all, driving is consenting to death?

      If so, then I would just like to remind you that, try as you might to force your idiosyncratic views on us, we will refuse to submit since we don’t want our lives to be out and out rubbish.

    • smrnda

      You’re treating ‘sex’ as if it is an entity or person with rights you can deny. It’s like saying turning on an air conditioner is failing to consent to the nature of summer being hot. Human beings are awesome because when nature isn’t what we want, we change it.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I thought human beings were mushrooms. Which is it?

    • smrnda

      I explained the previous point above.

      Here is my question – let’s say 100% effective contraception existed. If two people who both don’t want to have children have sex using this 100% effective contraception, you’re equating this to rape.

      Rape involves sex where there is a lack of consent of one of the participants. How are you able to equate that to rape when all parties consented?

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Yes I am, because they are not fully consenting to sex.

      Consenting to sex means consenting to what happens when the contraception fails. And in this day and age of STDs, it means monogamy as well.

    • smrnda

      My point inferred the use of a 100% effective means of artificial contraception because I was trying to remove the possible case of contraception failing.

      In that case, what’s wrong with lesbian sex? It’s very safe and carries no risk of pregnancy. Saying that’s not ‘consenting to sex’ would be like saying playing tennis isn’t ‘consenting to sport’ because it isn’t as dangerous as boxing.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      It also isn’t sex. It’s using the other person’s body for personal pleasure.

    • David Simon

      Are you seriously claiming that lesbians never appreciate mutual sexual pleasure? That’s blatantly ridiculous.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      No, I am seriously claiming that mutual sexual pleasure isn’t mutual unless it produces a child.

    • John Alexander Harman

      Then you are seriously using idiosyncratic definitions of the words “mutual” and “pleasure” that practically no other English-speaker in the world would accept.

    • smrnda

      How is it not mutual? The mutuality of sex is exclusively determined by the subjective experience of the people who had sex. If you’re using any other definition, you’re not in agreement with any dictionary I’ve ever seen.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      It fails to create a child- the very definition of mutual in this case.

    • smrnda

      You mean *in your head.* The dictionary does not agree with you.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Or, you know…Educating yourself on how to avoid risks.

      I am not a naturally monogamous person. The idea lacks appeal, and further just plain feels wrong.

      I’ve also never had an STD. Why? Because I understand how sex works. I accept the responsibility of having sex safely. I do what it to protect myself and my partners.

      And consenting to having sex does not mean consenting to getting pregnant. You can keep insisting this, but the very fact that we can prevent pregnancy proves that you’re wrong. The fact that infertile people and older people can still have sex also proves that you’re wrong.

      Sex that does not adhere to your personal opinions of right and wrong is not rape. You belittle and demean *actual* rape victims when you twist the meaning of the word like this. Stop it. Nothing about contraception hinders the ability to consent.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Educating yourself on how to avoid risks.”

      The only safe sex is no sex. That’s all the education you need.

    • smrnda

      Nothing is 100% safe. Why hold sex to higher standards than any other activity?

      Your point makes about as much sense as saying it’s a waste to use a seat belt or to put an air bag in a car since you might die anyway, or it’s a waste to wear a helmet while riding a bike or pads while playing football.

    • Baby_Raptor

      I’m sorry, I live in reality. Maybe you should check it out?

      You don’t get to decide my life for me, or what I do and don’t “need,” based on your theology.

    • smrnda

      I was going to put out that Ted was trivializing rape earlier, but I thought it was obvious, and I doubt he’d care.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Well, as a victim of not one but two different rapes, it pushed buttons. Not that calling him on it did any good; as you saw, he ignored it.