Smart people saying smart things

Fred Kaplan: “Why Republicans Can No Longer Be Trusted on National Security”

Not to sound like a Golden Age nostalgic, but there once was a time when the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee prided themselves on having an understanding of military matters. They disagreed in their conclusions and sometimes their premises. But most of them worked to educate themselves, at least to the point where they could debate the issues, or ask questions of a general without coming off like complete idiots. The sad thing about this new crop of senators — especially on the Republican side — is they don’t even try to learn anything; they don’t care if they look like complete idiots, in part because their core constituents don’t care if they do either.

Margot Starbuck: “Why I Think Jesus Would Bake a Cake for a Same-Sex Marriage”

These two directives — to keep unstained by the world and to love our neighbors — are, by no accident, in constant holy tension. They were for Jesus and they are for us. When we look at the way Jesus engaged with those his community considered sinful, he embraced — and even seemed to go looking for! — this holy tension. He was derided by the Religious specifically because, by lending his presence places like sinner parties, he accepted an “other” exactly as they were.

Gordon Atkinson: “A Thing That Happened”

Also the cold, uncompromising voice of Reason, my ancient foe, has been whispering in my ears again.

The universe has no interest in you. Celestial systems, of which you are a part, pay homage only to greater forces of gravity, circling them obediently while the cosmos expands with energy from a source we cannot comprehend. Your value in this unthinkably vast reality is exactly in keeping with your size in it, just as you’ve always suspected. A galactic moment or two from now, humanity will disappear, along with your solar system and perhaps your entire galaxy. When that happens it will be as if you never existed at all.

But by all means, Gordon, make sure you don’t miss Sunday school tomorrow.

Dianna E. Anderson: “No Touching: Consent as the First Step”

I propose that we start with what consent looks like.

A healthy sexual relationship has much more room to happen when everyone involved is doing so enthusiastically and with full knowledge and agreement about boundaries.

… It needs to be assumed that people’s bodies are in a state of “don’t touch” until they give you the green light to do so. This is the first step toward a healthy view of sexuality.

This basic understanding of bodily autonomy is – no surprise – frequently shunted aside in narratives of the purity movement. The fear seems to be that if we teach people how to say yes in a healthy manner, they’ll start doing so outside of the contexts we think are best. But, that’s the thing about education: if you really, truly want people acting of their own free will and owning their decisions, you really, truly have to let them.

Ed Kilgore: “Protestants and Abortion”

While the Catholic hierarchy’s current stance is historically and theologically problematic, and is out of alignment with lay opinion in America (embarrassingly so on abortion, and insanely so on contraception), there is at least a credible argument to be made for it based on Church tradition, Aristotelian bioethics, and a highly authoritarian sense of the Vatican’s “teaching” function.

It’s always fascinated me that by contrast American conservative evangelical Protestants have come to be if anything more extremist on abortion than Catholics (certainly in terms of rank-and-file opinion) without any of these factors: they do not regard Church traditions as dispositive, have been lukewarm or hostile to “natural law” as a foundation for doctrine, and have no centralized source of doctrinal authority other than the Bible, which is all but silent on the subject (no, Christian Right types don’t admit that, but it’s true nonetheless aside from entirely circular arguments that proscription of homicide includes abortion).



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  • When we look at the way Jesus engaged with those his community considered sinful, he embraced — and even seemed to go looking for! — this holy tension. He was derided by the Religious specifically because, by lending his presence places like sinner parties, he accepted an “other” exactly as they were.

    When I think about the company Jesus kept I think:

    Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters 
    Where the ragged people go 
    Looking for the places only they would know

    Almost invariably that’s what I think of.

  • aunursa

    If it’s true that Republicans can’t be trusted on issues of national security, then perhaps President Obama should withdraw Chuck Hagel’s name and nominate a Democrat for Secretary of Defense.

    (Sorry — I had to say it!)

  • (Sorry — I had to say it!)

    Someone got a gun to your head?

  • aunursa

    No, I have a low resistance to temptation.

    With a headline like that, he made it irresistable.

  • TW: rape like woah.

     The “Consent” piece reminds me that I still haven’t gotten over the betrayal I felt when a then-trusted friend invited my thoughts on her conviction that “No isn’t yes, maybe isn’t yes, only YES is yes” was simplistic and disrespectful. Put together with other thoughts she was airing at the time, I can only assume that, to her, a woman who said “maybe” but didn’t intend to give consent was guilty of failing her responsibility to say “no”; or maybe that a man who backed off when a woman said “maybe” was failing to respect the woman as capable of saying “no” when she meant “no.”

    (Putting it in heterosexual terms because the context overall was a discussion of male-on-female rape, how to define rape, and where to put the responsibility for rape. My sense of betrayal came from the way my then-trusted friend insisted that the rape victim shares responsibility because BULLSHIT ABOUT HOW SHE DRESSED AND WHETHER SHE WENT OUT ALONE AT NIGHT.)

    I am constantly reading things that put it so beautifully, so simply, and I wish I could go back in time and quote ALL of it at my friend so I could make her see how WRONG WRONG WRONG she is. As things stand, she is no longer someone I feel safe around, nor someone that I trust anymore, nor would recommend rape survivors confide in. Who wants to confide in someone who mouths sympathy while thinking, “What were you wearing a the time? Did you say ‘i dunno, maybe,’ when you should have said ‘no’ if that’s what you meant? Did you act responsibly or do you share responsibility for what was done to you?”

    It’s sort of a “someone is wrong on the internet” sore that I can’t let go of, because in this case I was close to that someone, and because of this conversation/argument/ordeal, I no longer am.

  • Charityb

    I feel as if most of the Republican criticisms of Hagel are hollow and meaningless. Hagel isn’t running for PM of Israel, and he was right to condemn the surge as just another tragic waste of human lives and resources designed solely to save face in the Iraqi boondoggle. But questions about that didn’t bother me nearly as much as Ted Cruz’s entirely made-up accusation that Hagel took money from Saudi Arabia or North Korea. 

    I didn’t agree with the questions asked by McCain but they were at least valid questions relating to Hagel’s past and his future role as Secretary of Defense — Cruz’s questions were basically lies in question form, the equivalent of asking someone, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” That’s probably the most damning example of Republicans — at least some of them — abdicating entirely their advisory role in this hearing. It’s not as bad as the Benghazi thing, but it’s up there.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I don’t think Republicans can be trusted on issues of national security (or domestic matters, or pretty much anything), and I wish Obama would have nominated a Democrat.  

    I dunno why you had to add the parenthetical, but I definitely agree with the statement. I’d probably stop short of hoping Obama withdraws Hagel’s nomination, but I wish he’d have submitted someone else in the first place.

  • Ian

    Warning from Jesus: “Depart from me, for I was hungry and you gave me no cake.”

    Mind you, precedent suggests that Jesus would be more likely to turn water into wine at a wedding, or multiply a cupcake.

  • Lori

    I wish that Obama would have nominated a Dem, but not because I have any particular animus toward Hagel. I just think we need to stop playing into the notion (clearly fictional) that only Republicans can be trusted with the military. FSM knows they’ve proven that’s not remotely true. Also, nominating a Republican in an attempt to “reach across the aisle” is a waste of time and Obama needs to stop doing it. Republicans are against whatever and whoever Obama is for. If that means being against their own ideas or their own people they’ve proven again and again that they don’t have any problem with that. Forcing them to be hypocritical and childish right out loud doesn’t pay nearly enough dividends to be worth passing up the opportunity to put a qualified Dem in the job.

  • Cathy W

    If someone were to ask me what specific flavor of atheist I am, I’d usually come up with “secular humanist” – and the quote from Gordon Atkinson reminds me of the one bit of blind faith I need in order to keep being one. 

    The universe is indifferent. In the long run, we’re all dead, and in the even longer run the sun will expand and consume the Earth and in the even longer run than that, maybe the universe itself will die of its own entropy. But right here, right now – it matters to me, to everyone, because even if the universe is ultimately indifferent to the entire existence of humanity, we’re stuck here, now, with each other. 

    If I can’t believe that…then all I’m doing is wasting oxygen.

  • Do Secretaries of * need to be confirmed by the Congress? If so seeing the Repubs tie themselves up in knots trying to justify blocking Obama on it would be darkly amusing.

  • P J Evans

     Yes – all the cabinet officers have to be confirmed by the senate.

  • stardreamer42

     About a year ago I got into a huge argument about consent with a guy at a party. We are of the same generation (in our mid-50s), and he was insisting that having to verbally negotiate consent “kills the mood”, and that all such negotiation is supposed to be done with body language.

    Then he went on to complain about how “women make all the rules about sex, and men have to try to guess what they are”.

    Yeah, and you know how to get out of that trap? USE WORDS. Sheesh.

  • stardreamer42

    The consent article quoted the hoary old line of “Why should he buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” which is apparently still in play today.

    So that’s why the marriage rate outside the Evangelical community has dropped to nearly zero since the late 70s!

    Oh, wait… 

  • Gotchaye

    Certainly this sort of black and white “Consent is asking at every step “Is this okay? Does this feel good? Can I touch you here?” and getting a unequivocally positive response before proceeding.” is a huge improvement on purity nonsense and rape culture.  However, “everything not (enthusiastically) explicitly allowed is forbidden” seems to me to only work really well for new or casual sexual relationships.  That’s especially true since consent is consent now rather than consent forever.  Really strict rules are important when people don’t know each other all that well (as people and as sexual partners).  When people have a much better feel for what each other’s boundaries are, and have built a certain amount of trust and comfort in their relationship, the standard relaxes.  It never relaxes to the point where no doesn’t mean no, but “I guess so” becomes a lot less problematic.  Likewise some amount of wheedling isn’t a terrible thing.  And lots of kinds of intimate contact can be permissibly initiated with no warning or even while one or both partners are impaired.  This can of course all be overridden by one partner’s expressed preference to maintain strict boundaries, but it seems to me that the default boundaries change substantially.

    I honestly don’t know if this is a “well, duh” sort of point or if lots here strongly disagree with me.  At the very least it seems to me that long-term partners should be able to sit down and agree that, as long as the relationship continues, “I guess so” passes muster, or that it’s fine for one partner to initiate sex after the other has had a few.  But this still seems to require modification of consent to allow it to be long-lasting in some contexts.

  • arcseconds

     In my youff I used to worry about the kinds of things Atkinson’s voice of Reason worries about.   If we (or I) are just a spec on the face of the Universe, lasting for no more than an eyeblink, and if the Universe is just going to turn into a boring, lukewarm expanse, then how can anything be worthwhile?

    Eventually I realised that the alternatives usually proposed do nothing to solve the problem.   Eternal life for you or the Universe doesn’t produce any more worth to what you did this morning — in fact, one could argue that if anything it reduces any worthiness it has.   Being part of a Grand Plan doesn’t help either.  If your own plans don’t have worth, how can someone else’s?  

    These are all just ways of postponing the question of value, not answering it.  They only seem to work because we are often satisfied with pushing for reasons just one step back (and there’s particular places where we’re especially happy to rest and question no further — God, the Mind and Eternity being particular favourites).

    Eventually I concluded that if anything is worthwhile, then what you did this morning has to be worthwhile in and of itself — at least some of the time.

  • Lori


    Do Secretaries of * need to be confirmed by the Congress? If so seeing
    the Repubs tie themselves up in knots trying to justify blocking Obama
    on it would be darkly amusing.  

    Not only Secretaries of ______, but at least a couple layers of political appointees below the Cabinet level. One of my grad schools profs was at OMB under Clinton. He was a high ranking appointee (so, not in the civil service), but at least a couple levels below director, which is itself not a cabinet position. He had to go through confirmation. He described the process at that level as both perfunctory and incredibly nerve-wracking.

    Of course that was before the Republicans in Congress gave up all pretense of governing in the best interest of the country and just became the part of No.  If he had gone through the process under current conditions he’d probably be in recess appointment limbo right now.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    To be specific, appointments only need to be vetted by the Senate. Thank god we don’t have to put them through the congressional wringer has well. As Lori was saying, the Senate has the ability to block the confirmation of several layers of Cabinet employees, commissions like the Consumer Financial Protection Board and the National Labor Relations Board, and the judiciary as well. We’re in the middle of a judicial vacancy crisis because the Senate blocks large numbers of Obama’s nominees:

  • Fusina

     The counter to that is, “Why should I buy the pig when all I want is a little sausage?”

    Read that in a book (fiction, actually), laughed for several minutes, and committed it to memory, as it is the best counter argument I’ve heard for the cow/milk thing.

  • The whole touch-consent thing gives me issues.

    Not because I philosophically, morally, or ethically disagree with it, but because I go through life acting on it (I am extremely disinclined to touch people, including friends and family, and including many past significant others) and so I see acutely all the people who don’t see any reason to think about it.

    In the context of a Christian ethic, my mom’s churches are filled with kind elderly people who automatically hug you and shake your hand and stuff. One of the churches had a standing tradition of everyone holding hands to sing a fellowship-y hymn every Sunday, even. My internal response to my distaste for those things was to suck it up and go with it, because I didn’t want to be stuck being the one explaining that it wasn’t personal. I can do that because it just makes me vaguely uncomfortable, not really upset.

    A friend of mine would become violent or extremely upset; my ex might’ve thrown up (actually, she did what she always does–she put on her brave face and hid any discomfort from everyone else, but that’s not fair for her to have to do). I feel like people in that kind of context should be able to say something, but the force of will is pretty much near-universally behind the people who are just innocently holding your hand or patting you on the back (my new boss does this; I don’t mind enough to say anything, but, again, that’s where the balance is for me personally). That same sense of “Why the hell is this such a problem for you? I didn’t do anything wrong!”

    How could something like that really be enacted? Wouldn’t it require a near-ubiquitous paradigm shift? Haven’t we all been around (and in some cases been) people who have “no sense” of personal space (ie, just a much smaller definition)? People who see light physical touch as friendly, not sexual, or threatening, or uncomfortable, etc etc? How the heck would this conversation occur on a large enough scale?I still don’t know how to say it to coworkers, customers, and bosses. Most people apparently get the vibe from me that I don’t like being touched. Some don’t. I let them, because it’s easier for me personally. And because I could see them turning it back on me. And because I could see never being able to explain that it’s not only not personal, but a reasonable request. Even if it’s not “How dare you”, I shudder at the thought of leaving people on eggshells around me out of guilt, thinking they angered me or hurt me some other such response that is completely outside the bounds of my actual one. I’ve had that happen, and I’ve also had the “third party” conversations, which is easier, because I can bear down on someone who is ignoring someone ELSE’S feelings, as they will see me as the “irrational” one upset over “nothing”, and hopefully ALSO change their behaviour.

    So, really: thoughts? Explanations?
    It sounds like a nice idea, but–realities?
    Seriously. I would like to know of some way this could actually work, or if it’s better to figure out something else that IS realistic, because that doesn’t sound at all realistic to me. It sounds like a lovely but completely implausible idea.

    (and let’s not even get into the people who feel sort of abandoned/offended/hurt if someone doesn’t touch them…I don’t have any idea how this would work for them) 

    EDIT: Oh, but I mean, I think it can (and should) be in place in specific, distinctly one-on-one kinds of continual relationships for sure, and, if possible, in “prospective” ones. But I don’t know how the boundary could be easily drawn between those and every other interaction we have as humans.


    How could something like that really be enacted?

    One place to start is just what you’re doing here: personal testimony.

    There are probably lots of people who read this who had never even thought about the possibility that a “friendly touch” can cause the sort of suffering you talk about… and others who understand that it can do so in a potentially sexual context, but don’t understand that it can do so in a purely platonic or professional context as well… all of whom now have one more data point.

    Of course, it’s just one pebble. But that’s how this sort of thing starts.

  • stardreamer42

    My partner used to sell buttons at science-fiction conventions, the pin-back kind about 2″ in diameter, with slogans on them. One of our most popular designs was the one that said “Ask Before Hugging”. I think there are a lot of other places which could benefit from having that sort of visual signal available, especially churches like the ones you describe.

  • P J Evans

     ISTR that confirmation is required for general officers in the military, and it used to be required, back when the USPS was an actual department of government, for postmasters (who had a fair amount of power, being in charge of mail at the local level).

  • Foelhe

    I’ve heard one like that before. “Why buy the cow if the milk is free?” “Because sometimes you just want a nice steak.”

  • For Atkinson, I’ll reference Angel, from the show Angel.  He’d just faced Wolfram&Hart’s “Partners” or whatever it was they were called.  And, the reality is that their leadership actually comes from the ground level, simple human evils.  There’s no great cosmic evil battling a great cosmic good.  There is just this one evil that endures.

    The next episode, he spends nearly the entire episode trying to get people to listen to his epiphany.

    Angel: “Well, I guess I kinda – worked it out. If there is no great glorious
    end to all this, if – nothing we do matters, – then all that matters is what we
    do. ’cause that’s all there is. What we do, now, today. – I fought for so
    long. For redemption, for a reward – finally just to beat the other guy, but…
    I never got it.”
    Kate: “And now you do?”
    Angel: “Not all of it. All I
    wanna do is help. I wanna help because – I don’t think people should suffer, as
    they do. Because, if there is no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of
    kindness – is the greatest thing in the world.”

    The thing about searching in God for absolute meaning and absolute morality is that you’re not going to find it there.  All you’ll find there is what holds meaning to God and what God likes or dislikes.  And, no force makes him right and you wrong if you disagree.  Oh, sure, you can have faith in absolute meaning and absolute morality, but those are faiths over and above the existence of a deity and, quite frankly, have no requirement in one.

    My values don’t matter because the whole of reality has them written into its very essence.  So what if it did?  My values matter because they matter to me.  Your values matter because they matter to you.

  • Seriously, anyone who can’t figure out how to do basic “Do you like this?” “I want to do that” communication, and make it sexy and playful, shouldn’t be having sex anyway.

    The Pervocracy blog has a more in-depth discussion of sexual communication, including a discussion of the “verbal consent = robot lawyers” strawman, here:  (Probably NSFW.)

  • I think there are a lot of other places which could benefit from having that sort of visual signal available, especially churches like the ones you describe.

    That does seem like a nice, non-instrusive, straight-to-the-point approach, though I feel like I’d read it as “Ask before hugging [me]” and not a general rule (and I say that as someone who isn’t going to ask because he isn’t going to hug).  Which would obviously work insofar as that person, naturally. But in situations like, say, my workplace, it would be frowned on (as with many others). Well, not that people try to HUG me at work. That would be odd.
    But back-patting, like I mentioned, does happen. A lot of people seem to take a “don’t touch” as offensive or overly offended, or, like me (with other things, since I don’t touch people in general) become horrified at the thought they have offendED and then are stuck with reacting overcautiously to everything.¹

    Of course, it’s just one pebble. But that’s how this sort of thing starts.

    I certainly do think that’s valid and important (and maybe some doofus like me will be saved an internal “Er…” moment, or–I can only hope–I’ve indirectly spared someone like my ex or my friend in the future), but the thing I’m always struck with is “What about the strangers?”

    Maybe this is just my own problem, being officially-diagnosed-with-AS-but-not-quite-convinced-though-sure-there’s-something-going-on. Almost everyone is a stranger to me, so I have no idea how to approach a person. Those churches–I saw those people once a year, twice, tops. I went for mother’s day to make my mom happy, sometimes at another date for the same reason. The last time, I went for my ex, who wanted to see my mom preach before she retired. So these total strangers are treating me like a close friend–but they’re *strangers*, so how do I know how to politely say, “By the way, person with 75 years of experience on this earth who is clearly just being friendly and has never understood this to be anything BUT friendly, don’t touch the love of my life here, and it’s none of your business why”? (okay, she’d’ve murdered me for that, and so I only ever told my friends, whom I knew I could say it to and leave it at that–but still) Obviously, not in those terms, probably not being specific, either–still, how?

    Customers are even worse. Or co-workers. Bad enough to worry about the response of strangers you never have to see again, but the people you work with daily, or the people who have to buy stupid stuff from you so that you can keep your job? Yerg. A lady once thought it was acceptable to jokingly (and thus feather-lightly) slap me across the face after I admitted I’d made an error regarding a schedule. I had no earthly idea what to do; I knew it was inappropriate, I also knew I was under major pressure to make sales. I threw a blanket over it in my brain and just went on with the sale and the day. 

    Those are the situations I have no idea how the stories work in–here, here it’s a normal conversation that people have. This subject is part of the existing vernacular, here. Out in the world…if I don’t know someone I’m knowingly giving a shield or what have you, I’m not likely to say anything on my own behalf. Because if I look around and I’m the only person not only thinking this, but the only one seeming to have any kind of issue with it–it just seems insurmountable. I don’t see people bothering other people with it, nor people being bothered by it. So why am I just coming in and saying, “Hey, don’t do that”? I can deal with my discomfort, so I can’t attribute the need to me. The people I know are hundreds, thousands of miles from here, so there’s no personal attachment either. How does it occur in places like this? And what if I/someone like me who is aware of this had never moved here? Whole (small) town that exists as a largely closed environment that would find the entire thought alien, weird, and unnecessary.

    Maybe I’m just feeling lost, because I hadn’t heard “that’s gay” as a response to bad news for probably a decade now. And now I hear it every day. And I’m not working in a middle school in 1998. And everyone (from every race! hooray equality!) makes racist jokes all day. And the social structure suggests that actually makes everyone at work feel *more* comfortable…except me, anyway…

    ¹Or REALLY be like me, and end up scattered and possibly worse by trying to keep things mentioned in mind, predict future ones, and not treat a person who said something like they are anything but normal and just have a specific request. IE, acknowledging but not making a big deal…externally. I’m really not good at this stuff.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Pro-tip: If you feel the need to tag something with “Sorry, I had to,” don’t bother saying it. You’re being a dick, and you know you’re being a dick. That’s why you feel the need to apologize.

    Also, nobody is forcing you to type words. You don’t “have to” say anything. That just condemns what you’re saying even more. 

  • Albanaeon

     That’s not very far from a homework post I made in a Philosophy class telling others how I can define right and wrong as an atheistic Taoist.  “If this is all we get, causing suffering is the worst thing you can do to a person.”

    Considering there were several “strong Christians” and all I got were positive and thoughtful posts in reply, I am encouraged to think that maybe we’re starting to get beyond a lot of the current bs.

  • flat

    well I once wrote here that poor communication kills, and when it comes to sex poor communications usually impregnates.

  • vsm

    I still find script #3 mechanistic and unsexy. Good thing I decided to stop having sex, I guess.

  • EllieMurasaki

    My partner used to sell buttons at science-fiction conventions, the pin-back kind about 2″ in diameter, with slogans on them. One of our most popular designs was the one that said “Ask Before Hugging”. I think there are a lot of other places which could benefit from having that sort of visual signal available, especially churches like the ones you describe.
    Yeah, but that button still implies the default setting is ‘hug me’. It is not, or it should not be.

  • Mark Z.

    Okay, imagine for a moment that you’re the sort of touchy-feely person who hugs people because you’re trying to be friendly.

    Now, you spend a weekend at a convention, and meet lots of new people, and about one in three of them is wearing an “Ask Before Hugging” badge. Because you’re trying to be friendly, you ask before hugging. Some say yes, some say no. But by the end of the weekend, you know that you need to look for the badge. And some people have their backs to you, or have the badge in a non-obvious place, so you learn that it’s safest to ask everyone. It only takes a moment, and the people who are okay with being hugged are okay with being asked, too.

    If you can carry that habit away with you when you leave, then we’ve made the world a slightly more consensual place.

    The default setting in our society is “hug me”, in a lot of places. It shouldn’t be, but it is. If you don’t like that, you gotta do something about it.

    I used to just suck it up, but lately I’ve been forcing myself to say “In the future, please ask before you touch me.” The wording is balanced to be as clear and direct as I can get without being accusatory. It’s still awkward as hell, because as far as they know they’re following a legitimate social script, and breaking out of a social script is always awkward. But when I meet those people again, they ask.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Good if the lesson sticks. Not good if the lesson doesn’t stick or if the hugger concludes that the potential huggees without badges don’t need to be asked before hugging.

  • ohiolibrarian

     I think the pebble comment was less about you specifically being able to be more comfortable, than it was about general consciousness-raising. If you talk about your discomfort with promiscuous touching, people may be more sensitive about whoever they encounter who shows some signs of discomfort when they go to hug/paw/pat/kiss/hold hands with a relative stranger.

    Well, considerate people will. A-holes will continue to be a-holes.

  • Hm.

    Suppose, hypothetically, that I’m a non-hugger in a culture of huggers. Suppose I agree with you completely that my culture is wrong. Suppose I had previously been under the impression that clearly communicating my non-hugger status was a good thing, both to remind huggers that not everyone is a hugger (and that I in particular am not), and to remind my fellow non-huggers that they are not alone.

    Suppose that, upon reading your comment, I suddenly realize I’ve been mistaken all this time, and what I’ve really been doing by clearly communicating my non-hugger status is endorsing the pernicious idea that people who don’t communicate their status are huggers.

    So, OK: hypothetically, what ought I do? Wait until someone hugs me without my explicit consent, and then correct them after the fact?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wear the ask-before-hugging button and figure out some way to convey the idea that absence of button does not mean absence of necessity to ask before hugging, I suppose. Gotta live in the culture that sucks while working to change the parts that suck, rather than trying to live in the not-sucky culture that doesn’t yet exist.

  • Wear the ask-before-hugging button and figure out some way to convey the idea that absence of button does not mean absence of necessity to ask before hugging

     (nods) Yeah, that’s pretty much where I end up as well.

  • I think the pebble comment was less about you specifically being able to be more comfortable, than it was about general consciousness-raising. 

    I didn’t mean it as related to me specially, I just spoke in terms of my experience as means of concretely laying out occasions with which I’m familiar, which I know are not exclusive or unique to me. Hence “How does it occur in places like this? And what if I/someone like me who is aware of this had never moved here? Whole (small) town that exists as a largely closed environment that would find the entire thought alien, weird, and unnecessary.”–how would the same important lesson be imparted to a place that doesn’t have a person aware of it? What happens when people from that location go out from their area where there’s not even a question about this behaviour? How does someone bring it up in an area that is running on years of, seemingly, no one in the vicinity taking this as an issue?

    How do salespeople do it, knowing it’s easy to ruin those kinds of relationships sometimes? How does one bring it up with someone who has gone on 75 years without ever having the idea brought up?

    Personal examples are intended as evidence of experience and a measure of understanding, not a call for personal relief. 

  • Even as a non-toucher, I’m not really sure I can get behind “the only valid moral culture is one where there all touching is invitation-only; any culture where the default is ‘hugs are okay’ definitionally sucks.” As long as the wishes of non-huggers are respected, I’m okay with a culture where huggability defaults to yes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But if the default is anything but hugging is invitation-only, then either non-huggers have to announce their status every time or they have to put up with being hugged. Somebody’s going to be inconvenienced here no matter what, so the first concern can be more or less ignored, but the second concern is an invasion of personal space which cannot be so easily dismissed.

  • My own preference is a culture where the default is “don’t initiate contact that makes some people uncomfortable without some grounds for believing that the person I’m initiating contact with isn’t one of those people.”

  •  Right there with you on the extreme discomfort in how to respond to people touching me. I was only diagnosed with AS* last year at age 32. While that diagnosis made my childhood a LOT easier to understand, it also made me more ambivalent about dealing with people.

    I really don’t like being touched. I had to train myself not to flinch and tighten up when relatives hugged me, and even now it’s an instinctive response to unexpected physical contact. Learning that there is a neurological basis for this has made me feel less like a freak about it, but also has me feeling that I ought to explain it to people rather than just trying to hide it. Which has the added anxiety of worrying about hurting people’s feelings because I can’t read people at all.

    *Officially the diagnosis was an Autism Spectrum Disorder, rather than AS, to be in line with the DSM IV. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

  • Right there with you on the extreme discomfort in how to respond to people touching me. I was only diagnosed with AS* last year at age 32. While that diagnosis made my childhood a LOT easier to understand, it also made me more ambivalent about dealing with people.[…]Which has the added anxiety of worrying about hurting people’s feelings because I can’t read people at all.

    The actual diagnosis I got from the Autism specialist was “I am firm in my belief that you do have AS, but I think you have an extremely IQ that has let you mask it for a very long time.”
    I really just fear being someone who doesn’t have an *actual neurological disorder* trying to blame his problems on one. You know, one thing to be *unable* to read people, another to “not bother” or something.I flip flop; my ex who could read me (probably still can, and still probably better than anyone else in my entire life, including myself) has one brother way into the spectrum, and another at the AS end of it. Does kind of lend itself to the notion that her unique ability to read me could be influenced by experience. However, I can usually read others on some level (this was why I discounted the whole idea when a non-professional first suggested it, and then when a professional who admitted no experience with it suggested it, too)–but the specialist basically thought I’d just already developed reasonably accurate internal analyses that just strongly resembled reading in end effect. Ho hum.

    If nothing else, I can definitely understand the ambivalence about people (I lean more toward aversion–between the actual failures and the ones I apparently “read” and just make up…enough in a row and my anxiety starts to get intolerable) as well as the anxiety about hurting people by mentioning discomforts–social expectation and that anxiety are what inform my disinterest in saying something. That, and the fear of losing a signal that may not “work” for me, but that does still pass along the intended message: “I do not hate or dislike you.” yknow–“Whew, good to know.”

    (Actually, most of that informs the confessional attitudes I take in writing, as well as my rambling. I feel like I come out really, really strangely without some kind of clarification.)

  • AnonaMiss

    Do those of you who are non-huggers/non-touchers find handshakes to be an issue too? Since we’re on the topic.

  • I can be startled when touched unawares, but handshakes are a non-issue. I think it’s because it’s so culturally ingrained as just that-thing-you-do.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve been told there’s a good chance I have AS. But it’s possible instead that my reclusiveness in childhood caused me to miss learning about social interaction like everyone else. Or that the lingering effects of emotional and physical abuse from those years cause me to misread or ignore social cues – I find eye contact to be uncomfortable.

  • AnonymousSam

    I just saw an ad on youtube offering rebuttal for the minimum wage increase, arguing that when Obama said a person earning minimum wage makes only $14K a year, he was LOL WRONG because that person would be more likely to be the second or even third income holder in a family living together, which would be expected to be making as much as $47K.

    Fine. How about you, your wife and your kid all go out and make minimum wage. Get back to us on how well that goes for you. I trust you’ll have to downsize a few of your lifestyle venues… smaller house… smaller meals… one car, used, bought off somebody’s lawn… being in debt for decades at a time… your kid not being able to move out because s/he’s sure as hell not going to get a spouse and have a kid with a job and instantly be producing $47K too…

    To quote George Carlin in a similar context, “I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Enlightening, too.”

  • That always gets trotted out as the excuse to not raise the minimum wage – the notion that the min. wage earner is not the primary breadwinner of the household, but is rather the auxiliary wage-earner, etc. (-_-)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sometimes it’s even true. But the times when it’s true are predominantly white middle-class teens, I’m guessing…