The Rhinocerization of America

I’m in a bit of a state right now. I’ve been dwelling all day on how much trouble this country is in. And then the terrorism in Texas may have sent me over the edge. To not say anything seems impossible. To ask, as I did the last time we faced a terror attack, if the shooter is a terrorist, a thug or simply crazy is to make a point most everyone who reads this will already understand. To offer thoughts and prayers seems ridiculous. I’m just profoundly scared about the future of this country, and indeed, of liberal democracy in the world. I believe the moral arc of the universe bends to justice. I believe that morality is deeply rooted in the nature of human beings and in our capacity to reason. But it has always taken struggle to realize our aspirations to the human good and justice. The forces … Continue reading

It had to be us

Stop and think about it for minute: Every woman I know has said “me, too” in the last few days. In fact, it appears that every woman on FB has said, “me, too.” That’s a lot of awful treatment of millions of women. And it was not all done by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and three or four other guys. Most of us men have to be responsible for some part of it. Who else is there? Some of us may have only engaged in or tolerated the repulsive, slut-shaming that was common place when I was in college. Some of us may have asked for sex in ways that were unfair or pressured. (My book on sexuality got its start my junior year in college when I recognized that the sexual revolution gave men seeking unattached sex a new way to badger women into having sex that … Continue reading

White Male Rage and Trump’s Appeal

The appeal of Trump is no surprise to anyone who interacts with rightwingers on Facebook. Every day I see the casual racism and sexism, the hatred of immigrants and foreigners, the endless repetition of right wing talking points that have no relationship to fact, the lack of any genuine concern for anyone who has struggled in life, the contempt for people who do have that concern, the dismissal of every government effort to make life better for those who struggle or, for that matter, for shared prosperity as a whole. Not to mention signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome and incipient cases of Hillary Derangement Syndrome. Most of this comes from rude and crude young men, who delight in unfunny insults, many of which have more than a tinge of sexual aggression. It’s not hard to see the male rage at the diminished status of young white men, and sexual frustration, … Continue reading

What Has to Change and What Doesn’t: A First Look at Klein

Introduction I’d been planning to read “This Changes Everything (TCE)” for a few months, both because I want to learn more about the climate change issue and because I want to learn more about Naomi Klein’s take on the world. I’ve doing preliminary work on a project of my own on progressive political and policy strategy. (I’m also finishing another book now about sexuality and politics but I always work on two projects at once.) I finally started the book a week or so ago because my friend Cate Poe invited to join an on-line reading group. I’m only about half way through at the moment so this is a preliminary report, some of my initial thoughts on the book. I normally wouldn’t write anything until I was done with a book and spent a good deal of time thinking about it, but I feel some obligation to Cate to … Continue reading

The Best and Worst in Biblical Religion: An Open Letter to Christine Flowers

Christine, You have asked me to apologize to your friend, who called Islam evil, for calling her ignorant and bigoted. And you have threatened to block me on Facebook if I don’t do so. I have no intention of apologizing and instead I’m going to explain why I think you need to apologize for betraying the best in the religious tradition of which you claim to be so proud. If you don’t like what I have to say and you block me, that’s fine. I frankly think I’ve learned all anyone can from reading you. Let me take a moment to explain how I look at the political, moral, and religious traditions that animate our country. I grew up in an orthodox Jewish synagogue, though I moved away from orthodoxy pretty soon after my Bar Mitzvah. I’ve spent most of the last forty years studying the history of political and … Continue reading

Why Women Don’t Report Rape

Defending Cosby Many people have long loved Bill Cosby, for his abilities as an entertainer, his attractive persona or, in some cases, his penchant for blaming young black people for their difficulties. And many—although fewer each week—of these people have been so deeply troubled by the multiple accusations of sexual violence against Cosby that they have rushed to his defense. Their responses to the accusations have echoed two themes that are quite common when women accuse men of rape. First, many of the accusers have themselves been accused of lying, of making up stories about Cosby. The motives attributed to these women are varied—some have been said to be gold diggers who either hope for an out of court financial settlement of the kind Cosby gave to Andrea Constand or who hope to parlay their accusation into a magazine or book deal. (The statute of limitations for both criminal and … Continue reading

Civilization and its Contents: Platonic Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars

A précis of the book I’m hoping to finish in the next nine months or so. I’m going to start linking from this page to posts of of draft chapters soon. Comments always welcome! Civilization and its Contents: Platonic Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars critiques the conception of human sexuality that underlie both left and right in the contemporary culture wars. It presents a radically new  account of sexuality and its place in human life, one that encourages various good ways of pursuing sex that bring pleasure and a connection to other people and in a way that recognizes and supports the fundamental equality of  men and women. The three philosophical essays of part one of Civilization and Its Contents set out the traditional view of sexuality in some detail and contrasts it with a very different view, inspired by Plato and Aristotle.  I show that extremes of left and right share … Continue reading

What the Pundits Missed About President Obama’s Speech

It’s not easy to come up with instant analysis of a political speech. But, even if we grade them on a curve, it seems to me that the pundits have utterly missed the point of the President’s speech last night. Most of them seem to have found it uninspiring. Yet there is no question that the audience in Charlotte was moved by the speech. Hell, I was moved by the speech and, frankly, I tend to hold events like this at an analytical distance which makes it hard for me to get caught up in them. The pundits were right to say the speech was about the future not the past and that it proposed a continuation of Obama’s  basic approach to governing. And they were right to say that there were no bold new ideas in it. (Few Presidents do something as big and bold as health care reform and then have an … Continue reading

The New Sexual World We Have Made and the Return of the Culture Wars

In the last fifty years, we have seen a dramatic transformation in both relationships between the sexes and our relationship to sexuality. No one thinks that there is any likelihood that we will return to traditional practices and beliefs. But in the last few months Republican candidates have tried to reignite the culture war that has accompanied these transformations.

One reason that traditionalists continue to call the changes of the last fifty years into question is that of those of us who have turned away from traditionalist ideas don’t give as deep a defense of the new world we have made as we could. We defend sexual freedom, feminism, and the acceptance of homosexuality mostly by talking about the ideals of freedom, individuality and autonomy. The traditionalists answer that those modern ideals are empty and low, a mere excuse for doing whatever we want to do. And they claim that the changes in our lives are deeply in conflict with the ideals of love, marriage, and the care of children. Of course we, too, seek love, marriage and the care of children. But we haven’t asserted as strongly as we should or could that our ideals are not only fully compatible with but enhance our prospects for love, marriage and the care of our children.

This essay sketches a new theory of sexuality that underlies an account of the new sexuality we have been creating as we throw off traditional ideas and build a new way of integrating sexuality into our lives. It’s based on my forthcoming book, Civilization and Its Discontents: Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars. focus in the essay on Continue reading

Unrequited Love’s a Bore

It’s not, of course. Not when you have it pretty bad, when it is the only thing about which you can think. And not when you don’t, either. If all the songs, and films that are at least partly about unrequited love were to disappear, half the jukebox slots in America would be empty and the video stores would carry much less stock. Unrequited love is only a bore when you have to hear about it from a suffering friend. And perhaps it is also a bore when you try, as I’m going to do in this essay, to think about how we deal with it. We express or listen to expressions of unrequited love all the time. But there is surprisingly little written about unrequited love that is reflective about the variety of ways in which we might respond to it. And that’s, in one way, surprising because, as … Continue reading