maybe circumcision explains a lot

This is an excellent explanation of why Foucault said gender and mental health labels are exercises of power:

Marginalized people notice these dynamics, because they come into conflict with them, but the rules seem like natural parts of the universe for people whose identities are well-accounted for by standard categories. The most stable power relations are the ones that seem natural. Consider this:

Getting a tattoo is a rush. As the needle cut through my skin I was babbling, I was breathing fast, I was a little sweaty, I felt alive. I was secretly nervous that this was a big mistake.

But when the tattoo artist finished, I felt elated. He did such a good job. Riding on my tattoo high, I came home to my boyfriend. He didn’t say much and I could tell he wasn’t happy. I told him I was getting a tattoo beforehand, but didn’t ask his opinion on the matter.

He finally said, “If you get another tattoo, there’s going to be a problem.”

My heart started to pound. I already felt insecure about revealing my freshly cut tattoo to the world and by the tone of his voice I knew this wasn’t going to be a fun conversation. I took a breath and pressed for more information. “What sort of problem?”

He said, “I won’t be attracted to you anymore.”

I was shocked. I didn’t think he would be over-the-moon happy about my new tattoo, but I didn’t expect that a tattoo could elicit such a dramatic reaction.

After “weeks” of fighting and arguing about “respecting his opinion,” her self-determination is damaged but not destroyed:

He was right about one thing: I should have been an adult and talked with him before I got the tattoo. I decided not to start a discussion with him beforehand because I feared he would change my mind.

Now, I see that if I had explained why this tattoo was meaningful and important to me it would have helped him understand a little better, and most importantly, reaffirm that he is a vital partner in our relationship.

Now that I have been warned about inking myself for a third time, should I risk my relationship over a tattoo?

My response was and continues to be, “My body, my money, my choice.”

In short: I started planning on forbidden tattoo number three.

In other words, he’s just generally threatening and intimidating. He didn’t need to say something specific for her to know it was prudent to worry. She “feared he would change my mind,” rather than “expected him to come along and hold my hand.” It’s presumed that the answer to his neediness is that he makes decisions about her skin, angrily.

The ring leader of the “sheer disgust” category is my boss. He is old-fashioned and when he saw my tattoo I thought he was going to faint.

I finally had a discussion with him about it. He told me my tattoo was ugly. He told me I should have come to him before I got it because he would have talked me out of it. Talk about lacking filters or boundaries.

The worst part was that he felt so strongly he started to cry. This has made going to work uncomfortable. I consciously try hiding my tattoo by holding my arm in certain ways. Inevitably I forget to hide it, catch my boss staring at the tattoo, and each time this brings back the memory of him crying in his office.

Really, her boss is “crying like a little bitch,” but I suspect that if you pressed him on the issue he’d invoke Jesus to manlify it somehow. These same behaviors would be labeled “borderline” in women for sure. She’s even worried about validating her boyfriend.

For a certain kind of asshole man, plainly pathological behavior is valorized in “progressive” places like Alternet:

Some people have no interest in talking dirty, and that’s okay. But the curious might just find if they were to try it, they’d like it.

One man I’ll call Dave told me, “So with my wife and I, it started with simple talking. I would tell her how to suck or how to touch me. Then it got more intense. I would start to call her names. I started by calling her a slut; then it progressed. I thought the c-word would be too much for her, but it isn’t. Then I thought the b-word would be over the top, but she likes it.”

He explained, “Honestly, if I don’t have any name-calling, I can’t get off. She knows it too.”

Call me heteronormative, but I think that calls into question Dave’s capacity for affection, empathy, and respect. He can only fuck the cunts of bitches, is what he’s saying. Emotional warmth as a path to orgasm is foreclosed. It’s not the fact of aggressive sexual impulses. It’s the exclusivity of them.

Hm…it’s almost like the majority of male infants undergo ritual genital mutilation because their caretakers don’t take their pain seriously. Also, men are bad at feelings.

This was a really interesting paper about the importance of being touched and rocked as a baby, and how the lack of that probably has a lot to do with later antisocial behavior. It has a bold conclusion:

Human physical affectional love which is mutually shared neutralizes power in human relationships and provides for the neurobiological and neuropsychological foundations for egalitarian, peaceful and harmonious behavior in human relationships. This is the only true antidote or “behavioral vaccine” to the depression, alienation, anger/rage/violence and alcohol/drug abuse and addiction which afflicts and is destroying homo sapiens.

A straightforward prescription. Note that this is the antithesis of our society:

  1. Every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy. Every child is a wanted child.
  2. Every pregnancy should be free from alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other harmful agents of stress.
  3. Every pregnancy should have proper nutrition and health.
  4. Every normal birth should be without drugs.
  5. Every birth should be a loving event with family and friends.
  6. Every baby should be breast-fed for two years or longer and be given a loving massage every day.
  7. Every baby should be carried on the body of its mother, father or caretaker as much as possible.
  8. No baby, child or person should be subjected to any form of genital mutilation notwithstanding reasons of religious belief or social custom.
  9. No baby or child should be hit, spanked or humiliated.
  10. No baby or child should be left to cry itself to sleep or left to cry for any reason.
  11. The personal dignity of every baby and child should always be respected and affirmed.
  12. The emerging sexuality of every child and adolescent should always be respected and affirmed.
  13. The right of self-determination in the sexual expression of affection and love is a basic right of all persons.
  14. Every human being should receive a loving massage every day.
  15. Sexual affection and sexual love are esential wellsprings for human peace, harmony and peace.
  16. The home and family is the cradle of alienation and violence or the cradle of love and universal peace.

This map shows the prevalence of circumcision around the world:

Could it be a case of abused, traumatized men acting like abused, traumatized women?

On the other hand, there are various factors that may contribute to or suggest a bias in favour of circumcision. A survey of randomly selected primary care physicians showed that circumcision was more often supported by doctors who were older, male, and circumcised (12). Minimising evidence of harm and using medical claims to defend circumcision when that evidence is conflicting at best, could be some of the unconscious ways for some male physicians to avoid the emotional discomfort of questioning their own circumcision (13). (Of note, the AAP Task Force on Circumcision was composed of five men and two women.)

Studies also indicate that protecting self-esteem sometimes takes priority over being accurate or correct, and potentially threatening information may be reinterpreted or dismissed, sometimes unconsciously, as a result (14, 15). Other research has demonstrated that people will continue an endeavour once they have invested time and effort (16). To avoid inconsistency between beliefs and experience (i.e., cognitive dissonance), beliefs about circumcision tend to be aligned with the experience of performing circumcisions (17). For physicians who have performed hundreds or thousands of circumcisions (or have chosen circumcision for their own son), the possible use of such psychological defence mechanisms to deny some of the evidence against circumcision could serve, in part, to protect their self-esteem, which could be adversely affected by the conscious recognition that circumcision may harm infants. A few members of the AAP Task Force on Circumcision have routinely performed circumcisions, and, consistent with the above psychosocial research, those members also tended to be the ones who advocated circumcision (18). This relationship suggests that the attitudes about circumcision of at least some committee members were already set at the start of the policy review, and their attitudes may have been unaffected by what they found in the literature.

On a completely related note, I was surprised that only 12.7% of people leave their parents’ religion to become “unaffiliated with any religious group.” There’s a article about this study:

We examined with functional magnetic resonance imaging the brain activity of 12 supernatural believers and 11 skeptics who first imagined themselves in critical life situations (e.g. problems in intimate relationships) and then watched emotionally charged pictures of lifeless objects and scenery (e.g. two red cherries bound together). Supernatural believers reported seeing signs of how the situations were going to turn out in the pictures more often than skeptics did. Viewing the pictures activated the same brain regions among all participants (e.g. the left inferior frontal gyrus, IFG). However, the right IFG, previously associated with cognitive inhibition, was activated more strongly in skeptics than in supernatural believers, and its activation was negatively correlated to sign seeing in both participant groups. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on the universal processes that may underlie supernatural beliefs and the role of cognitive inhibition in explaining individual differences in such beliefs.

Lightbulb moment! Salon summarizes some other research:

So, a child with weak cognitive inhibition and a positive relationship with his married parents of the same faith is likely to carry on in the religious family tradition. A child with strong cognitive inhibition who is forced to go to church against his will is likely to rebel.

That would be a 1-sentence description of how I stopped being religious. The reason cognitive inhibition is key is that you generally don’t “unlearn” things. A trace of the original learning stays there, and new learning happens on top of it. In order for that to happen, the old learning has to be actively inhibited. This is why prefrontal damage causes perseverative behavior:

Behavior becomes inflexible when you can’t stop the old behavior. Activism is fundamentally difficult, because it’s hard to get people to “inhibit prepotent responses.” Everything that impairs executive function gets in the way, including stress, sleep deprivation, bad diet, poor education, overparenting, etc. People have to override their natural responses in the face of strong social pressure not to, which is stressful in itself. Personal identities might need to be redefined.

Paul Graham noted this, of all people:

The world is more addictive than it was 40 years ago. And unless the forms of technological progress that produced these things are subject to different laws than technological progress in general, the world will get more addictive in the next 40 years than it did in the last 40.

The next 40 years will bring us some wonderful things. I don’t mean to imply they’re all to be avoided. Alcohol is a dangerous drug, but I’d rather live in a world with wine than one without. Most people can coexist with alcohol; but you have to be careful. More things we like will mean more things we have to be careful about.

Most people won’t, unfortunately. Which means that as the world becomes more addictive, the two senses in which one can live a normal life will be driven ever further apart. One sense of “normal” is statistically normal: what everyone else does. The other is the sense we mean when we talk about the normal operating range of a piece of machinery: what works best.

These two senses are already quite far apart. Already someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don’t think you’re weird, you’re living badly.

In America, 20 years earlier, Baudrillard said something similar:

It is like the obese person who keeps on getting fatter, the record rotating endlessly in the same groove, the cells of a tumour proliferating, like everything that has lost the formula for stopping itself. This entire society, including its active, productive part–everyone–is running straight ahead, because they have lost the formula for stopping.

Terence McKenna sets us all straight: