How a Fundie Christian Became a Casual Sex Advocate

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This may come as a shock, but I’ve always been kind of a weirdo. I grew up a fundamentalist Christian in Alabama who saved herself for marriage. But I also read Bitch and Bust and considered myself a feminist starting around 10th grade.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like most people are overly true to their “type.” I fear that constraint narrows their awareness.

For example, I was a prohibitionist during high school and my first half of college. I was drug-free myself, and saw firsthand what descent into addiction and apathy had done to my friends. So I fully supported state efforts to save people from similar fates.

I had absolutely no knowledge of the harm prohibition does to poor and minority communities. And why would I? I’m white and straddled the line between poor and middle class. No one I knew had been jailed for possession (or anything, I think). No one I knew had had their homes raided. It wasn’t until free-market economics brought me to libertarianism which brought me to Reason magazine that I discovered the horrors of the drug war.

It’s an acknowledged fear, if not an established problem, that the decline of mainstream media has fragmented information flows. The internet makes it so easy to filter out most information that you don’t already care about and that might contradict your worldview.

So when middle-class white men want to know why I keep harping about rape culture, socially liberal people ask why I bother writing an article with a thesis as simple and obvious as “casual sex is okay for some people,” and someone wants to mansplain that the reason we should legalize marijuana is the non-aggression principle, not racism, I try to take a deep breath to remember, “They don’t know.” Because I didn’t know. Because there was no reason for me to know.

I think a good chunk of humanity honestly doesn’t know about rape culture, because not everyone reads outlets that report on things like the school principal who refused to report his student’s rape so star athlete wouldn’t suffer. These dude and dudettes are like, living their lives, reading The Wall Street Journal, being productive members of society. And that’s great. But it leaves them, for lack of a better word, ignorant about things that many ladies have to deal with that maybe don’t interest and affect everyone the same way.

Similarly, many people who grow up along coasts and in cities really could not have any conception of what it’s like to be told from a young age that sex outside of marriage will ruin your chances for a good marriage, make you sinful and unworthy to be looked upon by God, cause people to lose respect for you, and make you guilty of hurting your sex partner’s walk with God. The fear and shame around sex that some of us grow up with I think would really shock the uninitiated.

So one of the things that excites me most about Thoughts on Liberty, and animates a lot of what I choose to write about, is the opportunity to take people who are already on board with free market economics, classical liberalism, and non-aggression and introduce them to the idea that there doesn’t have to be shame or fear in casual sex, make them more aware of the visceral demoralizing atrocity that is the drug war and help them see rape culture in all its incarnations.

More broadly in life I would like everyone to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. Let’s just say someone denies rape culture, or downplays the racism in the drug war or tries to shame you about what you’re wearing. Instead of assuming they are misogynists or racists or just apathetic to plight that’s not their own, consider that they are probably just understandably ignorant. No one reads all the same shit as you. There are like a million things to watch and read, meaning a person could literally go their whole lives totally missing the stories that shape your world. Instead of getting angry or writing them off, take a deep, cleansing breath, remember that they may know things you’re ignorant about, and try to hand them a little bit of information that may help make them more aware.

It’s tough. But I think it’s worth it.

Or, maybe (and I often suspect this is true) men’s rights activists and social conservatives are just trolling me. In which case, I just need to quit the internet.

  • Dustin K

    This is especially important to remember for those of us who have come out of a particular ignorance. I often get frustrated with people because I think to myself “If I’VE learned about ___________ by now, how the hell could YOU have missed it?” Which is not helpful.

    • http://twitter.com/CathyReisenwitz Cathy Reisenwitz

      Oh yes, me too. This is why I try not to engage with social cons, because it gives me knee-jerk anger and PTSD, haha.

  • William

    As always, this was very well-written and thought out! You bring up a very good point: we shouldn’t, perhaps, assume that anyone who holds x view is racist, sexist, etc., but rather, that they probably haven’t thought it out that much, or haven’t been exposed to something we have–and therefore, we ought to be patient and understanding.

    We ought to be charitable when it comes to those we disagree with, for at least the reason of good strategy: someone is not likely to take you seriously, or kindly, if you insult them/are hostile to them. So, even if someone is being racist or sexist, instead of angrily trying to call them out and shame them into changing their views/actions, we ought to try to be more empathetic and patient. This challenges, of course, the view that shaming can be an important tool for more-or-less peacefully achieving social change (as an alternative to more coercive state-based means), and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that….My intuition is that shaming only works when the target already respects the shamer, and it doesn’t seem likely that this will be the case in many encounters. None of this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t call the bad things out when they happen; we absolutely should, but we can do so without attacking the people who do them.

    I know this much: like you Cathy, I used to hold views that I now see as poorly reasoned and/or immoral. I didn’t come to libertarianism by being attacked (verbally), but rather (partly) from years of debating with people I already liked and who liked me. The lesson I drew from this is that you can have all the good arguments you want, but at the end of the day, what seems most important is simply being a good person.

    • William

      Another point: properly understood, humility is central to libertarianism. Your suggestion that people who hold views are not necessarily bad people, but rather are just ignorant, seems to embody this virtue insofar as it recognizes that people are not perfect (including ourselves), and avoids a black/white-I’m good/they’re bad dichotomy. It also encourages realism by reminding us that not everything is “into” thinking about the stuff we think about. This fact is crucial to remember and consider in the effort to spread support for libertarian ideas.

    • http://twitter.com/CathyReisenwitz Cathy Reisenwitz

      Thank you so much William. I like you too! Haha. And I couldn’t agree more that arguing with people will get you absolutely nowhere with them. Another take on the “people need to like you to believe you” thing is Haidt via Arthur Brooks, which focuses on how you need to establish yourself as a moral person, or as you put it, a good person, before people will listen to you. Fascinating stuff.

  • Wants the D

    You’ve been very horny lately, Cathy.

    • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

      Who isn’t horny? I know I sure as hell am.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1457760294 Robert Fellner

    This was excellent. The rape culture stuff absolutely came as a shock to me as I was totally ignorant of that, just as you explain in this post. Really good stuff.

  • Thalindrome

    So why again did you become a casual sex advocate? Because you grew up in the bible belt? I didn’t see any train of progression or reasoning here.

  • April M.

    Excellent post. This message resonates deeply with me, as I too grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household in Alabama in which my minister father believed in statist enforcement of morality. I moved away and lived in France for a while, but am now finishing up law school in my hometown. My Canadian-born husband and I find ourselves butting our heads against walls, when we encounter ignorant arguments on rape, race, the drug war, and our interracial union. In particular, my husband does not understand why religious moral arguments factor so heavily into the policies of American conservatives. I identify as libertarian and enjoy the legal scholarship of Epstein and Posner. It’s quite easy to assume that everyone reads the wide array of materials you do. Thanks for reminding us that everyone has a degree of ignorance and of the importance of patience with dialogue.

  • Janelle

    I grew up in the bible belt as well, and was (and really, still am) sometimes completely ignorantly bigoted. College has helped out a lot with that, and is continuing to help and I’m glad I can see now that my whole “it’s just a joke, dude, don’t get offended” mindset was so so wrong.

    I’m wondering though about part of your post that went like this: “and someone wants to
    mansplain that the reason we should legalize marijuana is the
    non-aggression principle, not racism, I try to take a deep breath to
    remember, ‘They don’t know.'”

    I guess I don’t know terribly much about the drug war and how racism is involved. My initial thought was something to do with the disparity in race of incarcerated people, but I want to know if I’m wrong on that, and if there’s more to the drug war than I realize. And “mansplain”?

    tl;dr Tell me/ link me to articles explaining in more detail why cannabis legalization is a race issue and not a NAP one?

    • http://sexandthestate.com/ Cathy Reisenwitz

      Hey Janelle,

      Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately harassed, arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses relative to both their percentage of the population and their rates of drug use. This is a war waged in a racist manner with consequences that are felt mostly in the Black and Latino communities.

    • darius404

      Personally, I don’t see why it can’t be both.