In particular, I find that in my own life, I tend to surround myself with people that, while far from exactly like-minded, share enough of my concerns that it's easy to forget that I hold many views that are very far from what is considered normal, even to the point of being taken for granted, in modern society. Advocating for atheism (and more generally, for skepticism), for instance, is not yet seen as acceptable in much of the United States. This makes it even more paramount to look at what those on the other side believe, think, do and say. Were I more into the militaristic metaphors with which so much of the English-speaking world seems to be so infatuated, I would say that we must know our enemies to defeat them. Instead, I'm going to be a physicist about it and say that we must know the potential energy function in which we move about.
Without further ado, then, let me start by noting that ours is a society in which people are fine with saying shallow and narrow-minded things like this:
While I was living there it was voted one of the top 10 cities for singles. What were they smoking? I want some! In Seattle I met the geeky Microsoft guy who used a discount card on our second date at a horrible restaurant. I met the engineer that ensured me he was not “a typical engineer”. Yes, yes you are. Socially awkward. Inappropriate conversation. Typical engineer. Wait, inappropriate conversation? You want more details on that? Okay…well the words “penis” and “vagina” were used, complete with gestures. Yes, that really did happen. On a date. In public. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.This kind of casual prudishness and enforcing of gender norms in dating formalisms (such as how to pay for a meal) should be seen as a large barrier towards creating a tolerant and sex-positive society in which people are free and encouraged to find and make their own happiness.
On a closely related note, the sex-negative and anti-porn group Porn Harms celebrates Facebook's shameful act of censorship:
Thank you Facebook! They just removed a very inappropriate pro-porn page with links to pornography that our children had easy access to.Keep in mind, this is the same group of people that proudly repeats Gail Dines in saying that "pornography is a 'cultural support system for violence against women,'" at once trivializing violence against women and insulting all those who work hard to make the adult entertainment industry a responsible one.
Of course, this kind of sex-negativity ties into and is fed by religious sentiments, such as those espoused in this Islamic tract that predates on the emotionally vulnerable, or this poster which uses Islam is used to justify the locking of women into narrow and repressive gender roles:
Muslim women dress in a way that is modest and dignified. The purpose of clothing is not only to protect oneself from physical elements, but also to protect oneself from immorality and pride. Some traditions of dress, and more generally, the treatment of women in some Muslim countries and societies, are often a reflection of culture. This is very often inconsistent and even contrary to Islam teachings. Prophet Muhammad said: "The most perfect in faith among you believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife." [emphasis mine]For all the poster's empty platitudes about the equality of women, there is no reasonable way to interpret the phrase "protect oneself from immorality and pride" here but to mean that women should feel shamed (that is, not proud) of their bodies in ways that men should not.
Not, mind you, that Islam is anywhere near alone in using religion to justify sex-negativity or misogyny. For example, the Christian fundamentalist Reformers Unanimous group advertises support for a questionable list of addictions, including "pornography addiction":
Help for: Addiction - Drug Intervention - Codependence - Rehab - Alcoholism - Meth Addiction - Gambling Addiction - Cocaine Addiction - Marijuana Addiction - Opiate Addiction - Codependence [sic] - Enabling - Nicotine Addiction - Pornography Addiction - Love AddictionAmongst RU's approaches to what they see as problems is the gem that all we need to do is remember that "Christ is enough." If this reminds you of "Jesus Plus Nothing," pat yourself on the back. This kind of worldview, where religious sentiment is allowed to replace all other forms of thought, is a major driving force behind many of the political problems that we face in the world today.
Sadly, one of the other major driving forces being political problems, at least in the United States, is racism. Take, for instance, the vile screed written by Mark Williams of Tea Party infamy, which includes this choice bit:
We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!This is the same Mark Williams, mind you, that objects so vehemently to the construction of a mosque near 9/11 Ground Zero, and encourages the bombing of Mecca in response. This kind of abject racism lies at the heart of much of the Tea Party. Just ask Shirley Sherrod.
Since my attempt in this is not to depress you, I'll not go on in this vein. Rather, I will point out that for every one of the examples I've shown, there is someone who cares enough to work against that kind of hate, bigotry or just plain ignorance. Even if we disagree with these caring people on some fronts-- maybe even many fronts-- we must at least recognize that they are there, working for a just cause.
One of the key strengths of the spectrum of thoughts and ideals that includes such seemingly disparate causes as progressivism, rationalism, sex-positivity and feminism is that open-mindedness is (in general) celebrated. We can disagree with each other and still recognize what commonality we have in our goals. We do not strive, as our adversaries do, for perfect uniformity in thought and deed, but only for mutual respect of our fellow human beings and a dedication to truth. In short, we are not alone. That's good, I think, given what we're up against.