Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Pornography Filter - I like disagreeing with myself

Ok, so previously I blogged about the pornography filter. Although I am still vehemently opposed to government restriction on what consenting adults can choose to do, I will contradict my earlier work as follows.

Pornography is NOT natural.

Big statement that I will have to back up. Ok, so being attracted to attractive human beings is normal. Choosing to look at/create/be part of static images of naked people is also more natural. Our brains are capable of telling the difference between a static photograph or painting and real life. But video pornography. This is where things get complicated.

There is a growing body of evidence (I will cite this when I can be bothered to sit down and look up references but I have a load of extra work to do, so this is secondary to my current aims) that supports a claim that the hormonal shift associated with masturbating to orgasm whilst viewing sexually explicit videos does not create a distinction between the actual act occurring and the simulated act occurring on the screen; in short, our rational brains are no match for powerful biochemistry.

This creates pathways, that associate the viewing of pornography with arousal, and deviates from the norm of finding a partner attractive. We are now encountering a growing body of young men who suffer from anorgasmia, anarousal and a plethora of other problems. I can count myself in this number.

Yes, I also used to view pornography on a regular basis. And it did two things that I was not aware that it was doing. The first is that ruined my bedroom experience. Real women are complex human beings with emotions and pornography always fails to convey this. In short, women in porn do things that real women would never ever do. Clearly this creates some degree of disappointment; women don't match up to expectations. Well clearly one would turn back to what wasn't creating disappointment. Which is a relationship killer.

The second is that it changed my perception of women. I would wonder completely inappropriate questions (does she shave her pubic hair, I wonder if she like sucking dick) when dealing with friends, relatives etc. that were female. I viewed women as sexual objects. Not as human beings with feelings and emotions and issues. No that was secondary to my aims. And it is this casual objectification that I am thoroughly opposed to.

Now I am presenting anecdotal evidence which is one of the worst forms of evidence but I can only come from my experience.

I first encountered the nofap community on 4chan, many years ago. Back then I thought it was laughable, but then I read some of their work. Now I disagree with no masturbating. Masturbation is completely normal and isn't harmful. It's the gratification that's the problem. I found myself in a hole that was attributable entirely to pornography use. So I finally made the decision, back in April, to stop. And I did. And although I've slipped from the wagon once or twice, I've made a conscious decision to stop viewing explicit images and videos. And I've noticed a few changes. For the first time in my life, I could see the objectification of women. And it horrified me that a) it was so prevalent and b) that I had been a part of this. Women are judged by male dominated society for their EVERY decision. Institutions such as science and medicine are set up to exclude typically female desires (such as having a family, settling down etc.) And it is vile.

The second is that I no longer feel pressure when I chat with females. I have always had a lot of female friends but when I was in the sway of my pornography addiction, I would have intrusive thoughts about them on a regular basis. This has been abated entirely. I no longer wonder about the bodies of friends. I accept it's not my business. And it's great. My friendships feel so much better now, and I don't feel dirty anymore. It's a fantastically liberating experience.

So, it's not prudish to give up porn. Personally I'd recommend it. Do yourself a favour and quit watching it, and watch your anxieties and problems fade away, and your life should (if you allow it) blossom!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Extraordinary Form

Here's hoping that this doesn't get a million and one page views. I'm going to write about something, for once, that is truly close to my hearts.

About 2 months ago, we lost my grandmother. It was sudden, and unexpected, and it was a sharp stab in the back. I recall sitting, sweating, in Kettering General Hospital accident and emergency to be told, eventually, by my grandfather, that it was over.

Thus I was thrown back into a world that I had abandoned about 2 and half years ago. A kick in the pants, in the right direction. I was thrust back into the Roman Catholicism that I had been baptised into when I was 11, confirmed when I was 12 and followed until I was 19. At that point in my life, I had just moved away from home and going to church every Sunday was not high on my priorities.

But I made a confession, and came back into the faith early in May and I have enjoyed, what my Grandfather refers to as, my conversion back. Part of this, involved me finding mass in the city in which I live, which is Leicester. I found my nearest church; a Dominican Priory, serving the two universities in the city. I can still remember, when I went there in first year. I attended the extraordinary form with an then girlfriend who was a protestant, to really satisfy our mutual curiosity about the traditional forms of the mass. We found it to be an interesting experience, but it didn't push us away from what we were doing.

So, with some trepidation, I came back to that mass. And I was surprised. For it was profound, and for the first time in my Catholic experience, I was able to focus on the sacrifice of the mass; the literal offering, the transubstantiation that occurs upon the altar. A friend, who visited me (an atheist friend, I hasten to add), noted that it was powerful and very reverent and medieval. He walked away with an interested look on his face, and I was even more surprised that it should have an effect on a man who is vehemently anti-God.

But I must be careful at this point, not the defame the ordinary, vernacular form of the mass. For the same offering takes place in both. The same presence, the same intent. The presence of Christ is the focus of worship, NOT the liturgy. To worship the liturgy would be wrong.

But to bring to my main point, I was reading a book on the symbolism and rituals of hinduism (I refuse to narrow my reading because of faith based concerns, all knowledge is great). I came across a line that really rang true to the very core of my being. The salient point being, that in modern hinduism, much of the significance of the rituals and the imagery had been lost and had become mere ritual with no thought. And it occurred to me: could this be the source of the profundity that I experience with the extraordinary form of the mass? Could it be that the extraordinary form allows for the significance of the rituals to be seen with more clarity? Certainly, in my opinion. But perhaps not the opinion of everyone else. (It doesn't have to be).

Certainly, the vernacular has it's place, but it is my opinion (and let's be very clear here that this is MY OPINION) that the meaning behind the symbolism has been lost and it is too easy for people to listen to their own language and not to reflect on the sacred mystery of the mass (cf. Mark 4.12). Perhaps it would be relevant to say that it is an attempt to understand that which is not understandable and that any attempt to do so can only fail. This being said, the current, and ordinary form of the mass is very popular with the bulk of people within the church and I would discourage any person from feeling that either the traditional or the modern form is better than the other. It is the same sacrifice. But I do wonder whether some of the perceived irreverence comes from a lack of understanding, and blind ignorance, than from shortcomings in the ordinary form of the mass. With the extraordinary form, one does get the sensation that this is special and the use of latin to celebrate the rite takes it above the language spoken by all the people. It is a sacred and special time, and the use of latin reinforces this. Once again, this is my opinion so it is not truth, nor fact (heh, I would love, if I had more time, to blog on truth and fact. Anselm of Canterbury has got me thinking...)

I will add now that I find the traditional form of the mass to be uplifting and joyous, and I have time to consider and ponder the true mysteries of the faith; I feel closer to God there than any other time. Given the choice, I would take this over the ordinary or modern form. But if the modern form was all that was available then I would accept it with joy and happiness. After all, it was the mass that introduced me to the faith.