Ed Cara on Sex and Skepticism panel (Virginia Brown, Franklin Veaux, Miri Mogilevsky, Benny Shaffer, Sophie Hirschfeld, Greta Christina)


– Each speaker talks about what made them question their own sexuality

7:10pm They discuss whether skepticism is better at handling issues of sexuality

– Benny’s ‘coming out’ made him question religious authority.
– Franklin believes atheist/secularism group not any better at handling issues of sexuality. Just as sexist as any other community.
– Greta cites studies of atheists being more accepting of gay community/same sex marriage.

– Miri thinks we are better at issues of homosexuality but nothing to brag about, finds skepticism a great tool for exploring issues of sexuality. It is a tool to challenge norms.

7:15pm Science and sexuality.

– Miri brings up the fear some have about science exploring questions they feel don’t need to be asked or want to be asked.

– Panel agrees about fears and misconceptions about research, plus past history of unethical research when it comes to sex.

7:20pm Science of sexuality

– Miri talks about current issues with research into sexuality

– Greta brings up well-known pratfall of sex research studying young educated college undergrads.

– Sophie brings up a study involving pedophilia where results were skewed by the age of the participants used. Says studies like that violate the trust of the public.

– Other biases include using criminals as a cohort population when looking into S&M.

– Greta brings up study of sex workers more likely to be abused. Used biased sample of sex workers who intentionally sought out mental counseling. Difficult problems to deal with, but need to be honest about flaws in research. Sophie brings up more current research debunking the sex worker/abuse connection.

7:30pm Arousal and science
– Panel talks about studies that are too simplistic about male and female arousal. Greta makes first ‘dick’ reference. Drink!

– Males prefer visual arousal, females prefer written arousal, Greta asks, why do studies use just visual stimulus in studies looking at both gender then?

7:35 pm Pseudoscience and woo.

– Franklin talks about the Tantric community and how appealing it is to people who can’t express their sexuality elsewhere, how it validates their ideas about sex.

– Sophie brings up that if communities don’t talk about sex honestly, people will leave to other communities (Skepticism). Feels that the kink community aren’t talking about important issues like rape culture enough though.

– Greta says that we internalize idea about spirituality being inherently good, even when their specific religion is very hateful towards their own sexuality. Makes members hesitant to leave entirely, rather they try to reform from inside.

– Miri talks about the specialness of sex and how it makes people want to invent spiritual connotations about sex.

– Ginny brings up the ‘one true love’ ideal we all are told to believe in. We want to treat it as something higher.

– Greta says we don’t understand altered consciousness well enough and makes it hard to not see sex as something not grander.
7:45 pm Can woo ideas about sex be harmful?

>- Panel agrees about the harm prioritizing one type of sex over another can cause for others. Especially when handled by religious places.

– Sophie talks about people giving bad advice about sex based on beliefs from informal sources, even on matters of medicine like birth control and condom use.

7:55pm More bad ideas about sex.

– Lack of communication and assuming partner’s mindsets can cause great harm and mistrust, panel agrees.

– Greta says the infallibility of religion makes it more stubborn to debunk their ideas about sex.

– Ginny says the stubborness of skepticism can also make it hard to question their own ideas of sex.

8:00pm Hyperskepticism and sex

– Ginny says standards of sex research, because it’s so personal, has to be different than studying, say, Bigfoot.

– Franklin says that things like sexual harassment/assault are so commonplace, it’s not at all like studying pseudoscience.

– Sophie says that more specific studies about sex are often generalized by the public. Anecdotes are useful evidence that shouldn’t just be dismissed because it’s not the most scientifically rigorous. can show patterns.

– Franklin brings up the absurdity of rape allegations being declared false from get-go. Rape is overwhelmingly common, so the default would be that any single claim of rape is likely true. No one questions a claim of being robbed.

– Greta talks about goal post moving by hyperskeptics when it comes to claims of harassment, exactly same tactics by those who argue about God. They don’t believe in the sexual culture because it demands so much of us, rather deny it.

– Miri says that a better term for hyperskepticism is denialism. Horrible incident on Reddit about a women ‘lying’ about her assault.

– Panel agree that for many, no evidence will ever be enough to prove sexual assault/harassment in a community.

8:12pm Sexual harassment and assault in the skeptical community.

– Greta talks about the incredible price paid by exposing harassment. If they speak out, they’re accused of lying. If they don’t, they’re asked where the stories of harassment are. No-win situation.

– Miri talks about the enormous pushback against harassment claims. No one wants to ostracize people who harass, rather do nothing.

– Franklin says that impossible standards make it easier to do nothing, rationalize their own or friend’s behavior. Serves their own self-interest.

8:20pm Why we find it hard to talk about sex honestly.

– Panel talks about studies needing to frame sex research as disease prevention, not explorations about sex in general.

– Greta talks about the stigma of talking about sex for sex’s sake. Gay community only found acceptance when it framed itself as about love and trying to avoid talking about sex. Polyamory is left to the side. Atheism can help destigmatize sex the more it frames our existence as being in the here and now.

– Sophie talks about skepticism clearing up misconceptions about sex. Sex is risky but we acknowledge taking everyday risks all the time without the shame sex brings, even much more risky things like driving.

– Ginny talks about not critically looking at our own feelings and sexuality and how skepticism can help us do that.

What major changes/perceptions about in sexuality have the speakers underwent?

– Miri talks about her journey to polyamory, and how skepticism helped her combat her own fears about jealousy and love. Can further explore feelings with others if not monogamous.

– Sophie talks about her negative sexual experiences forcing her to rebuild a better framework of sexuality, says skepticism aided that.

– Greta says that being skeptically willing to look at other people’s sexuality with evidence made it easier to embrace her own sexuality. Letting go of the supernatural helped her love the physical.

– Ginny talks about leaving religion not enough to let go of bad ideas about sex, it was skepticism that enabled her to come to conclusions more honestly.

8:39pm How do they define sex personally?
– Sophie talks about a broad definition. It’s any experience that allows a person’s sexual desires to be fulfilled.

– Benny says that it’s any action that all individuals agree is sex.

– Greta says there are grey areas but it’s ultimately about pursuing sexual pleasure. To define sex narrowly is to have very narrow sex.

– Franklin says that narrow sex is dangerous sex, allows us to avoid taking responsibility for safe, good sex.

– Greta says a broader definition allows for more communication between partners.

– Miri and Sophie talk about a broad definition allowing for more important questions to be asked about sex, not things like number of partners. Can allow for more specific explorations of sex in science.

8:46pm Is there room for humiliation (sex) play within feminist communities?

– Sophie talks about honest communication being pivotal, and greater understandings of things like consent make that conversation easier to have.

– Franklin talks about people recognizing we can role play without it needing to be real, much like when kids play cops-and-robbers.

– Greta says the role play does bring on real feelings about shame, but the consent factor changes the grander picture of the role play. Consent is key.

– Sophie says that the feelings can be real and perfectly fine so long you’re fully aware that the place it’s coming from is safe. Context is key.

8:51pm PORN (and science)

– There needs to be change within the adult community, Sophie says, but it won’t happen until stigma is removed from the community in general. We generalize too much.

– Greta says that porn is always considered mainstream video porn by public, but there’s more obviously. Sexist porn exists but it is only a representation of our culture. Many people single out only porn for sexism but excuse it in every other part of society.

– Franklin says all porn is niche porn. Misogyny is easy to find in porn, but so are other better things we want to look for. Thinks things like comics exhibit more sexism than porn, especially in the mainstream.

– Sophie talks about changing definitions of porn and how difficult it is to accept in the culture.

– Franklin talks about his work in written (humiliation) porn, gets all sorts of feedback. Men generally find his work reprehensible in emails, but women email asking for more humiliation play in his work.

– Sophie reports the same.

9pm END

Hands exhausted for entirely the wrong reasons.