Sex & Culture

Why Is Common Sense “Blaming the Victim”?

Be smart: * When you park your car, don’t leave valuables on the front seat, and don’t leave your car unlocked. * When you ride the bus or subway, keep your backpack or purse in front of you where you can see it. * When you travel by airplane, wash your hands multiple times and use hand sanitizer. * Don’t walk in a dangerous neighborhood alone at night. * When you drive on the freeway and someone is weaving unpredictably, change lanes to get away from them. * When you walk through an airport, don’t wear a t-shirt with Osama…

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Science & Sex—Why Are They Now Strangers?

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at NECSS—the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. I was surrounded by world-class scientists, including Yale Med School neurologist Steve Novella, Stanford physicist Deborah Berebichez, Oxford neuroscientist Heather Berlin, and even Bill Nye The Science Guy. It was glorious—no explaining why science is important to everything we do or touch or think. Every one of the 600 attendees “believes” in gravity, evolution, and the Scientific Method. I started each of the conference’s three days in a wonderful bubble. But each day, news from the outside world was an ugly intruder—which, in…

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Speech Codes, PC Politics: When America is NOT “Charlie”

I am Charlie Hebdo, standing with Free Expression and against the violence that would destroy it. Perhaps you are Charlie Hebdo, too. But is America Charlie Hebdo? In many crucial ways, no, as America becomes more offended and less tolerant of free expression every day. Last week, I called CNN’s management cowards for refusing to show Charlie’s first post-massacre cover (it was neither obscene nor libelous). They self-righteously claimed their decision reflected respect and tolerance. Nonsense. Self-censorship to protect yourself from violence may be smart, but it expresses neither respect for others nor tolerance of diversity. Pathetically, The New York…

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Is everyone on Match.com looking for a match?

In a word, no. The problem is, I see a lot of couples in which one partner is caught using Match, or Tinder, or Ashley Madison, or some other dating/hookup website. Partner B flips out, accusing partner A of cheating, or wanting to cheat. Partner A denies it, but doesn’t sound convincing: “Uh, I was um, you know, just looking around.” Sometimes that’s nonsense—A is cheating, just as B suspects. But frequently, A is window shopping. We all do it—we look at ads for things we can’t afford, look in shops at things we’ll never buy, look on EBay at…

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Bad Categories Prevent Smart Conversations

Don’t you agree that people who either murder someone or keep library books overdue should be punished? “Murderers and library book abusers”—that’s an example of a phony category. Other phony categories include “bullies and predators,” “porn and child porn,” and “S/M and violence.” I’ve spoken and written many times about phony categories and moral panics […]

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Ten Problems With Purity Balls

Purity Balls are more popular than ever. That’s the religious ceremony in which a girl (usually about 12) pledges her “purity” to her father and to God until she marries. Balls are like group weddings: dozens of dads wear tuxedos, girls wear (typically white) ball gowns, dads put gold bands on their daughters’ wedding finger, and then the couple has a First Dance together. The average age of first marriage in America is now over 27. That would make the non-sexual Purity Zone (from pledge to marriage) some 15 years long. If we adjust the figure for the demographics of…

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