Dave Sim's blogandmail #152 (February 10th, 2007)
In fact I had a dream about that last
night. I was in a comic-book store and I was
buying Collected Letters vol. 2 and I'm thinking,
"FINALLY I'll get to read the missing bull$%#& parts of
all these letters!" And I start reading the book
and every page just drops off in the middle of a
sentence! I SWEAR if Sim actually
PUBLISHES the book that way I'm going to
As I said, the distinction between "naturally occurring" and "normal" cropped up again as Chester and I walked back from the Beguiling through the Kensington Market and Chinatown areas. One of our on-going discussions is regarding prostitution. Chester's next graphic novel is autobiographical, all about his love life which has exclusively centered on Oriental prostitutes for some years now. Chester is, quite frankly, an all-out advocate of prostitution and sees absolutely no harm in it, so—at the very least—his next graphic novel should be a real eye-opener for those of us who actively dissent from that view and who take it as a given that pretty much everyone else does as well. And I expect he'll do his usual great job because he is very, very involved in his subject. Anyway, our differing views on prostitution has also made for some memorable conversations over lunch. As I said to Chet, if I didn't think that prostitution is absolutely and fundamentally wrong, I would be right there with him. I may not be wealthy but I usually have no trouble putting my hands on two or three hundred dollars if there's something that I want that costs two or three hundred dollars. With the advent of the Internet (just about the only reason Chet has an Internet account is for finding prostitutes) you eliminate the guesswork that was the bane of the two or three times that I did use prostitutes back in my pre-belief in God days. You would just call an escort service and you would have sex with whomever they chose to send over. To actually be able to pick from photographs on the dubya-dubya-dubya, make a phone call and a date and go over there and have sex with her…well, that's definitely "kid in a candy store" territory as far as I'm concerned.
There was a new wrinkle in our discussion this time. A mutual friend of ours had taken Chester's advice and had given on-line prostitution a try and his only complaint was the expense, but apart from that he was sold on it as opposed to traditional dating or courtship or all the rest. So, Chet was sort of crowing a bit about this (which was perfectly understandable). "Yes," I said, "I had been thinking about our mutual acquaintance (who happens to have a daughter) and I was wondering what his reaction would be if he found out his daughter was hooking online." This took the wind temporarily out of Chester's sails since the answer was obvious. However, as I said to Chet, I always try to be scrupulously fair in these discussions—I try to get to a point most nearly approximating Reality rather than just coming up with forensic arguments that favour my position or which hit an emotional hot button. Having considered my argument I thought there was a giant hole in it. The position of Chester and Libertarians like him is that prostitution is just another individual choice You can't legitimately take away a woman's right to choose to be a "sex trade worker" any more than you can take away her choice to work in the first place at a job of any kind. It's also fair to say that our mutual acquaintance uses auto mechanics whenever he needs his car repaired even though he probably wouldn't want his daughter to grow up to be an auto mechanic. I have no problem undercutting my own position in this way. My interest is Reality, not scoring brownie points..
(Chet's pretty good about undermining his own arguments, as well, which is one of the reasons that I enjoy talking with him. He subscribes to a number of Libertarian magazines and he said it's an on-going debate among Libertarians about letting go of their championing of vices like prostitution because it's just a very tough sell if you actually want to win elected office: to suggest that prostitutes are just another normal part of any workforce, recreational drugs are a harmless individual choice, etc. Well, you can be as casual about it as you like, you're going to get a lot of sales resistance from Joe and Jane Lunchbucket. Not an original observation, but I joked that Libertarians are just Conservatives who won't give up their vices.)
I had to laugh and told Chet that as much as I would like to buy his argument in favour of prostitution, I was very much going in the other direction. "I haven't let myself masturbate in over three years. Before I'd use a prostitute I think I'd have to give myself permission to rent a porn film and whack off." This was beyond Chester's comprehension, why I wouldn't let myself whack off. To me it seems to be a sensible countering viewpoint to the way that our society is going. To me, a lot of the problem is guys letting their dicks call the shots in their lives. A lot of the leverage by which feminism has been foisted upon society with nary a dissenting voice is an implied trade-off. If I pretend to believe this crap I might get laid, but if I call it crap I'm never going to get laid. To me, the cure for that is to move to a position where your dick isn't in a position to call ANY of the shots in your life. And that means celibacy and no masturbation. For me it definitely seems like the right decision. I certainly don't plan to start whacking off again anytime soon. And I've also been celibate for nine years.
Here, too, it seems to me is a distinction between "naturally occurring" and "normal". I'm sure in every society there are people for whom faith in God manifests in that way—the complete eschewal of sex and masturbation. It's a "naturally occurring" phenomenon but that hardly makes it in any way "normal". Just imagine what the percentage of men in our society is who haven't masturbated in the last three years. Again, it's so miniscule a percentage as to constitute a statistical state of non-existence. It's not something that I think should be taught or formally addressed by society for that reason. It's already "naturally occurring" and no amount of argument and education is going to make it "normal" so it is, to me, inherently off of society's radar screen. Unlike gays and prostitution advocates, though, I'm pretty comfortable with that. I'll discuss it to make a point as I am here but I feel no pressing need to clamour for society to acknowledge celibacy/no masturbation as a Valid Lifestyle Choice and to include in everywhere and anywhere that society discusses Valid Lifestyle Choices. Let's just leave all the "naturally occurring" lifestyles out of it and stick to discussing and teaching in schools those lifestyles which are common enough to be described as "normal".
So, it was funny when I hit on the extreme that seems to be the only thing that gets through to people when it comes to the question of what is and what isn't Just Plain Wrong in our society. Oddly enough, the last time that I had used the argument had been with my parents (so that's going back a ways) when discussing the Hemingways' decision to eat lion meat in Africa that I used in Form & Void. "It's a taboo," I said. "Taboos are there for a reason. You don't question them. Taboo is taboo. If the natives tell you that you aren't supposed to eat lion meat, you don't eat lion meat. It's just common sense." My mother took the extreme feminist view that always believes that everything is on the table and that we should probably change to the opposite of whatever we've been doing for the last ten thousand years as a matter of principle. "We may all have to be eating lion meat depending on what happens with the food supply." Like most of my mother's arguments I found this dramatically loopy. I don't think the food supply could ever be so seriously affected that we all started to have to eat lion meat.
So, I ended up having to go to a hot-button issue: incest. What's wrong with incest if we all suddenly believe that the whole idea of a taboo is just quaint and old-fashioned? I mean, is incest wrong because when close relatives have sex the resultant off-spring is apt to be a physically and/or mentally degraded monstrosity? If that's what's wrong with incest then how does birth control affect that?
"Hey, I've decided to have sex with my sister."
"Oh, hey, dude, that is SO wrong."
"It's okay, she's on the pill."
"Oh, well, that's okay then. Have fun."
You would have to be seriously beyond the pale when it comes to morality to see that as a normal way to be and I find it brings secular humanist atheists up short when you present the argument. They believe incest is wrong but they can't come up with a good secular humanist atheistic reason as to WHY it's wrong. If you're really just this naturally occurring bag of chemicals that evolved into this form and sexual desire is normal and you sexually desire your sister and she sexually desires you, and birth control is readily available, then what's the problem? I've found that to be one of the most peculiar aspects of trying to understand the secular humanist atheistic stance since I have come to believe in God. Why have limits of any kind if there's no such thing as God? No such thing as Judgement Day? Why have any notion of right and wrong behaviour? Why not take it as a given that all behaviour is right if its behaviour you want to indulge in?
And this, to me, was the common ground with my discussion with Chet about prostitution. To me, it's like incest. It is just Obviously Wrong no matter that it is easy to construct a system of belief where there is no Obviously Apparent Wrong to it. And that brought me back to "naturally occurring" versus "normal". My assumption is that every society has a certain amount of incest in it. It just stands to reason. Law of averages. A brother and sister or two cousins or an uncle and a niece give it a try at some point, they both decide they like it and they both keep doing it, perhaps for their entire lives while always keeping it a deep, dark secret from everyone else because they know the reaction that they would get. Incest, in that sense is "naturally occurring". To what extent? My guess would be a miniscule percentage verging on statistical non-existence. One out of every two thousand? One out of every twenty thousand? One out of every two hundred thousand? Roughly the same odds as turning up two gay cowboys, in other words. It does happen, but it isn't remotely normal and as a result it isn't something that should be championed or advocated or included in any school curriculum. Same thing as prostitution: there is no way that you are ever going to have a society where prostitution doesn't exist. There will always be women willing to sell their bodies for money and men willing to pay the price. But, as I pointed out to Chester, this is why the prostitutes that you are in contact with are not willing to let you use their conversations and incidents between the two of you in your book. They aren't proud of it. Unlike you, they know prostitution is something to be ashamed of, not something that you write a book about as if you're recounting just a different kind of romantic relationship. Prostitution, I would guess, would outrank incest and gay cowboys as a statistical reality. By how much, I don't know. But thinking that prostitution is just another individual choice that can be discussed cheerfully in the same sense as composting or installing solar panels—no, there I think you enter the realm of statistical non-existence again. No need to teach prostitution or include it at the high school job fair. That's very open-minded, but it's also sincerely nuts in my view. You can discuss that which is "normal" but that which is "naturally occurring" should be kept private.
And, in my view, homosexuality and transsexuality and all the rest of it are in the same category in the sense that they occur naturally in our society. You will never have a society that doesn't include homosexuals and transsexuals, but that just means that homosexuality and transsexuality are "naturally occurring" not that they're "normal". It's like shoe fetishism. It's "naturally occurring" but it isn't "normal" in the sense that schoolchildren need to be taught about shoe fetishism. They'll find out if they're interested (and some of them will be VERY, VERY interested) but it's not something that society needs to concern itself with as it determines how it conducts itself and how it sets its direction and its priorities and what it teaches its children. This definitely runs contrary to how society sees itself at this point and the extent of anguish and hand-wringing that goes into addressing homosexuality And The Right Way For Society To Deal With It, but I just attribute that to the undue influence of feminism in our society and women's obsessive interest in androgyny in all its forms, the borderland where distinctions between men and women get fuzzy around the edges. Women really get off on that. Why? Beats me. But I do think my own position of drawing distinctions between "naturally occurring" and "normal" is based in Reality and society's present attitude is based on (at best) "reality". In my view, society needs to treat the "naturally occurring" as the "naturally occurring" and the "normal" as "normal". I think society gets itself into trouble when, as we are doing now, it begins to confuse the two or to try to make them interchangeable.
Tomorrow: Yep, "Dave's Prayer" again. See I had Jeff Tundis retype it from the inside back cover of issue 300 as the "Sunday Edition" for as long as I continued to be sick. And it took him a LOOONG time to type it out, see? And then I finally started feeling better after it had only run twice. Well, Jeff informed me that unless I run the Prayer a bunch of times he was going to hunt me down like the vermin I am and exterminate me. As you all know I'm a sucker for any closely reasoned argument of that kind, so we'll be running Dave's Prayer on Sunday for the next while until Jeff, you know, calms down a little bit and/or gradually forgets how long it took him to type out Dave's Prayer.
Monday: Enough of Prostitution! It's Gumby to the Rescue!
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