Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Everybody loves to talk about Mormon sexuality!!!

Or maybe it's just me... ;^)

As I showed in my earlier search query advice post, a lot of people come to this blog for discussion of Mormonism and sex. While I'm at it, here are some more I've gotten recently:

Q: lds blog male sexuality :Q: coming of age in mormonism :Q: mormon nudist beach :Q: sex at byu :Q: lds lust :Q: naked mormon girls :Q: mormon girls are easy :Q: amish or mormon naked girls :Q: naughty mormon stories :Q: exmormon sex :Q: ex lds porn :Q: mormon religion and virginity :Q: can lds sunbathe topless? :Q: mormon erotica :Q: the church of jesus christ bickertonite homosexuality :Q: bad mormon girls :Q: naughty mormon women free nude pics :Q: sexy atheist :Q: atheism vs. spiritual marriages :Q: how a girl should arouse a mans sexual desire :Q: feeling aroused when presented with certain sexual cues is an involuntary biological response [someone was apparently looking for this post] :Q: horny mormon girl :Q: getting excited at thought of sex :Q: lds horny sex mormon :Q: naughty byu girls :Q: byu sex stories :Q: confessions of a byu student :Q: sex at byu library :Q: 'handicap bathroom' - college student sex story :Q: byu library sex exmo [These last few are referring to this story] :Q: enjoying polygamy erotic story [I think the book you're looking for is Brother Brigham] :Q: book sex scenes to read online [here] :Q: object lessons on sexual purity [here] :Q: mormon fundamentalist wife sex :Q: naughty mormon girls :Q

So let's just say it looks like there's some interest in the topic. Naturally I was thrilled when some Mormons started up a new blog about Mormon Sexuality (The Visitors' Center) and asked me to contribute to it!!!

For my first post there, I've written about Mormons' favorite erotic guilty pleasures: porn and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Here's the post: Unrealistic Expectations?

Enjoy!!! :D

Virginia and me

The Indigo Girls' "Rites of Passage" is one of those rare albums that I like to listen to all the way through. I know this is an alien concept to the iPod generation, but in the olden days when you wanted to buy a recording of a song you liked, you had to buy it in a package of about 20 songs by the same artist and listen to them in the order the artist chose for you (unless you're fond of programming your C.D. player and/or constantly changing the disc). So I found myself occasionally listening to the Indigo Girls' song about Virginia Woolf.

The published your diary
and that's how I got to know you
a key to the room of your own
and a mind without end.

It wasn't my favorite song on the album, but it's not bad, and it presents a fascinating perspective on one's death and legacy, so I spent time contemplating it. I posted the results of my musings here: Death II: Deal with it!

One day I was listening to this song and thought to myself "Maybe I should actually read this Room of One's Own book -- after all, it's short and my husband has a copy of it sitting right here on the bookshelf."

Obviously I was hoping to like the book. I'd heard it was an essay in favor of giving women the time, resources, and privacy to write. I'm totally down with that. In fact, I could hardly be more in favor of this position. It was the execution I had a problem with.

As I was reading along, I kept hoping the author would explain her position and present her arguments. Instead I found page after page of rambling and irrelevant poetic descriptive passages. I know her fans are probably saying "The poetry isn't irrelevant -- it's an essay about being a writer!" Right, but I was hoping that she'd show her mastery of the writer's craft by demonstrating that she knows how and when to make a point clearly and concisely.

I think it was the part where she was listing off the elaborate menu of some male scholars' club when I finally said, "Okay, that's it, I'm not slogging through any more of this." There are a lot of narratives that make the British caste system interesting with its grand institutions of nobility and snobbery. Orwell's essays come to mind. Not this.

Now I'm sure the problem isn't Virginia Woolf, it's me. I know, I have no poetry in my heart; I think that brevity is the soul of wit; I'm too much like Mr. Spock (see here and here). And keep in mind that I hold a work up to a higher standard if someone tells me it's great, as I explained when comparing The Da Vinci Code to His Dark Materials. In this case, however, if I'd been given this as an amateur work to give feedback on, I would have read it all the way to the end, but I would be even more adamant in my belief that it requires major editing rather than assuming that I need to work harder to figure out why I'm supposed to like it.

Actually this whole discussion breaks my usual book review policy that if I can't say something nice about a work then I don't review it at all. If this style suits other people, I don't mind. I'd rather steer people towards works I like than away from ones I don't like (but maybe they will). Thus I wouldn't have bothered to write about this work if it hadn't been the selection of the nonbelieving literati.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ask Chanson (via Google)!

Ever since the Exterminator invented googl-oetry, I've taken to saving all my incoming search queries -- in hopes of regaling you all with another hilarious googl-oem like the one I composed here. The trouble is, though, that the funniest ones aren't that poetic. Or maybe it's just that they're such gems that I don't feel like I'm adding anything to them by juxtaposing them with one another.

Another thing I've noticed, though, is that a lot of them seem to be looking for information and or advice that I might be able to help on, but which may or not be answered on the page their query pulled up. So today I'll be playing advice columnist, treating my incoming search queries as (very, very short, cryptic) letters to me. :D

The first batch is the people asking about having sex on the first date. I get so many queries about this that I'm starting to feel like one of the world's leading experts on the subject. (Yes, these are all real queries typed int a search engine by readers -- and it isn't nearly all of them...)
Q: do most women prefer sex on the first date
Q: should i have sex on first date?
Q: having sex on first date what to say
Q: sex on first date always bad
Q: can sex on a first date turn into a relationship
Q: how many people have sex on the first date
Q: is it ok to have sex on the first date
Q: talking about sex on the 1st date
Q: how to not have sex on the first date
Q: should women 50 have sex on the first date
Q: sex in the car on the first date
Q: why people have sex at first date
Q: how to get sex on a first date
Q: men who get angry if you dont sleep with them on first date
Q: how to act after sex on the first date
Q: no sex on first date
Q: why people have sex on the first date?
Q: should a gay guy have sex the first meeting
Q: do real men call after having sex on the first date
Q: why doesnt guy call after sex on first date?
Q: how to get sex on the first date
Q: what they think about sex in a first date
Q: is sex on a first date ok

A: I can't promise I have useful advice for all of these people, but you can have a look at my thoughts on the subject here (and to a lesser degree here).

The next batch is the set of queries that I like to call the "I'm writing a book report" queries. Kids, if my ideas on these books are helpful, feel free to use them (though a citation is always appreciated...). Just remember not to copy/paste whole paragraphs since your teacher knows how to use Google too! :D

Q: ready explanation for class distinction in pride and prejudice
Q: innocence in pride and prejudice
A: see this post
Q: marquise de merteuil's servant girl
Q: dinner scenes in dangereuses liaisons and valmount
A: see this post
Q: role of rieux la peste
A: see this post
Q: political culture and persepolis
A: see this post
Q: walter kirn mormon story new yorker
A: see this post

An important sub-genre of this set is the questions about Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Some examples:

Q: pullman his dark materials part 1 review
Q: how is lyra like eve philip pullman his dark materials
Q: atheist fantasy book
Q: his dark materials themes
Q: atheism dark matter
Q: interpretation of his dark materials trilogy
Q: is philip pullman an atheist
Q: his dark materials, philip pullman, premise of books

A: These questions and many others are answered here.

However, more than half of my Pullman-related queries are asking one big question:

Q: do lyra and will have sex?
Q: philip pullman sex lyra
Q: lyra and will sex
Q: dark materials lyra will sex
Q: his dark materials sex
Q: his dark material, do will and lyra have sexual relations
Q: lyra and will are way too young to be makin out

I'm glad I've taken the time to discuss this (here). It makes me feel like I'm providing a valuable public service with my blog because clearly many, many people are confused on this point.

Pullman himself won't answer. I don't have the exact quote, but I read an interview where he said he wanted to leave the question open. Well, no duh, I would guess that when a grown-up writes a romantic love scene where a fifteen-year-old boy has unprotected sex with a twelve or thirteen-year-old girl, there's a certain amount of social pressure to pretend like maybe you didn't really write that.

It's unfortunate, too, because teens these days are having romantic/sexual relationships, and since they're still in the "learning about relationships" phase, they might really benefit from stories about other young people -- and particularly stories that take their relationships seriously. I have this exact problem with Exmormon: I wrote it largely for young people (hoping to be the Mormon Judy Blume), but since I don't want to get in trouble for corrupting the youth and being an inappropriate influence on other peoples' kids, I add the caveat that it's for people over 18 and/or teens whose parents have read it and have decided their kids are mature enough to handle it...

Anyway, off that soapbox and on to some real-life advice queries that led people to me!!!

Q: im worried about my non believing aunt going to hell
A: Well, worry no more!!! Hell doesn't exist.

Q: how to tell parents i'm atheist
A: This is a tricky one since there's no one right answer. It depends on your situation and your parents. You're on the right track to be searching the Internet, though!!! Read some atheist blogs, look for "coming out as atheist" stories, and from there you can plan the approach that's right for you and your family!

Q: my husband thinks its his fault our son is gay
A: Contact PFLAG -- they can help you out on this.

Q: i agreed to have sex with a guy i just met but now i wish i didn't
A: Well, if you haven't gone through with it yet, you're allowed to change your mind. Saying "sure, I'll have sex with you sometime" isn't a legally binding contract. If you've already done it, however, I hope you've learned a lesson about planning and thinking things through. Also, beware of alcohol if you're in a social situation with a guy you're not sure whether you want to have sex with or not.

Q: she is way hotter than i am is it even possible
A: Probably not, but you never know...

Q: i hate america switzerland and mormons
A: Then you've totally come to the wrong blog.

Q: child friendly story of christian pilgrimage to lourdes
A: Well, you're in luck -- I've written a whole series on taking kids to Lourdes!!!

Q: is pornography tied in with polygamy
A: Not really, but I have heard that early Mormons argued that polygamy is a good way to combat the horrible evil of male masturbation. I hope I don't have to explain how messed-up that is. (Also, it probably doesn't help much to stop female masturbation...)

Q: how did homesexuals affect the civil war
A: Good question!!! I have no idea, but if you figure it out, please tell me.

Q: arranged marriage should i tell her i masterbate
A: Probably, but not right off the bat. One of the problems with an arranged marriage is that you don't necessarily have a feel for your partner's attitudes. Also, if she's recently arrived from India, you never know if she might find western attitudes towards sex shocking, and this could start your relationship off on a bad note. I'd say wait until you have your intimate relationship established and you have a feel for your partner's attitudes. Introduce new ideas in a manner that is considerate of your partner's feelings. Once you get the impression she's willing and ready to have such a discussion, go ahead.

Q: am i bad at sex
A: How the hell should I know? Talk to your partner about it. If you are, good communication -- listening to what your partner likes and doesn't like -- can help you improve.

Q: real logical proof evolution is wrong
A: Mwahahahahahahahaha!!! Good luck, buddy!!! ;^)

Q: it takes faith to be an atheist argument
A: I've covered that one thoroghly here.

Q: biggest biblical massacre
A: That's a tricky one since there are a lot of contenders, but I talked about one of them here.

Q: ice cream and rape correlation
A: I'm glad Rebecca brought this up in the comments of this post because her comment regularly brings in search queries which I assume are from people who are interested in discussing how we should interpret statistical correlations with complicated things like rape. There's also the follow-up post talking about the correlation between porn and rape (the fact that rape decreases as porn access increases), and a discussion of how we might interpret that.

Q: what happens if i get a hard on at nude beach
A: They arrest you immediately. Haha, just kidding!!! The correct answer is "you will be very, very, very embarrassed."

Actually, I've gotten a whole series of questions about the nude beach, including topics I've covered (Q: topless seine A: see topless on the beach; Q: nude beaches urinating A: see More tales from the nude beach...), as well as a bunch of stuff I didn't cover:

Q: women have you ever done to the nudists beach to see naked guys
A: You mean gone? Probably some have, but not nearly so many as guys who go there to see the naked women.

Q: are nude beaches fun?
A: Yes.

Q: why aren't more beaches topless
A: Some people like to go swimming and not see naked people. Hard to believe, but true.

Q: why do women go topless on beaches ?
A: Does there have to be a reason?

Q: nude sunbathing benefits of
A: Uniformizes your skin cancer risk.

Q: extreme nude beaches
A: lol, regular nude beaches aren't exciting enough?

Q: why do the french have topless beaches in france
A: Where the hell else are they going to have them???

Q: nude sunbathing is ok with mom
A: That's good. You should really always get your mom's approval on this...

And the list goes on and on. I can't begin to tell you how many queries I get for sexy pics of people in particular places ever since I joked about that here. (Of course I have not posted any nude pics at all of anyone on my blog unless you count those silly little naked comics.) Actually those queries are some of the most entertaining (for my inner anthropologist) since I get a uniform distribution of people with local tastes (eg. the query "sexy ladies of boise idaho" coming in on an I.P. address in Boise, Idaho, or the query "sexy arab ladies" coming in from an I.P. address in the United Arab Emirates) and then people with really, really random exotic tastes (eg. the query "sexy naked ladies of Belgium" coming in from Cleveland, Ohio). I'll just say that -- if my stats are any indication -- no matter where you're from on the whole planet, somebody, somewhere wants to see you naked. ;^)

Then, of course, we have the whole range of Mormon-related questions:

Q: i found out my mormon boyfriend told another girl to wait for him
A: That sucks. On the other hand, if he's two-timing you while on his mission and you're at home, you could always try dating somebody else...

Q: you're an apostate
A: Why, thank you!

Q: lds teenage masturbation solutions
A: Believers probably won't like my solution, but I'll post it since you asked: Tell him/her it's normal (and private), and don't bug them about it.

Q: mormon girl can't date me sex
A: Well, those are the breaks. But (to give you another helpful cliché) there are other fish in the sea! :D

Q: i had sex with a mormon missionary
A: Well, that was very, very naughty of you!!! That's totally against their rules. Sheesh, I couldn't even get them to come to my house unchaperoned, see my series of mishie stories.

Q: are there girls at byu who have had sex
A: Yes. But that's against the rules too.

Q: sister missionaries sexy pics
A: I'm beginning to think some of you people don't really understand how this whole mission thing works...

Q: are there different types of mormons
A: Yes. In fact, I've made a whole handy guide to different types of Mormons.

Q: download exmormon c.l. hanson
A: I have chosen not to make this book avaliable for anonymous download. If you want an e-copy, you have to email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com

Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to wrap this up since it's getting so long that blogger is choking on the autosave. It's too bad, too, because I've barely scratched the surface of the whole families of fabulous search queries I've gotten lately!!!

Oh well, I'll end with a really nice one I got the other day:

Q: most popular blog ex mormon mom
A: Aww, if only it were true!!! :D I'm flattered that this led you to my blog anyway, and I plan to keep on providing you with useful and/or entertaining stories right here at "Letters from a Broad"! :D

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More data points, or science lovers conspire to prove me right!

So, one science-loving commenter on my recent primatology post called my portrait of nerdy scientists "off-putting." Off-putting??? I don't get it -- what's more enticing than a bunch of adorably randy scientists?

Kidding, of course I get it. It's just as I explained here: "For every sexual expression that one person finds arousing, I can guarantee you 100% that there exists another human that finds the same exact scene repulsive and disgusting."

On the other hand, you might be wondering if (in the above article) I wasn't just projecting my own weirdo fantasies about scientists. Maybe it's just my imagination -- guys don't really like using scientific reasoning to analyze and contemplate mating strategies, sexuality, their own penises, etc., (as I suggested in the comments of my erotic books post and also in the closing moments of my atheist love scene).

I was almost starting to wonder that myself until I found some amusing discussions in Outer Blogness here and here about the evolution of the baculum. :D

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Humanist Symposium!!!

The latest episode of The Humanist Symposium is up at Spanish Inquisitor including a hilarious astrology theme, lots of great humanist thought (yay Paul's solidarity with nontheists!!!), and my recent polygamy & primatology post. (I promise my next primatology post will be about some primates other than humans.)

In the meantime, remember that the next Humanist Symposium will be held right here at LFAB, so get those humanist juices flowing!!! You have three weeks... :D

(Dangit, now he's gotten me singing Hemant's name to the Mickey Mouse theme....)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Polygamy and the armchair primatologist

It's not just the religious guys who say that "plurality of wives" is the "will of God." A lot of science guys like to say things like "the sexual dimorphism in humans indicates some propensity towards polygyny in our species." They may be right (the science guys that is, not the religious guys), but whenever I read of scientific fondness for polygyny, I feel like the science guys haven't really thought this through all the way.

Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines here, but I sometimes get this vibe of "Sorry, ladies, but that's just the way our species evolved..." while Professor Scientist is rubbing his nerdy hands together and secretly picturing himself surrounded by nubile babes.** It never seems to occur to Professor Scientist that in a polygynous society he might be one of the males below the fold: out-competed and out of luck. Or alternately that even for the top one-third of males who get all the babes to themselves, there's this little inconvenience of the the bottom two-thirds of males hanging around in the wings, waiting for the opportunity to kill the top guys and take their place...

What does the female armchair primatologist think of the polygamous tendencies of our species? Well, I'll tell you! Please keep in mind that all of this is opinion and speculation, not to be confused with actual scientific research.

For this discussion, I'll define polygyny as any situation where one male monopolizes multiple females throughout their prime reproductive years. So I'm not only including openly polygamous (polygynous) societies (like the FLDS), but also cases where a man has an official wife in addition to maintaining a mistress (or mistresses or concubines), as well as cases where a man takes a young "trophy wife" after his children by his first wife are grown. I'm not counting ordinary serial monogamy or egalitarian open/polyamorous relationships.

One of the most striking aspects of human reproduction is the tremendous parental investment in each offspring. Instead of each adult producing hundreds or thousands of young and letting the chips fall where they may, human parents devote a lifetime's worth of effort and resources to seeing just a handful of kids to adulthood. For humans, successful reproduction isn't just a question of quantity, but also a question of quality: making sure the kids grow up to be healthy and well-placed in society. So both male and female humans tend to seek a mate who will stay with the family for the long haul and provide a strong investment in their offspring. Investment involves not only an economic investment (food, clothing, shelter, etc.), but also social status and personally educating the children.

Despite the heavy emphasis on quality, however, quantity isn't irrelevant in human reproduction. An individual male can improve his reproductive success by attracting multiple mates as long as he can do it without significantly diminishing the quality of mates he gets and the parental investment he can expect from them. For example, in human societies whose upper strata involve some sort of nobility, old money, and/or established families, the mother's social/economic status matters quite a lot to the success of the offspring. A high-status male can't normally expect that a high-status female would be willing to share him (and his money/status) with another female on an equal basis. This often leads to the wife-and-mistress model: a high-status "official wife" is sometimes willing to overlook a side dalliance as long as the mistress (and her children) get little of the father's resources and inherit none of his status.

So what's in it for the mistress? Typically it's a case where any legitimate mate she could expect to attract would be low enough on the socio-economic ladder that she's better off with the leftovers from a fancier table. (Note that -- depending on the society -- this role in not always voluntary.) Since the father's personal attention is valuable, there has to be a very wide economic gulf between the alpha male and the omega males before the alpha's sloppy seconds start looking more attractive than the full-time attention of a lower-status father/mate.

The main thing that makes females tolerate and accept polygyny is lack of power and status of their own. It's my impression that polygyny tends to decrease as women are more empowered. In other words, when a woman can expect to command enough (economic) resources herself to raise her children to adulthood, getting a mate who will invest himself 100% in her and her offspring is a higher priority for her than finding a richer or higher-status mate that she might have to share. (The flip-side is that an openly polygynous society -- for its very existence -- essentially requires that women have no power or status at all.)

So in conclusion I'd say that -- even though some degree of polygyny is normal and typical for our species -- as we move forward to a modern, sustainable society, the amount of polygyny will (and should) decrease. (Take this opinion with a grain of salt, given my female bias.) Some bloggers have claimed that since "one rooster in the hen-house" is an efficient reproductive strategy for chickens, it should be for humans as well, but that view fails to take into account some of the realities of human reproduction. Firstly, in the chicken example, part of the efficiency rests on the assumption that the extra males can be dealt with by serving them up on the dinner table. And let's face it -- having a family to support makes a human male more inclined to try to be a productive member of society and less inclined to want to fight other males to the death (in wars and terrorism, etc.). Secondly, human children benefit from having more dad per kid. As I discussed in fertility, mortality, getting parents to focus more effort on fewer kids is our best recipe for a happy and stable future.


** This is not meant as a slam on horny male scientists. Anyone who follows my blog knows of my great fondness for them. As far as I'm concerned, mathematicians and scientists are the sexiest type of humans, followed by engineers. I know I ought to put looks first (out of some feminist sentiment of "turnabout is fair play"), but what can I say? I like what I like. ;^)

Besides, it's not like looks are irrelevant to me. Ideally a guy should be beautiful in addition to being brilliant. For example, take my husband, who's all that plus great at taking care of the kids and the house. Actually, don't take him -- he's taken. :D

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Change the name, change the looks,

That's how friends get into books...

Here's an amusing little snippet which made me laugh when I read it in The Grasshopper King:

I had some idea of writing, which was partly a vestige of my youthful idealization of New York and the poets, partly a long-nursed desire to correct the follies of my former acquaintances by satirizing them, transparently disguised, in print.

Is the author speaking for himself (transparently disguised as a fictional character)? Or is he just joking about authors and would-be authors in general? Do authors sometimes mock real people by sneaking a few of them into fictional works?

I'm guessing that they do. Another author admitted to the same thing here:

At our StoryMaker Conference this past weekend, I bought a little plaque that said, "All my enemies become victims or incompetent villains in my novels." I loved that plaque because it’s true. I have written people into my novels that weren’t nice to me. It felt cathartic, too, in a way. I have a tender heart and I have worked long and hard on getting a tougher skin, but it’s a trial for me. If I were writing my own life, I would definitely try to make myself less sensitive and explore that story idea of something really exciting and daring happening to me and rooting out that part of my personality. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to writing novels with mean people’s names in them and laughing every time I read it to myself.

The natural follow-up question is covered in the same post: "Don’t you really wish we could edit our own lives sometimes?"

I love workshopping with other authors, and one of the most interesting aspects is how often a first novel tends to be an edited and corrected version of the author's own life. That's not a bad thing -- if you've led an interesting life or at least can recount it well. "Oneself" is an obvious first choice for a character to portray. And reading a story often means discovering what the character/author imagines could or should have happened differently. This adds a new dimension to the picture.

Here's another Mormon author (Christopher Bigelow) on analyzing one's own life through fiction. In his case he decided to revisit his past without correcting it (in the novel Kindred Spirits):

I didn't really blame myself for the sins. Deep down inside, I felt--and perhaps still feel--that the sins were somewhat inevitable, not really anything I could have realistically avoided, just a natural part of my mortal experience. I acknowledged the sins as wrong but didn't feel all that personally responsible or sorry. In the novel, I give Eliza similar feelings.

So if I could have somehow revisited my own imperfect repentance through the novel and actually achieve a new level of grief and regret for sins, that would have been spiritually productive for me. Frankly, I can't imagine how that could have happened, but it's a nice idea. Instead, the novel is more a mirror of my own spiritual journey, which apparently isn't completed yet, thus leaving the novel with a particularly unfinished feeling for those further along in their spiritual journey.

Now it's time for me to come clean myself.

As I've explained before, Youth Conference is the most autobiographical segment of Exmormon. (It's also the first part I wrote.) I simplified the story a bit -- limited the time-span, cut down on the number of characters and mixed them up a little -- but it could practically be a memoir (see Storytelling: fiction vs. memoirs).

BYU (the second segment I wrote) was the part where I started from reality and then did some major edits and corrections. First of all, Lynn was already attending BYU when she had her deconversion epiphany. She didn't stop believing as a high school senior and then say "Well, I'll just go to BYU anyway since that's what my parents want -- how bad can it be?" Secondly, once Lynn stopped believing, she transferred to another school (instead of saying "Since my parents won't help if I go somewhere else, looks like I can't transfer without going into debt -- guess I'll just stick it out"). And the third change was to replace my real-life boyfriend Steve with Rex. This change is really more of a simplification than an improvement (since Steve was arguably more of a character), but not to worry! Bits of Steve will find their way into future characters in future novels.

So where did Rex Wendell come from? Can a fictional character ever be wholly made up? I think in this case he's mostly an expression of what I imagine I'd be like if I were a guy. I probably shouldn't admit to that since it makes writing a sex scene for Rex and Lynn look that much more like an exercise in masturbation. Anyway...

Now what about self-indulgently using fiction to ridicule my enemies? I like to think I'm mostly not guilty of this offense. Okay, some have suggested that Lynn's roommate looks suspiciously like my real-life freshman roommate, but that's as bad as it gets.

The thing is that I'll write people acting in selfish self-interest, but I don't like writing villains who are simply pure bad guys. As an example, in my new novel (Foreign Stars), I thought it would be fun to explore the dispute within feminism over sexual expression. If you follow my blog, you probably know that I don't think highly of the anti-porn faction of feminism (see feminism and sexuality), so you might expect to see a Dworkinite character as a villain. I kind of started in that direction, but that's really not my style. So as the story progressed, the Dworkinite feminist character was fleshed-out, started getting the better of the other characters much of the time, and by the end was one of the main hero/protagonists, without changing her politics.

So what about you other writers out there? Is your first protagonist a (thinly disguised) version of yourself? And have you kept your friends close and your enemies closer?

What about friends of authors? Have you ever been reading along and found a fictionalized version of yourself in a story?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

FLDS, Polygamy, the 4th amendment, and other topics...

The Rational Response Squad has posted this fortnight's Carnival of the Godless, full of godless goodies as well as a long preamble on how cool it is that atheists don't all agree with one another. True to form, in my new MSP post on the Texas FLDS raid, I've found that my take on the subject is a little different from what I've seen elsewhere in the atheosphere. Here's a hint:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

If the legality of the raid in in question, it may do more harm than good in the long run -- even if we presume they're guilty. The state may have to presume they're innocent until proven guilty, but you don't have to! However, even if you've already mentally convicted them, remember that the police aren't supposed to make exceptions on the Bill of Rights, even for cases where "everybody knows" who the bad guys are.

Now if you're outraged that I would suggest such a thing in a case where innocent children are probably being forced into incestuous marriages, please leave your comment on MSP (FLDS Polygamy: Good solutions? Bad solutions?), and not here (just to keep the discussion grouped).

As you may have noticed, next segment of my novel is about Mormon fundamentalists. This wasn't timed to coincide with the latest news -- the scheduling of the serialization was planned months ago, and the book written years ago -- but it might provide some insights on the subject. As I explained in the note on the polygamy sub-plot, part of my intention here was to shed some light on the complex relationship between mainstream Mormons and polygamy.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gratuitous Love Scene

(Please review the warning.)

"You won't need to contact me," I said.

"What if there's an emergency?" asked Janie.

"Like what?"

"What if your mom calls and needs to get a hold of you?"

With my back to her I rolled my eyes. "Look, I don't have the number off the top of my head. Cindy is right down the hall. If there's an emergency, she can give you her aunt's phone number."

I grabbed my backpack and stepped out. I was hardly dressed for my little outing, but I couldn't get all dolled-up as if for a date and risk Janie getting suspicious and turning me in to Standards again. I had no intention of coming back to BYU after this year, but it would be inconvenient to get expelled and wind up not being able to transfer my credits.

Cindy and Amy's door was open, so I stepped in. "Are you ready to go?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Amy, "but you're not. Look at this hair!"

The short part had grown out sufficiently that I was able to cut it all to match, but I didn't really know what to do with it. Quick as a flash Amy worked in some gel, and with a few strokes of her magic hairbrush she had me looking as if I'd cut my hair that way on purpose and not just on a lark. Then she looked me over and added a few dabs of make-up. Read the rest of the story ->

Sunday, April 06, 2008

BYU wrap-up

I hope you've enjoyed the five-chapter novella BYU which is part 4 of my novel Exmormon. Now all that remains is the bonus chapter (Interlude: Gratuitious Love Scene) which I'll be posting tomorrow.

Part 4 (+ interlude) marks the turning point in the novel, and not just because of the deconversion scene (which you'll note I ran on April Fool's Day out of courtesy to believers who might be happier thinking that part is just a joke). Additionally, in this novel about growing up Mormon, the first half has been mostly about girls, and the second half will be more about boys.

Now I have to get my drawing pencils out again and prepare the illustrations for Part 5: Polygamist, which I'm planning to start serializing on June 3!!!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Does religious belief require creation science?

I wasn't planning to post about the movie Expelled again because, frankly, I didn't want to insult my religious readers by rubbing their noses in this story and suggesting that these Expelled hypocrites represent them. Unfortunately, one of the borderland blogs decided that it would be a good idea to get some orthodox cred by shilling for this embarrassment to Christianity, so let's talk about it again.

So the Expelled guys think their views are unfairly silenced in the marketplace of ideas, do they? Well, let's remedy that!!! Right now.

Please add your two cents on my Main Street Plaza post Does religious belief require creation science?

Now for the pleasure of those who'd rather skip the discussion and just believe that there really is an atheist conspiracy to expel creationist dissenters from scientific discourse, I present this hilarious rap, in which all the villains of godless science sing about how and why they did it!!! :D

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Atheist love scene disclaimer

I'm sorry if this is a bit of a spoiler, but I have to post a warning before posting the next chapter of my book. If you are okay with reading a sex scene that is not graphic, you may skip the rest of today's explanatory post for now and read it after reading the chapter I'll be posting here on April 8, 2008. I don't think the "Gratuitous Love Scene" chapter should pose too much of a problem since (if anything) it's less explicit and less controversial than the corresponding scene from part 3, and nobody complained about that. Still, I'd like to give a little explanation:

First of all, this scene was the inspiration for one of my most popular (and infamous) posts: An Immodest Proposal: Sex on the first date?. When I wrote the Gratuitous Love Scene chapter, I just wrote what to me is a romantic love scene. Once you've read it, you probably mock me for this since the story is pretty nerdy and perhaps even a little corny. But after writing it, it hit me that I was kind of (unintentionally) thumbing my nose at convention since a woman isn't supposed to think that a romantic first date should involve sex. So I wrote my "sex on the first date" essay while remembering this chapter and laughing at myself for my unorthodox attitude towards love, sex, and romance.

Second of all, why did I call this scene "gratuitous"? In a novel called Exmormon, it's naturally an in-joke about Mormonism. Mormons aren't supposed to watch R-rated movies because of all the sex (although the violence is less of a problem for them, as I discussed here), and I'd heard too many people say things like "It would have been a good movie if only they'd cut out that one scene"). You don't even have to have watched the film to know what scene they're talking about: it's the sex scene. And, really, whether the scene was integral to the story is irrelevant -- for Mormons, every single story that has a sex scene would be improved by cutting all the sex scenes out.

In the case of this scene, it's gratuitous in the sense that you can read the entire rest of the novel -- skipping this one chapter -- and you won't be going "I don't get it. What happened? What's going on?" However, it's not superfluous in terms of the overall story structure.

Lastly, I'm glad to be finally posting this chapter. It's one of the faves among those who have read the whole book. Plus, over the past year almost everyone who reads any part of the online edition clicks on this chapter at least once, and I hate turning them away empty-handed. Even if you learned in sexual purity class that you're the only one perverted enough to think about sex, my stats tell a different story... ;^)