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How Atheism May Improve Your Sex Life

Relationship with passionate affection

When it comes to improving your sex life, there’s no one way to go about it that works for everyone. Human sexuality is complex, diverse, and exceedingly kinky. What works for one person won’t work for another and may even be detrimental in some cases.

Conversely, there are also variety of ways to undermine or ruin your sex life. That same sexual diversity that helps the human race find novel ways to get intimate with one another can also backfire horribly. Some are minor, in terms of effect, but other forces can have a much greater impact.

That brings me to religion, a topic that tends to inspire the best and worst in people. Like sex, it’s a complex phenomenon that impacts everybody differently. It can inspire great charity and compassion in some. It can just as easily incur greed, exploitation, and outright atrocity.

For those reasons, and plenty more that are too numerous to list, any effort that involves mixing sex with religion is akin to mixing napalm with TNT. I’ve made an effort to discuss both topics in a fair, balanced manner in the past. I feel as though I can only go so far before I totally inflame certain audiences.

I’m still going to try to push the conversation a bit farther. That means taking a few risks and since religion is still such a prominent force in the world, it’s effect on our collective sex lives is unavoidable.

For this particular discussion, want to focus on what happens when religion is removed from the equation. If religion is really that powerful an influence on our lives, and both history and current politics indicate that influence is not entirely trivial, then it stands to reason that the impact of its absence can reveal something about the extent of that influence.

That’s not to say that this is going to be a glowing endorsement of atheism. I prefer to let the data, the logic, and the implications speak for themselves. Since religion is on decline in many parts of the western world, I think exploring the potential impact is critical and even a little urgent.

Information on the sex lives of atheists compared to those who consider themselves religious is somewhat difficult to come by. The act of assessing and measuring someone’s sex lives, as well as the extent of their religiosity, is extremely difficult without the aid of lie detectors or mind-readers. The information we do have, though, does offer some intriguing insights.

Back in 2011, a survey entitled “Sex and Secularism” surveyed approximately 14,500 people revealed that those who identified as religious had less satisfying sex lives than their non-religious counterparts. On top of that, those same religious participants reported a high level of guilt that came along with their sex lives. Given how some religions build their theology around guilt, that shouldn’t be too surprising.

Conversely, those identifying as non-religious didn’t just report better sex lives. They had better sexual education and were more open to discussing sex in general. Everything from personal fantasies to simple tastes was fair game and less affected by guilt. That openness, along with considerably less stigma, was conducive to a more fulfilling sex life.

That effect was more pronounced by those who had once been religious, but had since become atheist. Between the absence of religiously-motivated guilt and the sexual taboos that are often theologically driven, the cumulative effect is pretty striking. This notable quote from the researchers summed it up nicely.

“People who had lost their belief and became atheists reported a significant improvement in sexual satisfaction,” the paper went on to say. Apparently the guilty feelings that religion creates around sex dissipate after a while.

Now, I can already hear the outrage sincerely devout religious crowd on the conclusions of this study. More than a few people who consider themselves religious will claim that their sex lives are superior and they may even have a case to make. Many religions offer a simple, one-size-fits-all approach to sex that is uncomplicated, straightforward, and safer. The fact that it’s also ordained by a divine power is also a factor.

I don’t deny that there are plenty of religious couples out there who have satisfying sex lives. There are probably plenty of atheists out there who have terrible sex lives, as well. However, in order to draw larger conclusions about the impact of religion on sex, we can’t just go by a few anecdotal experiences. We have to step back and see the forest from the trees.

From a psychological and physiological perspective, it makes sense that guilt, religiously-motivated or not, would undermine anyone’s sex life. Guilt has measurable effects on people. It makes it harder to focus. It keeps us from enjoying things. It’s a powerful distraction that makes us feel stress and anxiety. All of these forces can do plenty to undermine your sex life.

In my musings on taboos, I often cite religion as a driving force behind them. Organized religion has made no secret of its intent to regulate, control, or outright exploit human sexuality. There’s plenty of theology, especially among the Abrahamic religions, that imparts divinely-mandated guilt on sex.

In these religious cultures, sex isn’t just some basic biological act that people do for intimacy, procreation, and recreation. It’s subject to all sorts of holy and unholy connotations. The deities involved in these religions aren’t just interested in the kind of sex you’re having. They’ll actually punish you if you do it the wrong way.

That does more than just impart extra guilt for doing anything that strays from what priests, mullahs, monks, and rabbis deem appropriate. It also instills a very rigid family structure, one centered around a specific manifestation of sex that has very little room for fun, kink, and exploration.

That manifestation involves strict gender roles where men do the hard labor and women do the child rearing. The only sex that is sanctioned is the one that involves producing babies who subsequently grow up to be adherents/soldiers/patrons of a particular religion. The fact that type of sexual expression indirectly benefits religious institutions is probably just a coincidence.

The act of enjoying sex for non-procreative purposes would constitute a distraction. A distraction is dangerous in any religion because if people become too distracted, then they pay less attention to the religious institutions and the duties they espouse. As such, it’s in the interest of any successful religion to maintain a strict control over someone’s sex life.

That kind of control is naturally prone to stress. Given how the biological wiring of human sexuality is not conducive to that kind of narrow expression, there’s bound to be temptation. The best way to combat temptation is through stigma and taboo. By hijacking powerful feelings like guilt, it’s possible heavily influence peoples’ sex lives, even if it’s impossible to control them.

It’s akin to putting lead weights on somebody’s limbs and convincing them that the weight is normal. Even if they come to accept that, the weight still skews perceptions and that can only do so much in terms of circumventing basic biology. It also means that when those weights come off, the effect is pretty striking.

Suddenly, the stigma that once kept someone from seeking the sex they desired are gone. The burdens associated with thoughts and feelings that religious institutions deem unholy are lifted. Like any form of stress relief, it can be pretty liberating.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the 2011 survey is conclusive. It has been criticized for being unscientific in some aspects. Some of those criticisms are valid and the researchers concede that, but to the extent the data is consistent with what we understand about how religion can affect our sexuality, it passes some critical filters.

Our sex lives are complicated. Religion, in its many forms, is complicated as well. Regardless of how you feel about one or the other, mixing them is almost certain to compound both. Atheism, like not playing a sport or not having a hobby, simply removes one of those complications.

It’s not a universal fix. It doesn’t subvert other potential issues that may undermine someone’s sex life. There’s plenty more research to be done and religion is still evolving with each passing year, but when it comes to removing divinely-imposed, theologically-driven guilt, atheism stimulates the necessary aspects that make for a satisfying sex life.

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Bill O’Reilly: The Impact, Aftermath, And Implications

Last week was a good week for fans of workplace safety and opponents of old, cantankerous blowhards with their own TV show. Bill O’Reilly, the old, white, racially-insensitive troll, has been fired. I imagine feminists, hippies, and Michael Moore fans are still celebrating in the streets.

It turns out you can get away with being a raging dick to minorities, liberals, and anyone who ever protested a war. However, if you’re accused of sexual harassment by enough women over a long period of time, so much so that advertisers start ditching your show, you can only go for so long.

It’s not exactly tragic. Bill O’Reilly isn’t exactly stressed for money. He’s leaving Fox News with $25 million, which is on top of the boatloads of money he’s earned from various publishing and media contracts. He doesn’t have to work a day for the rest of his life. He has more than enough money to live in a mansion, eat caviar, and wipe his ass with hundred dollar bills until the day he dies.

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Even so, it certainly doesn’t look good. Love him or hate him, Bill O’Reilly was the highest-rated show on Fox News. He regularly crushed far more likable personalities with minimal effort and he probably did it with a goddamn boner. The man, as arrogant a prick he was at times, had a sizable audience. His voice carried weight.

Fox News had so many reasons to keep him and let him spew his brand right-wing verbal diarrhea for as long as he wanted. The public might have been willing to overlook his unacceptable treatment of women in the past, but it’s just not as easy to hide that sort of thing anymore.

This isn’t the era of Don Draper and Mad Men where sexual harassment might as well have been professional equivalent of a paper cut. This is an era where one poorly-worded tweet can and will ruin your life. I’m sure O’Reilly misses the days of Don Draper and pretty female secretaries who didn’t mind a light tap on the ass every now and then, but those days are long gone.

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Now I could spend multiple posts going over Bill O’Reilly’s downfall. It’s certainly a hell of a story, albeit not a very sexy one. The man ruffled a lot of feathers and pissed off a lot of people, which is to be expected. Like Michael Moore and Lena Dunham, he’s a professional troll. That’s what he does and, based on his net worth, he does it very well.

That said, I’m going to hold off on joining the hippies still dancing in the streets. I’m also going to hold off joining the chorus of right-wing apologists who would defend O’Reilly, even if he was caught choking a bald eagle with his bare hands. Those are losing arguments with no substance.

Instead, I want to focus on the impact and implications of O’Reilly’s downfall because it’s not just a non-tragedy. It’s actually part of a trend that started with Roger Ailes. Like O’Reilly, Ailes wasn’t brought down by his politics or his competence. He was brought down by charges of harassment by women.

That alone is pretty telling. These man can have some pretty disgusting politics. They can spit on minorities, shame women, and support policies that only serve to facilitate old white men getting their dicks sucked in every possible way. However, they have to become serial abusers of women in order to be taken down.

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Don’t get me wrong. Men who abuse women, regardless of their position or politics, deserve to be punished. Abuse isn’t just wrong. It’s a crime. If O’Reilly and Ailes are guilty of this crime, then they should pay a price. If they don’t, then there’s no reason for them to stop. That’s just basic justice.

Unfortunately, this is where I know I’m going to piss off the dancing hippies. As bad as the allegations against O’Reilly are, it’s not clear just how true they are. Now many parts of it may actually be true. O’Reilly may be every bit as despicable as these women claim. However, without proof that can withstand scrutiny in a court of law, it’s unreasonable to just accept those claims outright.

I know. I can already hear angry feminists, beta males, and Rachel Maddow fans yelling at me. The very notion that O’Reilly didn’t do these horrible things, given the ugliness of his politics, seems downright offensive.

Let me make clear, though, that I’m not sticking up for O’Reilly or Ailes. I think both men are arrogant pieces of shit who trolled their way to fame and fortune. They’ve said and done things I don’t agree with, but you can say that about almost everyone in your life, be they a talking head on Fox News or a close family member. The difference is a matter of degree.

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Now given the sheer number of claims, as well as the extent to which O’Reilly settled them, it’s reasonable to conclude that there’s something going on here. As we saw with the Duke Lacrosse case and the UVA rape case, false allegations tend to fall apart when subjected to scrutiny.

One or two women making an allegation with little evidence doesn’t prove much, especially when the allegation is against someone as rich and despised as Bill O’Reilly. There’s too much reason to suspect ulterior motives. It’s when multiple allegations emerge over time from multiple women who are not in contact with one another when a pattern emerges.

That’s still not to say that all the allegations against O’Reilly are true. Chances are, they’re not nearly as pornographic as the media claims. Anything that makes a media headline is usually designed to titillate more than inform. That’s just how media works. Ask any porn star.

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However, given how many rich men there are in media and how only a handful of them generate this many sexual harassment allegation, it’s not reasonable to say that every woman is lying. The truth, as is often the case, is usually somewhere in between and not nearly as sexy as we think.

Now that O’Reilly has joined Ailes as old, right-wing blowhards who were done in by sexual harassment claims, a larger pattern has emerged. Now, the ardent critics of these trolls, of which there are many, have a new tactic for taking them down. They don’t have to contest their politics or engage in meaningful debate. They just have to nail them for harassment.

That, in my opinion, is a dangerous precedent. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious crimes. They should be treated and adjudicated as such. If they become tactics for silencing blowhards, no matter how much an asshole they may be, then that denigrates actual victims of these crimes.

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It also gives opponents of these men powerful excuses to avoid actually confronting the substance of their words. As I’ve mentioned before, those kinds of excuses can create a dangerous mentality that allows people to circumvent critical thought of a situation.

In the end, I’m not going to miss Bill O’Reilly any more than I miss Roger Ailes. I really do hope the women accusing him prove their case. I hope that proof comes out and we can know with certainty whether they’re actually true. The truth has a way of adding greater weight to any situation. It also has a knack for getting lost in the media spectacle.

Whatever happens to O’Reilly from here on out is fairly inconsequential. He’s already made his money. He doesn’t need to troll any more unless he really misses the attention. With the precedent set, though, we may see more of this tactic against the professional trolls of the world. As annoying as these trolls are, the fact such tactics are necessary says a lot about how willing some are to find excuses instead of reasons.

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The Cult/Myth/Absurdity Of Virginity

I talk a lot about the absurdities in our culture that undermine or ruin our ability to love, make love, or just plain hump. These absurdities are important to me because I’m in the business of telling sexy, romantic stories. If there’s something that hinders or attacks our natural inclination to love and hump one another, then it’s going to affect the ability of my readers to get the most out of my books.

Since I want my readers to get the most out of my sexy love stories, I feel inclined to confront these absurdities. Sometimes it comes in the form of radical feminism. Sometimes it comes in the form of religious dogma. There’s no one singular force that’s putting the locks on our collective panties. It’s more of a drunken brawl of forces that are coordinating to attack one person, but don’t realize it.

It’s chaotic. It’s controversial. It’s bound to offend certain people with certain sensibilities. For that, I apologize, but I still feel that these absurdities need to be called out for what they are. It doesn’t matter if sticking your hand in a deep fryer is a sacred tradition. It’s still an absurdity on some levels.

The absurdity in this case has to do with the big V-word that we in the erotica/romance world must navigate. No, I’m not talking about a certain body part for a certain gender. I’m talking about the other big V-word. I’m talking about virginity.

Say that word out loud and measure your reaction. Then say another word like pencil and measure your reaction as well. Is it the same? If so, then you’re excused from reading the rest of this post. You’re more than equipped to appreciate the sex appeal of my books, which I highly recommend. If not, then this is something we need to talk about.

The whole concept of virginity is one of those concepts we, as a society, actively avoid scrutinizing. As a definition, it’s not that hard. Virginity is just a colorful term we used to describe those who have never had sex. If that were there was to it, then it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d lump it together with words like “moist” and “juicy.” They may make some people uncomfortable for entirely personal reasons, but most just shrug it off.

The problem is that, for reasons that have a lot to do with pre-modern culture and little to do with actual physical traits, the concept of virginity has been conflated, twisted, and in some cases deified. There’s a reason why the Virgin Mary has that moniker. If she were just the Hot Blond Mary, it would not have the same impact.

So why does it have this impact? Well, I’d love to say that there’s some complex, fascinating, socio-political reason for it. I’m sure there are some people who teach entire classes on this subject who can conjure complexities from this issue that make it seem akin to quantum mechanics. I’m not one of those people. That means I’m the answer I give is simple, crude, and frustratingly concise. Spoiler alert: I’ll be using caveman logic again.

Virginity has this impact for a pretty simple reason. For most of human history, we didn’t know squat about diseases. We didn’t have reliable pregnancy tests. On top of that, our best contraception involved trusting men to pull out at just the right moment. We can barely trust men with smartphones these days. You really think we can trust them that much when orgasms are involved? Just ask Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner.

This means that virginity is pretty much the only thing our ancestors had to be certain that a woman was disease free and not carrying someone else’s child. Marrying a virgin means there’s little chance she has the plague. It also helps guarantee that the kids she has are going to be yours biologically.

When your entire society is based on land-owning, agrarian traditions, that’s kind of a big deal. By kind of, I mean wars will be fought and people will lose their heads (among other body parts) if they find out their bride slept around or had a kid who wasn’t theirs.

Naturally, our caveman brains can’t process this on a wholly rational basis. Our biology, and the mechanisms that drive it, are blunt instruments. That means they’ll see an issue that may be as simple as a bent nail, but try to fix it with a jackhammer. It’s bound to cause some collateral damage. Unfortunately, the collateral damage in this case undermines the sexuality and agency of women.

It’s no coincidence that every major religion, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and pretty much every major religion founded before Scientology, places some emphasis on virginity. For these traditions, virginity isn’t just a pragmatic tool for ensuring disease-free, bastard-free brides. That’s too logical. They have to turn it into this esoteric, mystical brand of purity.

A virgin woman, in this context, is like a freshly-baked cookie that no one else has touched. It’s like perfectly ripened fruit that hasn’t been harvested yet. It’s like polished Rolls Royce that comes fresh from the factory, never driven and never sat in.

Is this starting to get creepy? Is comparing women to food, cars, and things that don’t have thoughts or feelings starting to bother you? Well, don’t go running to the toilet yet. That’s normal. That’s what happens when you peel back the layers about virginity and why it’s so deified. It really just comes down to a convenient excuse for old sexual traditions.

It’s still absurd, but it’s at least understandable to some degree. We didn’t know what we didn’t know for a long, long time. We only had these traditions and superstitions to guide us. The fact that we’re still here as a civilization and a species shows they did have some merit, but that merit is exceedingly limited, especially to those of us who think women should have agency in their sex lives. What a concept, right?

The concept of virginity became obsolete as soon as we discovered methods of contraception that don’t rely on trusting men to pull out at the right time. It’s become even more obsolete as medical science has advanced to a point where the diseases that used to render women sterile, weak, or dead are either curable or treatable. It’s a wonderful thing, women not being sick or at the mercy of their fertility.

Unfortunately, these outdated concepts of virginity didn’t die as soon as condoms and birth control pills became easier to obtain than cigarettes. Once again, our caveman brains screw us over and not in the fun way.

Remember, the caveman brain is not rational. That means it will cling to irrational crap for as long as possible because completely re-thinking a concept takes too much time and energy. That time and energy needs to be spent preparing for the winter and avoiding hungry bears, damn it! At least, that’s how our caveman brains see it.

As a result, the idea of virginity still has this strange place in modern society. It’s only strange because some people take it to distinctly creepy extremes. Those extremes lead to something like this.

That’s a purity ring. It’s one of the tools/gimmicks that extremely conservative types use in pushing their preferred brand of sexual education, “abstinence only.” They believe they can override an onslaught of hormones and millions of years of biological imperatives in impressionable, irrational teenagers. I want to admire their bravado, but at some point the absurdities are just too much.

They try to paint it as something romantic like, “true love waits.” As a romance/erotica writer, I just find that offensive. These religious, conservative types have their hearts in the right place. They don’t want young people engaging in risky sexual behavior that they’re not ready for. That’s entirely respectable, but extremely misguided.

It’s true that some people are better off waiting to have sex for the same reason some people are better off waiting to get their own credit card. They need to first make sure they’re responsible enough to handle all the proclivities that such things entail. Taking the abstinence route would be like not giving kids driver’s ed before they get a driver’s license. You’re just asking for trouble in the long run.

Even for those who wait, the religious dogma has a nasty tendency to misconstrue our libido. It’s why the idea of porn addiction is more prevalent among religious people compared to non-religious people. It’s also why some who do wait end up regretting it.

Sex is a lot like that road trip your parents to you on as a kid. You didn’t want to go. You worried and complained about it. Your parents just kept saying that if you think it’s going to be terrible, then it’s going to be terrible. You never admit they were right because you convinced yourself of something before you knew anything about it.

The same thing applies to sex. If you think it’s this dirty, evil deed that Satan created so that he could make babies to sacrifice, then you’re not going to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your wedding night or your prom night. You’ve already convinced yourself it’s going to be terrible.

You bought into all the dogma and let it rewire your brain, which still has that nasty imperative to survive and reproduce. It’s the one way you screw yourself that you can’t enjoy.

To make matters worse, our society still struggles with shaming women who decide to defy these notions of virginity. We don’t do it to men because men are just expected to hump everything with a pulse, which is offensive in and of itself to me, but that’s a post for another day. The women still disproportionately suffer the bulk of the shaming. Lose your virginity and you can expect to be shamed.

Human beings are sexual creatures. We’re also loving, passionate creatures. Trying to temper or restrain that passion for all the wrong reasons is going to have some nasty side-effect. Sadly, women are the ones who suffer those side-effects the most. Women are the ones who get stoned to death in certain parts of the world for not being virgins on their wedding nights. They’re the ones who get shamed when they try to enjoy sex.

As an erotica/romance writer, I want to celebrate and explore these feelings for men and women alike. I think they should be celebrated, but false notions of virginity and purity are getting in the way.

It’s still part of our culture, this idea that women should be pure and virginity is a virtue. It’ll continue to be part of our culture, even if we get to a point where contraception is fail-proof and medical science cures all diseases. Like many absurd traditions, it doesn’t stop being absurd.

With this in mind, anyone looking to learn a bit more about the concept of virginity and purity should check out this book by Jessica Valenti. It’s called “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Woman.” I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it’ll give you another reason to enjoy my books.

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