Eccentric Flower:200908/Dialogue of Ideas

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«August 2009 «Eccentric Flower

Dialogue of Ideas

I have been working my way through Laurie King's Mary Russell novels, about which I may have more to say at some future time, but suffice to say that one of the best things about these books is the depiction of a relationship between intellectual equals who have a common set of cues with which to communicate.

I'm sure there are plenty of couples in the world whose morning IM conversations never go like this, and I'm glad I'm not in one of those couples. I'm not saying there aren't days when we do nothing but grunt at one another, but the minds are always there, however sleepy, ready to swap ideas and argue and discuss and engage.

(The first link below is the real topic of the rest of this, and you may wish to detour to read it. I've left the second link in, though it has no pertinence to the rest of the conversation, so that the people who are uninterested in the other conversation have something else to go read.)

[09:28] Columbina: are we alive?
[09:28] Nonelvis: technically
[09:28] Nonelvis: we are reading a very interesting post
[09:28] Nonelvis: http://eruthros.dreamwidth.org/273840.html

[09:28] Columbina: I have one of those for you. it will amuse you
[09:28] Columbina: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/8/30/773243/-Top-10-Signs-You-Might-Not-Be-A-
[09:29] Nonelvis: #8 is my favorite
[09:29] Nonelvis: though #7 is a close second

[09:33] Columbina: this IS a very interesting post
[09:33] Nonelvis: isn't it?
[09:34] Nonelvis: If you read the LJ thread about it, you can see that the researcher is being very polite in responding to questions, but has no fucking clue whatsoever what fanfic and fandom are about
[09:35] Nonelvis: eruthros' complaints are dead-on
[09:35] Nonelvis: (http://ogi-ogas.livejournal.com/681.html)
[09:35] Columbina: Yah, I gather. Ogas appears to not only be disingenuous, but slightly unethical and maybe a junk scientist to boot
[09:35] Columbina: however
[09:36] Columbina: I do not necessarily agree, on the topic of kink communities in general, with two of eruthros' contentions
[09:37] Columbina: I have reason to believe that letting the community self-document, if such documentation ever has to take place
[09:37] Columbina: is a flawed idea
[09:37] Columbina: on the other hand, I agree with the flaws of having an outside examiner. it's a real problem
[09:37] Nonelvis: I don't think she's saying that only someone into kink can properly document things -- she just wants someone respectful and understanding, like the acafan she mentions.
[09:38] Nonelvis: An outsider who hasn't taken the slightest time to understand how things work, or get to know fandom, and just bulls his way into (a female) space, is asking for trouble
[09:38] Columbina: With outsiders looking in you tend to get the bug-under-microscope or shaming-the-weirdos behavors she originally points out (remember how mad I got at Katherine Gates)?
[09:38] Nonelvis: oh yes
[09:38] Columbina: eruthros says "We have become convinced, after years of reading horrifying interviews and studies that purport to know something about our communities - fannish communities, queer communities, kink communities - that the only way for these communities to be fairly represented is for them to represent themselves."
[09:39] Columbina: this overlooks the problem that it is possible to be TOO much within a community to get an accurate assessment of it
[09:39] Nonelvis: read the next sentence
[09:39] Nonelvis: I agree
[09:39] Nonelvis: but someone who is actually doing professional research should understand their own biases and account for them appropriately
[09:39] Columbina: oh definitely
[09:40] Columbina: no matter which side of the line they're on
[09:40] Nonelvis: let's put it this way: these guys are planning on calling their book "RULE 34: WHAT NETPORN TEACHES US ABOUT THE BRAIN"*
[09:40] Nonelvis: I don't even know what to say about that
[09:40] Columbina: I know I know. I am unimpressed
[09:40] Columbina: to say the least
[09:41] Columbina: I also don't necessarily agree with "We insiders are not interested in educating you outsiders." As a kink insider** I personally am VERY interested in educating outsiders, especially if it helps avoid the shaming the weirdos syndrome
[09:42] Nonelvis: She's making a strong statement, but I understand where she's coming from.
[09:42] Nonelvis: It's no different from a white person coming into a black community and expecting the nice black folks to teach them all about how the white people have been oppressing them.
[09:42] Columbina: Anyway, I may link this.
[09:42] Columbina: Joy would be interested in it.
[09:42] Nonelvis: I think you should. I'm leaving eruthros a comment now.
[09:42] Nonelvis: Oh, yes. I'd love to see Joy's opinion on it.

[09:43] Nonelvis: All the questions are on the anonmeme, btw, as well as on ogas' LJ, I think
[09:43] Nonelvis: http://community.livejournal.com/who_anon/7210.html?thread=31763754#t31763754


* Trufax. This is not a title one would give a book if one were actually trying to position it as a Serious Study With Actual Rigor, don't you agree?

** Well, as a semi-kink-insider. Let's put it this way: I has kink, and I still retain some ties and connections inside various kink subcommunities ... which ain't much cred, but it's worlds more inside than Ogas::fanfic is.


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Joy:

Well, I couldn't get past the first sentence eruthros's reply to the author's reply. Yeah, there is an inherent problem with the inside/outsider thing. But I'm reading a hell of a lot of po-mo dismissing of science as a method in her argument, and am having trouble getting past that. The very fact that she said "after all, evolutionary success can only mean genetic success can only mean only having heterosexual intercourse in the missionary position" makes me think her position is at least in part reactionary (I don't have cites to hand, but I think we've all heard about work looking at the survival benefit homosexual species members could convey). I'm not saying that having this reaction is completely unjustified - I'm sympathetic to instincts to protect oneself and ones community. But I feel like she veers into not believing there is any biological contribution to these things at all (despite some comments to the contrary in her writing - I found a lot of inconsistency on this point).

Is it junk science? Maybe; I don't trust a lot of cognitive neuroscience that is trying to reach conclusions about the brain by studying something that is very far removed from brain activity (as patterns of kink fanfic is). Do I think it is inherently a good idea to think about the biological elements that contribute to queer/kinky/"other" desires - yes. And I don't know any cognitive neuroscientists in real life who don't think that basically everything is influenced by context - on a micro (e.g., neurochemical) or macro (e.g., culture) level. The trick is being able to figure out how those influences interact - it isn't enough to say X is both nature and nurture, but to figure out how they interact in a complex way.

-- 15:42, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Columbina:

Well, first off, let's agree that we will not hold Ogas as the standard-bearer for anything. The more I see of his methodology the more it becomes clear that the man doesn't know how to write or conduct a proper survey, and that my statement "slightly unethical" could have been worded even more strongly.

I also agree that eruthros is being somewhat reactionary (especially in her anger, which may not be the way she is normally - I have no other context for her).

Now, the junk science thing - I was actually using that to mean the way the survey was being handled - Ogas, amid all his other rookie mistakes, shows every sign of wanting to make the results prove his thesis, which is #1 on the list of All-Time Research No-Nos in my book. (Whether a web survey which doesn't vet its participants in any way can EVER be useful data to anyone for anything is a separate question for another time.)

But since you bring it up - I am no cognitive scientist, but I find my back bristling at any theory that says "We do X because we are hard-wired in way Y" - I guess I come down about 90% in favor of environment/learning affecting brain behavior. Maybe more. About the only time someone has said "This behavior was hard-wired" in humans and I've believed them was when they were talking about aberrant behaviors which could be proven to be caused by physical DAMAGE - malformed brain cells etc. I believe that physical damage can cause behavioral damage. I do not believe that neurochemical aspects - physical properties of brain chemistry - can make one gay or femme or kinky, or even contribute to the eventual decision to be gay or femme or kinky in any substantial way. In short I believe we all start with the same brain cells (again barring damage), and everything else we do with them after that is learned/absorbed.

I guess that makes me reactionary, in my own way. And you are free to give me the horselaugh, since I have no credentials in this matter whatsoever. But it does dispose me to be biased against Ogas (even were he the slightest bit respectable), so I mention it as a data point in my own personal reaction to this foofaraw.

-- 15:55, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Joy:

I didn't read anything where he said that kind of thing about being hard-wired - but I didn't read all of the various links or the book announcement. I'm pretty sympathetic to you, and most people who are very pro-hard-wired-theories will still pretty easily admit that there is a role for context since many of the effects have to be triggered in some way, and the triggers are environmental.

-- 18:20, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Joy:

In looking at who he has published with etc, it looks like it might be a classic case of a person trained in computer/neural science who then tries to do a survey study/experiment. Even I would not try to do a survey study without asking other people for some help, since I've never done one before.

-- 18:27, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Columbina:

One of the things I like about you is that you are such a sweet and charitable person.

-- 19:15, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Nonelvis:

Meanwhile, over on LJ, jonquil has done some digging, and it looks like neither researcher has been trained by BU's IRB, which means the IRB has not approved this survey. Way to go, guys.

ETA: ... aaaaaand survey goes down "while we digest all this great feedback". I especially like the comment from someone saying that if they really want to "offer something useful to fandom," they should consider kidney donation.

-- 19:50, 31 August 2009 (BST)


Mel:

On the libertarian thing: I really want to give all of these wanna-be libertarians their own playpen - like, fence off some uninhabited part of Nevada, maybe - and stick them out there with no government services whatsoever and see how long they last.

-- 00:53, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Joy:

I really hope he gets major shit from his advisor. Then again - and I'm not sure it is being charitable, Col - computer scientists/engineers/modelling people are sometimes just clueless about research with human subjects, and the rules and regulations, so the advisor might not be any more in the know.

Honestly the survey sounded like a fishing experiment (which is okay - sometimes the first step is to just see what is out there) and clearly was put together hastily. But gah, you do not do these things without IRB approval (the federal govt will shut your ass down, the whole school, if an infraction is found) and you also DON'T TELL your respondents what your hypotheses are. GAH!

-- 17:12, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Bunny42:

"I do not believe that neurochemical aspects - physical properties of brain chemistry - can make one gay or femme or kinky, or even contribute to the eventual decision to be gay or femme or kinky in any substantial way. In short I believe we all start with the same brain cells (again barring damage), and everything else we do with them after that is learned/absorbed."

Huh. I've always believed that one needed a propensity toward homosexuality to begin with. The few gays I have known growing up were not under any particular influence to "become" gay, they just sort of "were" gay. It wasn't a choice, is what I'm saying. I suppose there are any number of reasons to consciously choose a gay lifestyle, but it's always been my impression that the majority didn't elect to be gay, they just were. That, to me, indicates hard-wiring of some sort. It's particularly apparent in transsexuals, who feel trapped in a body of the wrong sex. How could that not be a physical predilection? Your 90% seems high, but you are more in tune with the various communities and have studied this topic more than I have, so I'll probably have to rethink my basic impressions, at least somewhat. I guess I could never understand consciously selecting an alternative lifestyle. Seems like a lot of trouble and heartache. Not unlike a mixed-race marriage. You have to really believe in it and want it, to be willing to put up with all the attendant grief. Doable, if you have a FTW attitude, but it still has the potential for bigtime hurt from the shame-the-weirdos contingent. Again, I don't have much research to back this up, just my general impression. I hate survey results, as a rule, because one never knows who was asked. I never get called. How do they find their participants?

Oh, and that kidney donation comment cracked me up. Devastatingly accurate.

-- 17:27, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Nonelvis:

Bunny, I was assuming that Col was distinguishing between genetic factors responsible for homosexuality and neurochemical ones, but I guess I could be wrong. I'd be shocked if he actually thought that people choose to be gay, rather than simply being born that way.

Meanwhile, someone commenting on one of Ogas' threads has taken the obvious next step and written Ogas/Gaddam slash. As another person in that thread says, "Do not meddle in the affairs of slasher, for you are hot and go well with other men."

-- 19:57, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Columbina:

What Nonelvis said. I do not think homosexuality is a choice, any more than I think gender dysphoria is, but I tend to think of it more as a product of circumstances rather than a product of initial biology.

I'm sure we could go back through my family history and my childhood for weeks on end, were we foolish enough to attempt it, and find the factors that led me to feel that I ended up in the wrong gender - a conclusion I'm not always absolutely sure of myself, mind you.

But would it be a worthwhile exercise? Would it matter? At no time was it a choice; at no time did I make a conscious decision that I was in a body of the wrong gender. "It just happened."

Whether it just happened because of the random arrangement of my neurochemical grid in the womb, or it just happened because that is the way all circumstances of my life shaped it, strikes me as an interesting, yet pointless, theoretical discussion which does not in any way alter the real facts.

(P.S. I've been reading a lot of books set in 1919-1923 where one of the protagonists is Sherlock Holmes, and upon rereading the above I find it has temporarily influenced my prose. Forgive me.)

-- 20:07, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Joy:

See and as your friend, I agree with you that it is a theoretical discussion that doesn't alter the facts, but as a scientist I WANT TO KNOW which it is. Is it a lack of estrogen, which normally protects the brain from the feminizing effects of testosterone (I think I have that non-intuitive finding right) that causes male homosexuality? Not that it would even necessarily be the whole story, but is it that that starts the chain of events? And what environmental factors (from molecular to cultural) then can trigger the genetic predispositions?

In other words, did I figure out I'm bi because I started thinking about having sex with women as an exercise after a discussion in women's studies about whether you could choose to be gay or not; was I attracted to that exercise because I was bi or predisposed to it; would I have figured it out regardless and some other trigger would have led me down that path? In my actual life, the underlying causes/explanations don't matter, but I'm curious to know.

-- 20:34, 1 September 2009 (BST)


Bunny42:

Exactly. I even think that if the so-called cause could be more readily identified as hard-wired, then perhaps there wouldn't be such a movement to condemn. Oh, I know, there will always be the fundamentalist moonbats, but actual, thinking, reasoning people would at least know that this "aberration" or whatever one considers it to be is generally beyond the control of the individual, and should not be condemned out of hand.

Myself, I don't think sexual orientation is anybody's business, especially government, be it state or Federal. Unless, of course, it involves children, but that's a whole other discussion not relevant to this thread.

I must confess to having seen two gorgeous guys walking hand-in-hand and thinking geez, what a waste! But intellectually, that's not how I feel. It was more a case of envy, not being judgmental. A girl can daydream...

-- 01:00, 2 September 2009 (BST)

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