The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'puritanism'


A Scottish man was sentenced to three years' probation and placed on the sex offenders' register for having sex with a bicycle in his hostel bedroom.

Mr Stewart was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr.
"They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down. "The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."
Sheriff Colin Miller told Stewart: "In almost four decades in the law I thought I had come across every perversion known to mankind, but this is a new one on me. I have never heard of a 'cycle-sexualist'."
I'm as much at a loss as anyone else at why anyone should want to have sex with a bicycle, or for that matter at how such a concept could make sense (it sounds more like a risqué take on a Flann O'Brien novel than anything else), but the charge sounds exceedingly draconian, more like a throwback to the mentality that crucified Oscar Wilde than any modern idea of justice.

Had he been buggering his bicycle in the public square and scaring the horses, I could see how it would be a "sexually aggravated breach of the peace". However, he was doing it in his room, the door of which was locked. There was no mention of the bicycle having been stolen, so presumably it was his to do as he pleased with. Had he been ritually burning it in a Viking funeral, attempting to eat it or dancing the foxtrot with it, no court of law would presumably deign to inquire into what would be seen as his private eccentricity. But as soon as sex enters the equation, it suddenly becomes a matter of public morality, and one which must be prosecuted in the interest of society.

(I wonder whether it was the use of an inanimate object in a sexual act that was the crime or the lack of a human partner. Had he been, somehow, using the bicycle as an aid to having sex with another consenting adult, would he have been prosecuted? And are all inanimate objects illegal to use for sexual gratification in Scotland, or only ones the prosecuting authorities are unable to imagine anyone in their right mind using?)

crime objectum-sexuality perversions puritanism sex uk weird 1


The Fermi Paradox is the observation that it is highly probable that, somewhere else in the universe, intelligent life would have arisen and made its presence known by now, and yet Earth seems to be alone in the universe. Since the paradox was first posed in the 1940s, a number of solutions have been proposed, many of them not cheering, and many reflected the Cold War era they originated in: perhaps any species that reaches a certain technical level inevitably develops the means to destroy itself, and does so. Perhaps in a universe of aliens competing for resources and having little means of achieving agreement, any species that broadcasts its presence is doomed to be preemptively annihilated by others, lest it develop the means to do so. Which means that all those broadcasts of Malcolm In The Middle we're carelessly sending out to space could be responded to by a barrage of planet-killing projectiles travelling at close to light speed.

Now evolutionary psychology has suggested a new possible solution to Fermi's Paradox: perhaps it's not so much a case of sentient species wiping themselves out upon attaining the means to do so, as of turning inwards and devoting all their energy to video games and virtual reality, things much more immediately gratifying than doing battle with the real universe:

Basically, I think the aliens don't blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain's ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels...ever so good.
The result is that we don't seek reproductive success directly; we seek tasty foods that have tended to promote survival, and luscious mates who have tended to produce bright, healthy babies. The modern result? Fast food and pornography. Technology is fairly good at controlling external reality to promote real biological fitness, but it's even better at delivering fake fitness--subjective cues of survival and reproduction without the real-world effects. Having real friends is so much more effort than watching Friends. Actually colonizing the galaxy would be so much harder than pretending to have done it when filming Star Wars or Serenity. The business of humanity has become entertainment, and entertainment is the business of feeding fake fitness cues to our brains.
This comes down to the reward mechanisms that served our ancient ancestors' genes well being far too slow to adapt to technological hacks that short-circuit these reward mechanisms:
Fitness-faking technology tends to evolve much faster than our psychological resistance to it. With the invention of the printing press, people read more and have fewer kids. (Only a few curmudgeons lament this.) With the invention of Xbox 360, people would rather play a high-resolution virtual ape in Peter Jackson's King Kong than be a perfect-resolution real human. Teens today must find their way through a carnival of addictively fitness-faking entertainment products: iPods, DVDs, TiVo, Sirius Satellite Radio, Motorola cellphones, the Spice channel, EverQuest, instant messaging, MDMA, BC bud. The traditional staples of physical, mental and social development--athletics, homework, dating--are neglected. The few young people with the self-control to pursue the meritocratic path often get distracted at the last minute. Take, for example, the MIT graduates who apply to do computer game design for Electronics Arts, rather than rocket science for NASA.
The author posits the idea that all intelligent species that develop the technology to create computer simulations of this sort go through the "Great Temptation", and subsequently die out, and that this is happening to humanity, with our only hope of survival as a species would be to develop a puritanical opposition to virtual reality, a sort of biological fundamentalism:
Some individuals and families may start with an "irrational" Luddite abhorrence of entertainment technology, and they may evolve ever more self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtual entertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work, delayed gratifica tion, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the family values of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left.
This, too, may be happening already. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.

(via WorldChanging) aliens civilisation consumerism evolution evolutionary psychology fermi paradox puritanism society solipsism tech videogames vr 5


A woman in Tennessee (a US state known for its cosmopolitan outlook and love of diversity) has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 80 million Americans over the Janet Jackson incident. The lawsuit, which names Jackson, Justin Timberlake, MTV, Viacom and CBS as defendents, claims that Jackson's exposure of her breast, and "other lewd and sexually explicit conduct" caused viewers to "suffer outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury", and demanded compensatory and punitive damages. The exact figure wasn't specified, but it could be in the order of billions; the lawsuit notes that punitive damages should not exceed the gross revenues of all defendants for the past three years.

It's a hard lesson, but let it serve as a warning to anybody else seeking to terrorise decent God-fearing American families and children with naked televised breasts. Now, back to your steady diet of morally wholesome televised violent murders.

culture war janet jackson puritanism usa 0


The Bush administration vetoes a UN declaration on children's rights, refusing to sign it unless provisions for sexual health services are removed, replaced with abstinence-based programmes. The US is supported by the Vatican in this (and possibly the Australian government as well). It is predicted that if the US gets its way, it will exacerbate the AIDS crisis in the third world, not to mention the other consequences of unwanted children being born. But hey, think of all the souls that will be saved...

abstinence culture war human rights politics puritanism religiots sex un usa 5


This is not the Onion: The Islamic theocracy of Iran is ahead of the U.S. in sex education. Mostly because of the U.S.'s federally-mandated "abstinence-only" sex education and panic about regarding under-18s as sexual beings. (For example, the Missouri legislature, presumably taking a break from the War On Goths, recently voted to cut $100,000 from a University's budget to punish a professor who claimed that the 'moral panic' over paedophilia is exaggerated.)

Update: An AlterNet story about the issue, and about a controversial book criticising the whole notion of protecting minors from the very knowledge of sex.

(via Unknown News, The Fix)

abstinence iran moral panic politics puritanism religiots sex education usa 0


Everyone's a critic: Judge sentences photographer to 2 1/2 years jail for taking photographs of corpses in a morgue.

One of the images showed the hands of a 2-year-old boy wrapped with plastic. In another, a man's body was posed with an apple, while another showed a woman with a key between her lips.
The judge called Mr. Condon's project ''idiotic'' and questioned the photographer's remorse.

IMHO, taking the photographs without permission (of the relatives; the subjects, after all, being beyond caring about such matters) could be considered somewhat callous; however, sending someone to prison for it is just stupid, and reeks of authoritarianism and an all-American puritanism.

art authoritarianism crime death puritanism 0

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