Sunday, April 24, 2016

An Open Letter to Game of Thrones Watchers

Spoilers for both the show and the books.

Dear Game of Thrones Watchers,

I was once smug. I knew the fates of Ned, Caitlin, and Robb. I knew what happened to Joffrey and Khal Drogo. I never said, but I knew and I liked knowing and I was smug about it. We all have our vices.

But now, it's here. The day in which you become the smug show watchers and the smug book readers are knocked down a peg. Today is when the show officially delves into uncharted territory that may or may not be explored later in the books.

(I say "may or may not" because the show has veered WAY off course and at this point David Benioff and Dan Weiss are just writing fan fiction even though they technically know how George R.R. Martin is going to end the series. It was Jeyne Poole who was pretending to be Arya that married Ramsay Bolton and escaped with Theon Greyjoy, Tyrion hasn't met up with Daenerys, Ser Barristan is still alive, Stannis Baratheon hasn't died, nor did he gratuitously burn his daughter alive, and Catelyn Stark is still in the mix [in a manner of speaking]. Martin himself even said that the show wasn't able to do something he was planning for the books because the character involved was dead. But my annoyances with story changes are not what I came here to write about [I just have to mention it every time I talk about the show because COME ON, THESE ARE POINTLESS CHANGES YOU ARE MAKING AND THE SHOW IS SUFFERING BECAUSE OF IT!])

*Deep breath* I came here to write about the fact that the show is now officially ahead of the books, changed story or not. I know Jon Snow dies. I can't say I know he's coming back because I can't know anything until I read it, but I am 99.9% certain that he is because he is the literal personification of ice and fire (based on the L+R=J theory, something else that I'm 99.9% sure of). I think I have a pretty good idea of how he's coming back, but I could be wrong. Apart from that, I know nothing, Jon Snow. And that makes me sad.

I am tempted, though. It would be so very easy for me to turn on my TV and log into my friend's HBO Go account and watch the premier. Within an hour I would know better the fates of Dany, Jon, Arya, and Bran. And I would enjoy it (while simultaneously wanting to throw one of my ASOIAF books at the TV).

But at the same time, I would be spoiling myself for when I finally read The Winds of Winter. It won't be a thriller anymore, but a very in-depth recap and I can't do it. I won't. I want to read the real story and I want to read those surprises first.

So please, show watchers, please remember those of us who have forsaken the show but not the books. Some did it for spoilers, some for gratuitous sexual violence, others for the story, and some of us did it for all of those.

You can judge us for not watching. Many of us judged you for not reading the damn books (which were SO much better [except for A Dance With Dragons]) so it's only fair that you judge us for not taking one measly hour out of our week to watch the show. Just please, for the love of all that you find holy, don't spoil anything. Yes, there were a handful of dicks who spoiled things for you, but most of us were harmless smugs. I deserve your smugness. I deserve your judgement. But I don't deserve your spoilers.


A Song of Ice and Fire Fan

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In Defense of Porn

Utah declared pornography a public health crisis today. I've been passively watching the whole Fight the New Drug fad for some time now. My first thought was no more than a "huh," because I didn't have a strong opinion of porn. When it started I might have tended to agree with its position, but the more I looked into it, the more I disagreed. As the movement grew, I would occasionally grumble to a couple of people close to me, but whatever. If people want to try to evangelize not watching porn without actually looking at the research (or lack thereof), go for it. But with this new declaration from the governor, I really need to get a few things off my chest.

In order to do so, I'm going to go through the "facts" from Fight the New Drug's website. A group, by the way, started by two Mormon boys who don't have a background in neuroscience.

Before I start, I need to point out that good research in this area is severely lacking. I say good research because most of the stuff that Fight the New Drug cites is garbage (I would say all, but I didn't look through everything. Everything I did look through was useless). These guys are not researchers and they don't know how to find good data. Which is why all of my information is from SPAN Lab's website and studies. Go read them. They're one of the few unbiased groups studying this.

1. Porn is Like a Drug
2. Porn is Addictive
Sure, your brain likes to look at sexy sex. Want to know what else your brain likes to look at? Puppies and chocolate, both of which make your brain do the same thing as it does when watching porn. I'm not saying a compulsive feeling to look at porn a lot isn't a thing, but there's no evidence that it acts like a drug. This "fact" has been debunked.

Also, what isn't called "addictive" these days? Smartphones, sex, tanning beds, the internet... In the scientific and behavioral health communities, the term "addiction" has some very specific requirements, and again, porn doesn't do to your brain what addiction does.

3. Porn Affects Your Behavior
4. Porn Addiction Escalates 
Want to know how garbage the research on this website is? They cite a Reddit survey on a sub-Reddit called NoFap ("fap" is a slang term for masturbation). REDDIT, GUYS! If you don't get why this would infuriate me, let me know and we can chat privately. Anyway, the point they make is that people who watch lots of porn are twice as likely to think that bestiality is twice as common as those who don't watch porn (from another crap study with a clear bias). Then they say that if you think something is common you're more likely to try it. Jumping from someone saying there's a 2% prevalence of bestiality to a 4% prevalence is hardly enough to call something "common." Nowhere is there evidence that porn causes people to try bestiality.

You know what people who do watch porn do? They try different positions (which is fun!). Women self-stimulate during penetration (which increases orgasm!). They find people who are into the weird shit they are and have weird consensual sex. One thing that probably will turn out to have some truth in it is men who watch degrading or violent porn changes their view of women for the worse. I say some truth because recent studies of sexist video games have shown that playing those games doesn't make men sexist, but they reinforce sexist ideas that men already had about women. And, although FTNG would like you to believe that people who watch porn get into weirder and dirtier stuff as time goes on (there's that Reddit survey again), there's no evidence that happens regularly.

5. Porn Ruins Your Sex Life
6. Porn Leaves You Lonely 
7. Porn Hurts Your Partner
These things sometimes happen when people view porn, but do you want to know something? It's not porn that is to blame, it's shame. I didn't mean for that to rhyme. When a sexually repressed person (and there are a lot of those in the Mormon community that founded FTNG) does something that they are taught is sinful, they're going to feel guilt. You know what guilt does? It isolates you. This is not exclusive to porn. In fact, people who view porn are actually more likely to say that it has improved their sex lives, and having couples view porn together is a pretty successful treatment for sexual dysfunction.

8. Porn is a Lie
Sure. Are they really saying this is big news though? Advertisements, TV, movies, books, guess what? All lies! Ergo, all those things must be evil. The problem isn't with porn, the problem is with kids getting their sexual education from porn. While watching Avengers with my young nephew, he asked if what was going on really happened. His mother explained that no, it's just pretend. These people are called actors and there are computers that make things look like they're really happening. If only kids felt that comfortable talking to their parents when they see sex online.

9. Porn Leads to Violence
Nope. Fist of all, when they say that 88% of scenes from 50 videos contained violence, that included things like spanking, which plenty of people like in real life and is perfectly benign if both people are into it. That stat is misleading to say the least (like everything else on this terribly researched website). There is no reliable evidence that porn leads to men physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing women. Again, based on similar studies, my assumption is that certain porn will reinforce certain tendencies, but it doesn't create them.

10. Porn's Dirty Little Secret
I don't have any particular issues with this section, mostly because everything they talk about is anecdotal. I agree that there are major issues with the porn industry. Unfortunately, it's like anything else we consume - food, clothing, electronics, everything is potentially created from exploitation. If you want to give up porn because of industry practices, I won't judge you any more than if you give up meat because of slaughterhouse conditions or only buy American-made clothing in order to avoid sweat shops.

11. Porn Hates Families
This goes back to 5, 6, and 7. It's about openness and communication. If your partner doesn't want you looking at porn, talk about it. If they don't want you looking at specific kids of porn, talk about it. It's not black and white. Nothing is.

12. Porn's Harm is Changing Fast
Interesting claim, considering most of the studies about the effects of porn they cite are outdated.

Listen, for the vast majority of people, porn isn't going to ruin or change anything unless you let it. Be open with your kids. Talk about it in a way that doesn't shame them. Talk about it with your partners in a way that doesn't shame them. And please, for the love of all that is holy, do actual research before you jump to conclusions. So many of the studies FTNG cites are outdated, are terribly done and not able to be replicated, have a very clear bias against pornography, or were sponsored or paid for by an organization that had a bias. If good research comes out consistently backing up everything these guys say, I'll gladly eat my words. But so far, what little is out there does not reach the erroneous conclusions these guys do.