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Monday, June 23, 2014

Is this rape?

*I apologize for the grammatical errors.  I did not write this scenario; it's an image.

The above scenario appeared in a group I frequent on Facebook, and I found that I read it wrong at first, then got something else wrong when I re-read it.  I wanted to separate it from the group and parse it for clarity, although there is one thing I got right about the scenario off the bat: it is definitely rape.  You can disagree with me, but consent was withdrawn.  When consent is withdrawn, it's a full stop.  You do not keep going.  If you do, you are committing the crime of rape.  

This might not be a necessary exercise for everyone, but since people had all sorts of things to add and all sorts of questions to ask, it might be good for other folks as well.  That's why I'm doing it here, and not simply in a Notepad document for myself.  It's important, because there seems to be question about consent where none should exist. 

This couple was having consensual sex...

So, consent was there initially.  So far, so good.

...she reached her climax before him...

When I first read this part, my tired mind (I've slept about three hours in the past 48) inserted a "because" in front.  I realized my error after I re-read it.  Because of the initial misunderstanding, I interpreted her action as selfish, but there is no actual evidence of selfishness on her part in this scenario.

 ...and wanted him to stop thereafter.

Someone questioned this part of it.  Did she actually communicate her desire for him to stop explicitly?  When I went back and re-read it after that question was asked, I didn't re-read it all the way, so I said that assuming it was communicated at all, he should have stopped.  It didn't have to be assumed, as we will see later.

 He didn't stop right away because he also wanted his orgasm...

Now here, we see evidence of selfishness.  He wanted to get off, so he kept going, even though she said to stop.  Why did she want him to stop? Obviously, he was not sensitive enough to her needs, emotional or physical, to find out.  He just wanted his orgasm.  She wanted him to stop, but he didn't.  Rape.  Clear-cut.  Consent withdrawn.

...she later reported him for rape, claiming that he didn't stop after she said, "Stop."  

The only problem she's going to have is that it's her word against his...sadly.  If she did say, "Stop," she meant for him to stop.  Whatever her reason, he should not have continued.  There's no other way to interpret this scenario, based on the information given.  It is rape, and he should not have raped her.  He should have at least stopped to find out why she wanted to stop, and shouldn't have continued without her consent in any event.  She might have had to urinate, might have a medical concern, might feel nauseous all of a sudden, might have a doesn't matter.  It's a full stop scenario. That's it.

What's your take on this?  Was she raped?

Yes.  Yes, she was.  He ignored her when she communicated that she wanted him to stop.  There is no scenario where it's okay to continue after she withdraws consent.

I hope this helps more people to understand the scenario and understand that consent can be withdrawn for any reason at any time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On marriage and important considerations for men

Today, a group where I'm a member was discussing marriage, and one member brought up some objections to the practice, making some claims that I would like to address.  He said, "Marriage is for girls," going on to say, "Guys get married for only a few reasons: they are 'godly', they have control issues of some sort, they are insecure at some level, they just want to make their woman happy...or they're gay."  Someone also added "Hence why marriage is gay," at one point, which I will get back to later, because I think it's important to address the other points first.

Marriage is for girls?

In American culture, at least, marriage seems slanted toward women, because all of the marketing appears to be for the bride.  Engagement rings still appear mostly on women's fingers, not men's (although men's engagement rings appear here and there, and may become a trend).  A vast amount of money goes into the wedding gown, bridesmaids' dresses, the engagement ring (which is what began the discussion in the first place), and the bands.  The man's band typically is plain and less costly.  Men wear tuxes, traditionally, and those are usually rentals.  Unless he and his groomsmen are difficult to fit, they're pretty simple and much less costly, because wedding gowns and bridesmaids' dresses are not typically rentals.

Most websites geared toward what I will term "marriage marketing" focus on the bride.  I'm gotten emails from them, having signed up for the lists and for contests/sweepstakes, and they tend to address the bride only.

I think the slant has two major causes: one is tradition.  The other is the market.  The market perpetuates the tradition and feeds into it.  It sets up expectations for generations who grow up with marriage being marketed in traditional ways.  In capitalist society, the market will change if entrepreneurs perceive a demand and meet it with a supply, so unless there's a market for things men will wear, use, or consume at a wedding, there won't be equality in this regard--unless women stop buying into it.

So far, I've only really been talking about the wedding, and how it's marketed.  That's not marriage, though.  Marriage is the commitment, and it takes two.  So, do men really get married for the reasons this member claimed?  I haven't conducted a study, but I will go through the claims and speak for myself.  Other men can speak up if they want--and they should.  You really should think about why you're getting married, because I did it once already, said I wasn't going to do it again, and here I am, engaged.  Why would I do that?  It's because there are still plenty of good reasons, and I know what to look for and what to avoid now, from my failed marriage and from relationships prior to it.

Men get married because they are "godly"?

This claim certainly doesn't apply to me.  I'm an atheist, and have been for twenty-three years.  I gave up religion when I was nineteen.

Men get married because they have control issues?

I'm not getting married to control my wife-to-be.  In fact, with the way divorces work, marriage gives the woman more power than she would have otherwise in the relationship.  With no kids involved, I could abandon a woman with whom I've been living (since many states have given up common law marriage), leave her completely destitute, and she'd have no recourse in divorce, because there wouldn't be one.  If you're getting married in 2014 because you think you're going to be able to control a woman, you're pretty ignorant of marriage/divorce law.

Men get married because they are insecure on some level?

If was insecure, I would never have talked to my fiancee in the first place.  If wasn't confident in myself, I wouldn't have attracted her, given her past relationships.  I'm not marrying her to bind her to me so no one else can have her; that would be insane, given the fact that marriage doesn't stop infidelity.  I don't understand this argument on any level, unless someone believed that if he didn't marry his significant other, he'd lose her to someone who would, and that possibility is laughable in my case.  She wouldn't want anyone else.  I am completely confident in that...for reasons that are personal, private, and between us.

Men get married because they want to make their women happy?

Yes, I want to make her happy, but I'm not marrying her to make her happy.  I make her happy without the legal binding.  I'm doing it because I want to.

So...why am I getting married?

Marriage gives couples certain legal protections they can't get otherwise, or have to jump through many legal hoops to have.  Some of these legal hoops involve expense that would be unnecessary if you're married.

Your tax status changes when you're married.  It's a lot more difficult to claim someone as a dependent when they're not married to you, if you've supported that person.

She can easily do business in my name while I'm working.  She can use my credit card at the store, if necessary.  I don't have to jump through hoops to get her onto the medical benefits I have through work.  She can advocate for my daughter when I'm not around if she shares my last name and my daughter's.

There are around 250 legal protections for married couples, and I won't list them all here.  Conversely, there are reasons marriage carries risk.  You are married to a person's credit.  It isn't easy to get divorced, and your assets might have to be divided (if a prenuptial agreement isn't in place, that is) if you split up.  If your spouse gets pregnant by another man, some states consider the resulting child a product of your marriage (this is not a concern in the case of my current engagement, but it did become a concern in my first marriage).

The fact is, I love my fiancee.  I love her more than I've loved anyone.  I have a high degree of compatibility with her.  She shows me affection on a level I've never received.  She works with me, supports me, encourages me, and cares for me.  She's loyal, honest, intimate, and diligent.  She's an advocate for her children, and has become an advocate for mine.  She's attractive, too--bonus!  I am committing to her on the level of being legally bound because I fully understand both the benefits and consequences, and have certainty that we have something that will last.  Other examples of happily married couples who have lasted for decades look a lot like what we have now.

Marriage is gay?

I think calling anything "gay" speaks of insensitivity and intellectual vacuousness.  People who say that things are "gay" usually aren't thinking about how their words might disparage gay people, but worse, it typically isn't what they mean.   They mean that they don't like whatever it is, or that it's lame...which gives "gay" negative connotations.  I think people in the LGBT community can speak to this one better than I can, but as an ally, it didn't sit well with me at all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Marriage Equality Church: Important For Nonreligious People, Too

Religious activists appear everywhere in our society.  They believe their religion is above the law, and if the law conflicts with their beliefs, they simply ignore it.  We hear about violations of separation of state and church in schools all the time.  The cases sometimes go the way they should, as with the Dover, PA incident, where a religious principal brought a creationist text, Of Pandas and People, into the science classrooms.  We hear about mandated prayer at assemblies.  We hear about school boards, packed with religious activists, who change the science standards to water down or eliminate evolution.  Legislation constantly appears at the state level, sometimes at the federal, to attempt to grant special rights to religious people, change science standards, and generally entangle religion and government.  One example of special rights is the effort to give pharmacists the ability to refrain from providing medication based on their religious objections.  There is another effort to give employers the ability to not offer certain insurance coverage based on the same thing.

What about religion and marriage?  In addition to the Defense of Marriage Act, defining "traditional" marriage as being between one man and one woman, there are incidents like the recent one in Virginia, where a court-appointed officiant refused to marry a couple because they were atheists. When I was married, the judge decided it would be prudent to add, " the eyes of God" to the end of her closing statement, after our vows.  My ex-wife and I are both atheists.  We tried to find a nonreligious officiant back then, but we had difficulty--everyone we called wanted to include some kind of spiritual language into the ceremony.  We figured we were safe with a judge, who is supposed to be impartial when it comes to religion.  We were wrong.  Did it hurt us?  Not physically, and it's not like we're emotionally scarred, but think about how people are about their weddings, and how upset they get when anything goes wrong. It's not like it was an honest mistake; this was a judge who thought including religion in a secular ceremony was something we would want.  It was a little jarring, and it punctuated the presence of people who couldn't care less that atheists exist in the world.

I want to have a safe place for people who want to get married to come and have their ceremony, without hassle and without objections from people who don't know them and aren't a part of their lives.  It wasn't the business of the court-appointed officiant that the couple in Virginia didn't believe in gods, and it wasn't the judge's place to insert " the eyes of God" into our ceremony on our wedding day.  If you're getting married in front of a church congregation, it is up to that church whether or not you should be married there, but no church or religious individual should be able to stop you from marrying in a secular ceremony, and no one should force religion into that secular ceremony.

Please help me start setting up safe places for people to go and marry without hassle.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Marriage Equality Church: Core Values

This post represents the values of the Marriage Equality Church.  If you would like to show your support and become a member, please email me at or go to here to join the Facebook group. 

1. We value romantic love between consenting adults, in every form it takes.   Love is the happiness people share with each other, the intimacy, the laughs, the companionship, the solidarity in good times and bad, the support they have for each other, and the high degree of compatibility they share.  

2.  We think values based on empathy are worth more than values based on faith.  Knowing how another person thinks and feels and acting accordingly yields better results than treating people according to belief in arbitrary rules and ancient texts.  

3.  We strongly assert that love between couples of the same-sex is every bit as valid and sincere as love between members of the opposite sex, and it's only right that same-sex couples enjoy the same rights and benefits as everyone else.

4.  We think that altruism helps not only marriages, but society in general.   The only way to make the future better for the planet is to act selflessly.  At the same time, we think that acting selflessly yields its own reward; when a person makes other people feel better or plans on making the world a more habitable place for future generations, it creates a positive feeling of accomplishment.

5.  Human effort solves problems, not prayer and reflection.  When someone falls on hard times or disaster strikes, the solution involves humans acting to make things better.  

6.  This organization creates an environment where people with common values can come together; it is not a political organization.  It will not lobby or be used as a vehicle to influence the voting of its members.  

7.  We think that commitments involving the legal binding of marriage should be based on a solid foundation.  We therefore encourage marriage education and support, as well as counseling, when needed.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Marriage Equality Church: Becoming an Official Non-Profit Organization

I have my EIN number, and I have the forms filled out to incorporate in Pennsylvania.  Once the papers are filed with Pennsylvania, I can make the Marriage Equality Church (its corporate name, but perhaps not its DBA) an official 501(c)3 organization, which means all donations would be tax deductible.

Since it is a church, no determination letter is required for the donation to be tax deductible.  I can understand if people want to wait until the status is official to donate, but if you do donate now, the 501(c)3 status will be in place before you file taxes next.  Stay tuned.  I will post here when the status is official, for those who want to (understandably) wait.

In the meantime, I am drawing up a statement regarding the mission of the church and its core system of ethics, which are based on love, empathy, and altruism.

Prospective sites for the marriage equality church

I've found two properties for sale that will work for the purposes of the marriage equality church.  Take a look:

Here is the one I really want to buy:

I am not doing this because I suddenly got religion or I want to start a religious church.  The purpose of this project is to bring people together, no matter what their sexual orientation.  I will perform secular ceremonies, but people who want something else are welcome to bring their own officiant.

I would love to rent out offices in the one home to marriage counselors and wedding planners, possibly.  We'll see.  This property comes with two homes.

Now all we need are donations.  If you support this cause, any level of donation will do.  $1.00, $5.00, $10.00--whatever you can spare at the moment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why do people hate love?

Being in love is the greatest feeling I've experienced.  It's wonderful to know that I have an incredible woman with whom to share affection, intimacy, laughs, and memories.  It's great to know I have someone who not only encourages my endeavors, but also supports me and works with me as I do them.  She has encouraged my weight loss and my writing.  She has advocated for my child.  She has done so much for me and with me, I can't imagine life without her now.

Most people think it's just fine that I feel this way about another woman, but what if I felt this way about another man?  There would be people who actually found this attraction disgusting.  Why?  It's still love.  What's to hate?  When someone finds this kind of happiness in another human being, we should be celebrating, not hating.  It's so rare to find someone so compatible with whom we can be intimate, it's hard to understand why anyone would want to deprive another human being of that sort of experience.  In fact, I consider it cruel and heartless to work against such a bond between consenting adults.

Why do they hate?  Some use religion as the excuse say they "love the sinner, not the sin."  There are many problems with this line of thinking, not the least of which includes the fact that most of the people who use it have never actually read the book from which the idea of homosexuality being a sin derives.  The Bible describes many things as sin that we wouldn't give a second thought about today, including eating shellfish, wearing clothes made of blended fabrics, shaving men's faces, and getting tattoos, just to name a few.  This same book calls for the penalty of death for things like drunkenness, adultery, blasphemy, and working on the Sabbath, but nobody punishes people for these things in American society today.  Yet, they focus on homosexuality, which does no harm to anyone--but the hatred, ostracism, and societal pressure against homosexuality does harm those who are attracted to members of the same sex.

The problem with using religion as an excuse in the United States is that imposition of one's religion on others is a violation of their Free Exercise, which is protected by the First Amendment.  People are allowed to believe--or not believe--as they choose, so imposing religious ideology on others goes against the spirit of the Constitution.  I don't think any of the cases that examine the rights of same-sex couples have taken a First Amendment approach; they seem to focus on Equal Protection, which comes from the Fourteenth Amendment.   The case is simply more solid, since it's difficult to prove that religion is the motivation behind bans of same-sex marriage without religious language in the laws.  Having laws that only heterosexual citizens can enjoy violates Equal Protection pretty explicitly.  Here is a list of legal benefits married couples enjoy:

Some say homosexuality is not natural, but it has been observed in over 1500 species, not just ours.  Some say that marriage between homosexuals is pointless, because they can't reproduce.  They actually can, through artificial insemination of lesbian women and surrogate mothers for gay men, for example.  Their reproductive organs still work.  That aside, heterosexual couples can get married, but remain childless.  Heterosexuals who have no ability to reproduce whatsoever, due to vasectomy, tubal ligation, or hysterectomy, can get married without issue, and nobody seems to care.  Reproduction aside, loving couples can adopt children if they want, and what's wrong with bringing children into a loving home?

Finally, there's the argument about how marriage of same-sex couples will destroy "traditional" marriage, by which they mean marriage between one man and one woman.  These same people talk about the sanctity of marriage.  If marriage is so solid and sacred, why are half of them ending in divorce?  Homosexuals being married will do nothing to destroy marriage; marriages are destroyed through financial problems, dishonesty, infidelity, drinking, drug problems, and strong disagreements over all sorts of issues, but over marriage between members of the same sex?  It's a patently ridiculous argument.  "Hey, honey, look at that couple over there.  They're gay!  How terrible for our marriage."  Really?  How so?  How does their love make you hate each other, or even love each other less?  Their love should make you warm and happy inside, and in celebrating it, make your bond with your significant other stronger.  You should reflect on why they love each other, and in so doing, reflect on why you love your significant other.  Love should be a celebration, not a cause for alarm.

I strongly support love, whatever form it takes, between consenting adults.  That's why I want to have a place where couples can go without hassle to get married, regardless of sexual orientation.  Please support me in this mission.