Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

The Best Option

I recently received a letter from a new reader which, among other things, asked why I became a sex worker, and volunteered a number of suggested motives, none of which (other than “Was it the money?”) made much sense to me.  This was my reply.

Everyone has to have money to live, and unlike square jobs, escorting involves neither bosses, nor licenses, nor “permits”, nor piss tests, nor arbitrary rules, nor uniforms, nor “zoning”, nor “reporting” to anyone, nor having to ask permission to be sick (or to run errands during the day), nor creepy surveillance of my personal life, nor the government stealing a big chunk of my income before I even see it and then forcing me to ask for some of it back, nor any of the myriad other oppressions or indignities most people just accept as the cost of material existence.  Sex work is much more lucrative per unit time than any other honest work requiring no degree, certificate, or title of nobility, and its flexibility is almost unparalleled even in comparison with other modes of self-employment.  In short, I chose sex work because it allows me to live my life with the minimum amount of interruption and distraction from what I actually want to do, and you’ll find that’s a pretty common theme running through the lives of the great majority of us.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Diary #637

Once the days get back to a bearable length and the evenings start to grow cool, my brain starts returning to its normal, non-agitated state pretty quickly.  This isn’t to say that I am completely free of anxiety; given my nature and the fact that we live in an imperfect world full of troubles and problems, I doubt I’ll ever be completely free of that at any time before I cross the river.  But I’m no longer in the agitated state of apparently-causeless anxiety which is my lot from at least the beginning of May until the end of August.  I’ve slept better for the past week than I have since spring, and the cooler weather makes it much easier to relax once the sun goes down at something at least resembling a sensible hour.  It’s still going to be a few more weeks before I’m fully centered again, but even movement in that direction is a blessed relief.  And given that the rainy season is now only about a month off, I’m really looking forward to being able to stay dry when going to the shop or cottages, no matter how heavily it comes down.

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Last week I was involved in an online discussion about writing ability, and whether it is actually less common among people who majored in STEM fields vs those who majored in the humanities; I explained that, in my experience as a writer, editor, and former teacher and librarian, it isn’t common in either group, but is slightly less uncommon in the humanities.  I used to edit technical papers as a side gig, and they were often so unintelligible I had to get on the phone to the author to ask what in God’s name he was trying to say.

Of course, the problem is a bit more complex than a simple “which group is better”; certain subgroups of humanities majors, most notably those in the “Ideological Studies” ghetto, are taught to write such convoluted, cumbersome gibberish that after graduation most of them can’t stop doing it even when explicitly told not to.  I was once in a working group trying to draft a press release; despite everyone being told we wanted to keep the language concise, simple, and straightforward for the general public, the draft modifications one group came up with were absolutely larded with academic and identity-politics jargon.  We had to ignore nearly all their contributions in the final draft because the additions, prevarications, disclaimers, lists, and semantically-empty garbage they wanted to insert would’ve tripled the length while crippling the meaning.  It’s important to recognize that this was not truly their fault; for their entire academic careers these participants were repeatedly rewarded for crafting ugly, clunky, unreadable rubbish interchangeable with every other statement of its type, the literary equivalent of an East German institutional building.  Writing ability develops with practice; unfortunately, many students of the past several decades have been taught practices that make their writing worse instead of better.  So, I guess the best summary of the situation is:  Most students start as bad writers.  STEM students tend not to improve.  Humanities majors in traditional fields usually improve at least some.  And “ideological studies” majors improve at writing committee-approved ideological garbage.  People learn what they’re taught.  If they’re taught to write properly, they’ll learn that.  If they’re taught to write improperly, they’ll learn that instead.  And if they aren’t taught to write at all, they will learn whatever they are taught.

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The Nuclear Option

Why are people who chose 20th-century-style US nuclear families (which aren’t the same as traditional extended families by a long shot) so very certain that other lifestyles lose meaning after 40?  I am in my late 50s and still have so many things to do I will never get to them all before I cross the river.  Lest some of you claim I’m an anomaly: most of my friends are age-peers or thereabouts, many are childless by choice, and I don’t see any meaningful difference in life-satisfaction levels between those who have kids and those who don’t.  Honestly, these people remind me of the dudes who believe that 30 is a “wall” after which women instantly lose all sexual attractiveness.  And frankly, both types seem like they’re trying to convince themselves that their preferences are the only “correct” ones.  Furthermore, even if you’re a person who hates living alone, it’s possible to form partner bonds with people you’re not boinking, and if you really feel the need to care for some else who needs the help, you could choose to commit to caring for a dependent parent or other relative, or a friend who isn’t biologically related.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing to have kids, if you feel you want to.  But if you have them as a kind of insurance policy against boredom in later adulthood, you’re having them for the wrong (and very selfish) reasons.

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Every member of a sexual minority with half a brain already knows that people tend to lie about their beliefs and opinions in order to go along with the crowd; it’s why so many politicians publicly persecute sexual behavior (including paying sex workers, having sex with other men, and watching porn) that they themselves indulge in.  The behavior is so typical, in fact, that I’ve formulated what I call McNeill’s Law: “The more any man crusades against a particular sex act, the more likely he is to be a practitioner.”  This is why polls and surveys of sexual behavior and attitudes, including the much-vaunted General Social Survey, are so notoriously unreliable:

…as I’ve written on multiple occasions, the GSS is conducted face to face and is a terrible source for any sexual data (such as “have you ever paid for sex?“) because people simply lie about sexual questions.  These surveys don’t find anything about what people are actually doing sexually; what they measure is people’s relative comfort with the question, which is a horse of a different color…

So this recent article in Reason didn’t surprise me in the slightest:

…”Social pressure to have the ‘right’ opinion is pervasive in America today,” notes Populace, a social-research organization, in a report published this summer.  “In recent years, polls have consistently found that most Americans, across all demographics, feel they cannot share their honest opinions in public for fear of offending others or incurring retribution…One important, but underappreciated, consequence of a culture of censorship is that it can lead individuals not only to self-silence, but also publicly misrepresent their own private views (what scholars call preference falsification)”…

A few examples from the article:

…Whereas 59 percent of Americans publicly agree that wearing a mask was an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, only 47 percent privately hold that view…

…74 percent…privately think parents should have more influence over public school curriculums, but only 48 percent are willing to say so publicly…while in public a majority (60 percent) say discussing gender identity in public schools is inappropriate for young children (K-3), in private this is not the majority view (only 40 percent privately agree)…

…44 percent of Democrats publicly insist corporate CEOs should take stands on controversial issues, but only 11 percent believe that in private…

…In public, 39 percent of Asian-Americans say the U.S. should completely phase out use of fossil fuels, but only 13 percent privately agree…

…A 64 percent majority of Republicans publicly favored overturning Roe v. Wade, but only 51 percent agree in private…

…A 61 percent majority of political independents publicly say that whether someone is a man or woman is determined by their sex at birth, but 45 percent really believe that…

…42 percent of those 18-29 years old privately believe racism is built into the economy, government, and educational system, although 65 percent say that in public…

In sometimes contradictory ways, Americans are misrepresenting what they actually believe to endorse views they don’t really hold…

I don’t really have a concluding statement on this, because it simply provides supporting evidence for something I’ve always assumed.  Except maybe, “Most people are moral cowards; proceed accordingly.”

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Easily Managed

Caligula once said, “Would that the Roman people had but one neck!”  Tyrants have long recognized the difficulty of controlling large numbers of individuals, and since the beginning of the 20th century have made truly staggering efforts to collectivize, homogenize, and brainwash populations in order to amalgamate their subjects into one easily-managed whole (rather like the “nutraloaf” used to make prisoners’ lives even more miserable).  One of the innovations which have allowed modern governments to outclass even the most oppressive of kings is the pretense that said governments are “democracies” or “republics” whose governments act “for the public good”, and every modern tyranny, no matter how foul, is supported by a host of useful idiots who will continue making excuses for their beloved “leaders” all the way to the guillotine.  Among these are advocates of what we might call “forced urbanization” like the cretin above, people who wank to fantasies of forcing every individual into a tiny cubicle in an immense Ratopolis where they can never escape the probing gaze of the State and are never more than a few minutes from police summoned by some “concerned citizen” who saw something and said something.   If you personally prefer to live in an immense anthill, that’s your choice and you are welcome to it.  But I’d rather be dead than be forced to live in a tiny box surrounded by the psychic weight of tens of millions of others, with all escape routes closed off “for the greater good”.

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Diary #634

We had a guest at Sunset last week, a friend from Australia.  And when he asked me what he could bring, I half-jokingly suggested a large jar of Vegemite (since we can only get small jars here in the States).  I say “half-jokingly” because, though I certainly would like a larger jar than usual, I wasn’t really expecting him to actually do it.  But he did, all right, and in fact trumped my joke by bringing me this (as he called it) “meme-sized” container; I left the butter dish in the picture to give y’all a sense of scale, since I doubt many people outside of Australia have ever seen one this large.  Honestly, I doubt many people inside of Australia have seen one this large; it seems unlikely most families can go through almost a kilogram of Vegemite in an amount of time that would make an institutional-size container worthwhile.  I’m certainly going to try, though, because I love the stuff.  A lot of people think I’m a picky eater because I despise green, leafy vegetables, but outside of those I actually have a pretty broad palate and will try just about anything at least once (unless its smell stops me).  And a few things I’ve tried on my travels have become favorites, among them Vegemite, Stornoway black pudding and St. Louis gooey butter cake (which I am realizing I could probably make at home).  It’s true that I was a picky eater as a child, but that was mostly because so many things made me sick I preferred to err on the side of caution.  Then as I got older I resolved to keep trying things so as to broaden my tastes, and didn’t stop with what most Americans consider palatable.  But despite enjoying lots of things a lot of Americans won’t even try (such as haggis), I still can’t get near any of the brassicas without feeling nauseous.

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I finally figured out why I haven’t started a Substack or otherwise paywalled my writing: it’s a conflict between my whore ethics and my librarian ethics, and the librarian ethics are winning.  It’s no secret that I find paywalls distateful; their existence is one of the reasons most of the links on my blog are now archived versions of the originals (because archive sites circumvent about 95% of paywalls).  I’m not saying I don’t think people should be paid for their writing; not only is that completely untrue, I’d be a hypocrite for claiming it because I do charge for my writing, in book form.  Maybe it’s just that I’m old-fashioned; a book feels like a thing to me, whereas my thoughts seem like…something else?  Look, I didn’t promise you this would make sense; I’m just telling you how I feel, and I only recently figured it out myself.  But at the same time, I obviously need to pull in more money from my writing, since my semi-retirement income has been eaten into by inflation (and other factors I’ve discussed before).  So other than getting a wealthy patron to underwrite me (and if you have a large amount of money you feel like bestowing upon me in order to enable me to keep doing what I’m doing, please let me know), I think the best bet is to start taking advertising.  Here again, there’s a conflict; due to my principles I find the idea of letting just anybody advertise on my blog without my approval (am I misunderstanding how “ad delivery” services work?) utterly revolting, and though my principles won’t pay the bills I refuse to be a hypocrite and allow my readers to be attacked by the same blinking, flashing, jumping, drifting, popping ads which I find necessary to eliminate via an adblocker lest they assault my vertigo and aggravate my anxiety.  So if you know about an ad service which displays static ads that don’t intentionally harass and irritate the viewer, and further can help me get connected with them, please email and let me know.  Please don’t contact me to say, “Oh, you just Google it” or “go to Cash4u.com and sign up” or anything like that, because if I were capable of doing it myself I’d have done it over a year ago.  I know it’s hard for some (many? most?) of y’all to grasp that there are some things I’m really just not good at, but it happens to be the truth; if I’m going to do this I’m going to need my hand held through the whole process.  So if you think you have the knowledge and inclination to help me through this; and you’re willing to take the time and spend the effort to walk me through it step by tiny step (despite the fact that the difficulty of the task will likely fall somewhere between “teaching a cat to swim” and “teaching a gibbon to drive”); and you really respect my work and want me to continue being able to do it, please let me know ASAP.  Or alternately, if you want to play Medici to my Leonardo, that would work too.

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Diary #633

Every year, I forget just how much the Dog Days wear me down.  I mean, I certainly expect it, because it is every year.  But somehow I always underestimate the actual extent of the tiredness, restlessness, brain fog, and other symptoms until I start experiencing them.  Since it’s considerably cooler here than anywhere else I’ve lived, even in August, one would think that the rapidly-shortening days would give me some relief, but it’s almost the opposite: I power through June and July by pure force of will, and by the time I recognize that the sun is setting before 9 PM again I’m out of steam.  I have trouble coming up with topics for the free-form columns on Mondays and Thursdays; I dread projects that require getting up on ladders or otherwise being in uncomfortable positions; and I find myself working more slowly in general.  This isn’t to say that I’m slacking off or anything, but I find myself getting started later, knocking off earlier, and feeling completely pooped by the time I sit down to write, which after my shower and all is usually between 8 and 8:30 PM.  So I’m really extra-glad I’m done with the roof; most of the projects I’m doing right now can be completed in about an afternoon, and that’s about all I can handle until the shorter September days begin to alleviate the extra summer anxiety.

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