Letters of the week

Readers reflect on casual sex, the "Twilight" series and science as religion.

Published August 2, 2008 9:33AM (EDT)

Read the story "In Defense of Casual Sex"
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Those are the two things I see most clearly in this issue -- that women (and men) should make the choices most appropriate to them, and regardless of what choices are made, the goal is to feel at peace with those choices both at the time and in retrospect. This discussion is all about the choices we make with regard to commitment, sex and relationships -- but I think the same standard should exist throughout our lives.

I see letters here in which people identify Tracy as deluded, right, wrong ... but the whole point of the article (to me at least) is that she has made choices that have worked for her, and she does not regret what she learned then or where she is now. I'll infer that she would also not presume to say her choices should be the standard for all young women her age -- and she clearly believes that the chastity books mentioned are arrogant in their presumption to set a different standard.

I've done some hooking up of my own, and while there were good and bad experiences, I wouldn't change any of them because I learned about myself, about these friends and strangers, and about what is important to me. Which is exactly the same way I feel about a whole bunch of other things in life -- the mother who raised me, the mean stepfather, the friends I've loved, my painful "new girl" experiences when my family moved, the scary and exciting moves I've made on my own ... you get the picture.

So if you want to be chaste, do so. If you want to explore your sexuality, do that. Respect yourself, respect the people around you, and quit trying to fit all of us into the same-shaped box.

-- truetotype

I have a huge problem with casual sex.

I don't get enough of it.

Or, just as infuriating, I didn't experience it at all during my 20s when I probably could have found it more easily than I do now.

I think Tracy's article is very interesting in light of social conservatives' attempts to promote the myth that sex outside of marriage is psychologically toxic, period.

But, it's also interesting to me in the way it can be interesting to watch a party I'm not invited to -- the "on the outside looking in" perspective that each person can relate to relative to something at least once in the their life -- be it sex, career, status, culture, race, et cetera.

I'm a guy, mid-30s, urban, middle-class, Midwest- and evangelical Christian-raised, gay, politically progressive, thin, slightly above average in terms of fitness, average in appearance. From my vantage point, I'm more jealous than anything else about Tracy's situation. I didn't emerge from a multilayered mental complex of sublimation and self-deception to realize that I was gay until I was in grad school. (And maybe I was just plain a bit dense, too! Not every failure of self-awareness a person experiences is the result of some psychological condition. There is such a thing as just "not getting it!") By that time, self-effacement, which is probably putting it mildly, was so deeply entrenched cognitively that I wasn't and still am not particularly successful at dating or finding sex -- casual or otherwise. (But, but, but gay guys are just so promiscuous, right? All of them. All of the time. Right? Right?)

From my perspective, it's interesting reading Tracy's essay and the responses. Tracy, you've gotten far more sex at 24 than I had had by your age (none). You're in a relationship (I've never really had one of those). You're self-confident, which has to have been the result at least in part from upbringing and environment (e.g., broad-based cultural/general support -- though with opposing opinions to be sure -- familial support perhaps; certainly the former no gay American can claim without some serious evidence to the contrary, and the latter is enjoyed by few gay Americans). And you have your whole life ahead of you (I'm a bit older, but way behind you in terms of socialization, self-discovery). I guess I'm just struck how oddly EASY the sexual exploration is for you. It's enviable.

-- AngloDutch

Read the story "Touched by a Vampire"
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So I just read on another website that at signings the author is often presented with babies named after her characters and told that their conception was due to her books serving as foreplay. Seeing as how these books are about the romance between a teenage girl and century-old vampire stuck in the body of a teenage guy, I think the "Twilight" hype has officially crossed over from irritating and puzzling into flat-out icky and creepy.

With that said, this was a fantastic, insightful article that offered some very convincing and logical reasons for the series' popularity.

I work in a bookstore, so I'm surrounded by the hype on an almost daily basis, and I absolutely loathe these books. I mean I love vampires --"Buffy" is my favorite show ever -- but I cannot stand these books on several levels. On one hand, I can see that the writing is just plain bad: cheesy, dull, stilted, with cardboard characters and no storyline to speak of. Also, they seem way too anti-feminist and conservative to fit my sociopolitical tastes.

Even more so, however, I have an almost visceral emotional reaction against them. Edward is arrogant and condescending to Bella. He belittles her constantly and speaks to her as though she were a 2-year-old child that he has to take care of. (Even worse, she freaking lets him.) He in fact often picks her up, throws her over his shoulders, and carries her around -- all the while ignoring the fact that she doesn't always want him to do that. He carries her down the stairs in her own home -- and yes, she protests -- and sets her in her kitchen chair as though she were a baby he has to feed. I guess that's supposed to be hot -- Edward as the ultimate alpha male -- but it makes my skin crawl. And all these grown women think this is the ideal romantic fantasy?

But I guess, as Laura Miller points out, we cannot always escape our darker, obsessive impulses. The "Twilight" hysteria is proof of that.

-- gaimangirl

Read the story "What's Wrong with Science as Religion"
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I respect PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins as scientists and original thinkers. Heck, reading Dawkins' books was one of the influences that led me to become an evolutionary biologist. However, I continue to despair of how evangelical they have become for the "new atheism." It is not that I have a problem with atheism. I would likely be classified as an atheist, after all. I do have a problem with the construction of straw man depictions of all religion, no matter the type, as caricatures of Christian fundamentalism. I do have a problem with the ceaseless belittlement of others for no real reason other than to bolster their own religious position. I do have a problem with the meanness and lack of respect for others. I have a problem with the juvenile stunts like that of Myers' recent desecration of a host wafer (really, what was the point of that?). I respect and admire their science, but, speaking as an evolutionary biologist, I really wish they would stop with the pontificating and needless provocation. Part of my job is to try to inform the public about evolution, and this just gets harder when their antics and attacks reinforce popular misconceptions advocated by creationists conflating evolution and atheism. Don't they realize that they just close minds when they behave as they do? I had the opportunity to meet PZ Myers at the Evolution 2008 conference this summer, and he seemed like a very nice, quite eloquent person. It is hard to square that with some of the vile invective on his website (which is still, by the way, a good place to learn about some really cool science). I wish I had had the opportunity to ask him about things like the desecration (though the conference was several weeks ago, and thus long before that), and why he feels the need to do such things, and what he hopes to accomplish.

I simply cringe at the thought of having to deal with the blowback from things like this every time I try to teach laypeople about what I work on, or even basic ideas like Sewall Wright's shifting balance theory or Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium.

I can sympathize with disagreement and anger at attacks from fundamentalist Christians and ID creationists, but there simply is no reason to stoop to their level.

-- Athenian

By Salon Staff

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