Friday, February 29, 2008


Explained here.

Comes in two forms: surgical and, um, prayer-al.

"Born-again virgins." You just cannot make this stuff up.


Blogger Tracie said...

What I want to know is how many born-again virgins are running around with STDs.

That's a "gift" that once opened can't be rewrapped, no matter how hard you pray.

The woman with two kids who claims she's a virgin again cracked me up. What a great way to begin Spring Break after a week of Physics and Organic Chemistry.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mean 'surgical or liturgical?'

Full congrats to Carpenter, for a firm grasp on the obvious.

Of course, there is also a double edge to that sword. “To some people, remakability is precisely what cheapens the thing in first place," Carpenter says. "Virginity is not special if you can be a virgin again.


3:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The physical and psychological/spiritual virginities discussed here are really two different things. One is about cultural penalties, the other about the person.

The original article is quite clumsy and incomplete as to the "new virgin" phenomenon. And Carpenter is quite the Pharisee in his understanding of virginity as a literal, physical thing instead of a state of mind or spirit.

And the article confusedly [out of apparent ignorance] lurches between the Catholic Church and "some Christians" about sex in marriage. Aquinas in the 13th century sees the pleasure bond as a good and necessary thing in marriage.

[And please, the procreation thing is separate and theological. If it were not, sex should stop after menopause, which nobody says it should.]

On the human side, I know many people who feel psychologically scarred by their indifferent use [misuse, abuse] of the gift of sexuality. If "new virginity" makes them feel whole again, I'm all for it.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ohhh...damn...'surgical or liturgical' indeed, mac.

Wish I'd thought of that...

4:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, Tom, I'd say this is a reason to develop a more reasonable and humane view of sex and virginity rather than to try to pretend that the bizarre old view is compatible with a sexual do-over.

I mean, I don't think that people should be subject to the irrational tyranny of these religious views, either. But let's be honest about what's going on here: these folks are trying to eat their cake and have it too. The resulting view is incoherent and silly. Do some people get psychological ups from believing incoherent views? Sure. Does that mean that we don't get to make fun of them? No, it does not.

If you do something laughable, prepare to be laughed at.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It's laughable neither psychologically nor spiritually. Forgivenness and renewal play a part in each.

The original author's conflating them with a surgical counterfeit obliterates any chance of understanding what's going on here.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


actually I have some sympathy for the surgical version. Having sex--or simply having your hymen broken--before marriage is not a valid reason for homicide. It's a shame that these women have to lie about it, but that's a peccadillo compared to murder.

As for the 'spiritual revirginization' nonsense--it does not make sense to me. If I were concerned about this kind of thing, I'd go with the Catholic version of confession, followed by penance, followed by absolution. At least that acknowledges your personal responsibility for your actions.

The 'spiritual rebirth' stuff is just a mockery.


6:28 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

WS is right - this sort of thing is laughable in one sense; that sense being the sense of something being so obviously incoherent yet being pushed as though it were clearly true by so many.

However, Tom is right in that it is not laughable in another sense. As is usually the case, it's not the sense Tom seems to think it is. Tom seems to think it's not laughable because forgiveness and renewal play a part in it. That's obviously wrong, since such concepts and laughable incoherence are not mutually exclusive. The REAL reason it's not laughable is that this whole hang-up on virginity and the accompanying concepts of purity and defilement are really, really destroying lives. People are going so crazy with guilt thinking they've been "defiled" that they even go so far as to look upon themselves as "second-hand goods" (that view is so disgusting, I can hardly stand it).

The reason this isn't laughable is because of the horrendous consequences of these religious concepts. They've clearly seriously harmed many people. It's important to note, I think, that one can't merely look at the people holding these obviously and insufferably stupid views and think "Wow, what a bunch of dumbasses". It's highly improbable that large groups of people simply fail to see the incoherence present in their views. Rather, I'm inclined to believe that it's more often the case that these people are living in such misery and agony that they're willing to do whatever it takes to get out of it - even if it means adopting a clearly false view and convincing themselves that it's true.

That's why it's not laughable. It's representative of an unhealthy aspect of our society that's impacting lives in terrible ways. I, for one, feel a responsibility to genuinely search for truth and educate every time I read this sort of thing. There are people out there who need us. Laughing at them may help us sleep at night, but it won't help them.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think the views expressed above about "religion" and sexuality are from the outside, and do not adequately appreciate what people actually feel and think.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about following the dots and getting to heaven, or hell if you don't.

I have come to doubt this is the proper forum for such a sincere inquiry, even parking spirituality at the door. The environment is hostile and mocking.

This disappoints me far more than what happens around here about partisan politics.

It's my view that there's more to human sexuality, even on the psychological level, than are dreamt of in Hugh Hefner's philosophy.

But rock on. Get all you can. But I find the protests to contain far more condemnation and self-justification than understanding and sympathy.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't disagree that there might be a desire to atone after the fact, and that it is reasonable to encourage it. IMO, the issue of 'revirginization' is independent of the argument on the morality of pre-marital sex. What I see as potentially immoral is that 'revirginization' is essentially a denial of responsibility for your actions. Again, I feel that if you care about this issue, the Catholic church has a reasonable answer, while the various low-church sects are selling spiritual snake-oil.

'Denial is not just a river in Egypt.'


2:09 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I can't answer for the low-church sects or those who are victimized by bad theology.

But it's not exactly about atonement. It's more about liberation from the past, and this works theologically, spiritually or psychologically.

Unless you're a Pharisee who wants to bind people to their sins and to the law, which demands its pound of flesh. But surely you're not such a humbug.


4:22 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, this isn't the right forum for a really serious discussion of anything really serious. But you can't invoke that selectively.

The Mystic's right: the problem here is a false and pernicious view of sex and virginity....and a correlate view of defilement.

I understand people's sadness at the thought that they've done something wrong. But what's obvious here is that they're stuck between a kind of religious belief that they ARE defiled, and a recognition that that isn't really true. But the appropriate response is to give up the dumb view of sex, not to pretend that a do-over is compatible with the wacky theory.

And, of course, I agree with mac that, if you've gotta do something like this to keep some religious lunatic from killing you, then by all means. But, again, I'd rather see them stop associating with such religious lunatics. People looking down on you for having sex is one thing...but killing for it is off the scale crazy.

None of this is incompatible with a view of sex according to which sex is different than swimming. I think that, morally speaking, sex is more similar to swimming than most Abrahamic religious folk do, but one needn't think it's all friction to reject the baroque, archaic views that obsesses about virginity.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You don't need to declare yourself a 'born-again virgin' to move on or 'liberate' yourself from your past.

If people decides that not having sex before marriage is important, then fine: let them stop having sex. But encouraging people (ie women) to worry about their 'lost virginity' to the extent that they feel a need to be 'reborn' is just a nasty thing to do. That's where the snake-oil comes in. Invent some new spiritual illness and remedy, and put on the hard sell.

And I shouldn't have said just 'atonement.' After confession & atonement comes absolution and forgiveness. (IANAC, but my mother has some inlaws that take is seriously.) That is a theological coherent way to 'move past' something, rather than making a big production of it.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

One of the important points floating around in this area, IMHO, is this: it's really too bad that the Abrahamic faiths--Christianity being the case we're probably mostly thinking about--can't admit that they're just early guesses about morality and the meaning of life instead of the final word (or Word).

Christianity, for example, contains extremely important moral insights that represent real progress over previous moral views. But, as a relatively early guess at things, it contains remnants of all sorts of primitive, tribalistic views. E.g. primitive stuff about sex and virginity, purity, sin, homosexuality, witches, idols, and all that stuff. The genuinely excellent moral advances expressed in, e.g.,the sermon on the mount, get mixed up with crazy taboos that can only be defended by engaging in astonishingly crazy moral/logical contortions--and then not successfully.

Since Christianity was right about so many important things, and since that moral theory basically (thank God, as it were) won out and became contemporary Western common sense, Christianity is now remarkable in this respect primarily for its adherence to the nutty, primitive views about e.g. sex.

It's too bad, really, but it's the downside of religion--mostly, they can't admit their own fallibility and the provisional, fallible nature of their claims.

None of this is to say that there aren't bad ways of rejecting the bad parts of Christianity. For example, if we think that sex is purely recreational for all people at all times, we'll be ignoring important moral and psychological facts. But sex *can* be purely recreational--in that respect, it's like swimming or conversation. Conversations *can* be morally and psychologically important, some conversations are of great importance to some people, the ordinary rules of morality still hold in conversation (e.g. be honest, don't do gratuitous harm) and so forth.

The mistake the Christian theory makes is to try to put sex in a completely separate category, and to load it with moral import that it doesn't have (though it sometimes has some moral import).

I actually have a great deal of respect for Christianity and its moral insights; but that means being honest about what it gets wrong.

"Valorizing" (to use, perhaps, the only kinda cool and useful postmodernist term) virginity is one of those things. To point this out is not to say that nothing about sex is important, nor morally loaded. It's not to adopt amoralism or hedonism or any such thing.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

When Jesus saves the adulteress from stoning in John 8, he does not condemn her. Anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who misses that point misses Christianity.

It's not about condemnation, it's about elevation. The existence of the hormone oxytocin illustrates the point, which need not be religious at all.

Actually, the only shame in John 8 is on the part of those who would judge the woman, and that need not be a religious point either.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, it's easy to play a game in which we select only the most flattering interpretations of Christianity. Well, having had many chapter-and-verse quoters quote many chapters and verses to me, all I can tell you is that your interpretation is far from uncontroversial.

But the condemnation part isn't relevant anyway. The relevant part is that Jesus, in the passage at issue, clearly indicates that the woman has sinned. And that's what we're really talking about here--the wrongness part, not the condemnation part. (It's complicated by the fact that adultery IS wrong if it involves dishonesty...though not if the marriage is an open one.)

One important point here is that, on a very straight-forward interpretation of the text (such as I know it), you don't get anything like a perfectly reasonable morality out of it. With a little straining and a bit of ingenuity, it's possible to spin the bad parts in a better direction...but that's, in essence, to admit that it needs spinning.

Now, I'm all for admitting that the morality of the Bible has to be improved upon by reason, but when we admit this we should also admit what we're admitting.

In general, also, I'm a little skeptical about such arguments. That is, *Jesus didn't do x when given an opportunity* arguments. They don't really carry much weight. (E.g. Jesus doesn't condemn the death penalty when he's condemned to death, ergo the death penalty is not unChristian.)

3:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You're entitled to an opinion about Christianity, I suppose, although you don't accept it and your knowledge of it is admittedly sketchy. However, John 8 is quite clear here. I find it perhaps the most wise and beautiful story of the NT.

I just don't think "new virgins" should be laughed at. For whatever reason they're doing it, if it makes them healthier and happier, good for them.

If you want to assert your view of sexuality makes you happier than theirs does them, I suppose you can do that too. But I'd think you'd have to make an affirmative case, not just laugh at theirs.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. None of this refutes my point: Jesus affirms the sinfulness of the action, and that's the crucial point here. Your point about condemnation is irrelevant. So my point stands.

2. Now you offer a new standard: if their view makes them happier, then it's good. This view is incompatible with the Christian view of the matter you were defending.

3. Although there's no doubt that my view of sex makes me happier than the pseudo-virgins' view, that's beside the point. The question is, who's view is more reasonable? And that would be mine. You can buy a view like mine, or you can buy a view like the traditional, Christian one (though I wouldn't advise it)...but you can't have it both ways. That is, you can't buy a traditional, Christian view about sex and virginity and then pretend like you can get it all back just by prayer and surgery. Maybe you can get forgiveness or whatever, but that's very different from saying that you can un-do what's been done with a little surgery.

Again, the right thing to do is to admit that virginity is not of cosmic, moral importance, not to pretend that matters of cosmic, moral importance can be undone with this kind of mumbo-jumbo.

If I kill somebody I can't unkill them by stitching a flap of skin over the bullet hole and pretending it never happened.

C'mon, Tom. I can't believe you're serious about this. Wouldn't you admit that you're reaching here?

6:19 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm not advocating a new position at all. I mentioned psychology from the first. And physically, there sex and then there' Bonding, oxytocin.

I don't believe you're representing the Christian view of sexuality accurately at all. I had tried to provide a clarification, and I'm afraid I've failed, but I don't get the feeling you're genuinely interested anyway. However, in the larger sense, Jesus objected to the Pharisees the same as you do, for substituting law for human understanding and love.

You assert your position is more reasonable, but the Theology of the Body [caps intentional---it's a formal system] is quite reasonable and coherent. Those who've embraced it seem happier to me than you do, but I admit that's a subjective assessment.

And I thought I'd addressed my objection to the conflation of surgical and spiritual restoration of virginity, but here we are again. I believe the article is dishonest and/or ignorant.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, all you're really doing here is asserting that you are right, they they are more reasonable and happier, and that they've got a coherent theory. All this could be true, but I think you'll agree that none of it is proven here, and the evidence is against it. Given the information available to us, these folks come off looking pretty silly, as does their theory.

Perhaps there's theology somewhere that can rehabilitate all this and make Christianity's view of sex seem reasonable...but I have to say, given what I've seen, I doubt it.

One thing you have to remember: Christians can never give up, theory-wise. Even the craziest points of Christian doctrine get defended by smart people who are desperate to do anything possible to build a wall of words to forestall refutation. (Heck, if I thought my immortal soul depended on it, I could produce some pretty fancy footwork in this regard, too. )They'll spend their lives doing it, and, in fact, the effort exceeds any one person's life...thousands of years will be spent if necessary.

The outcome: there will ALWAYS and on EVERY POINT, be enough clever stuff written to bolster the faith of someone who wants to believe. Even if a point is patently false and utter nonsense, there will be hundreds or thousands of years worth of clever rhetoric trying to make it seem reasonable. Is there any view so silly that it could not be made to seem reasonable by such an effort?

This puts the intellectually responsible Christian in a bad position, actually. He knows he wants to believe, and that puts him in a dangerous position. He also knows that enormous effort has been expended to make it hard for him to detect errors in the view... I don't envy him...

But, anyway, as for there being a coherent theology of the the body...well, you'll forgive my skepticism. I'm familiar enough with Christian views on sex and bodies to be...well, let's just say initially skeptical about such a claim.

And I'm all too familiar with tortured attempts to, for example, make Aquinas's Five Ways work, or to respond to the problem of evil. Massive resources poured into defending the indefensible, and all you usually get in the end is a blockage of the way of inquiry.

(Although sometimes you get...Scotus's Formal Distinction!...who would have ever thought that the trinity might be defensible??? So it IS possible for good to come of it.)

Conclusion: revirginization: still funny.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Again: the only reasonable route for Christianity is to admit its fallible and provisional character. Parts of it are excellent, and were world-changing. Parts of it have to go.

So it will ever be with theories.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still feel the snake-oil argument is better. It doesn't matter whether you think pre-marital sex is OK, etc, for the argument for revirginization to be without merit.

If you think premarital sex is a sin, fine: stop doing it. It surely is not a worse sin than cbeating, lying (beyond white lies) or stealing. Yet strangely, there is no big production to go back to some never-cheated state to reform cheaters.

Someone is making a big production out of becoming a virgin again, and surprise surprise, he is getting rich doing it.

And yes, it's totally hilarious.


10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The citing of oxytocin shouldn't be left to stand alone:

Oxytocin (IPA: /ˌɔk.sɪ.ˈtoʊ.sɪn/)(Greek, "quick birth") is a mammalian hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In women, it is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and vagina during labor, and after stimulation of the nipples, facilitating birth and breastfeeding, respectively.

In humans, oxytocin is thought to be released during hugging, touching, and orgasm in both sexes. In the brain, oxytocin is involved in social recognition and bonding, and may be involved in the formation of trust between people[1] and generosity.[2][3]


The relationship between oxytocin and human sexual response is unclear. At least two non-controlled studies have found increases in plasma oxytocin at orgasm – in both men and women.[5][6] The authors of one of these studies speculated that oxytocin's effects on muscle contractibility may facilitate sperm and egg transport.[5] Murphy et al. (1987), studying men, found that oxytocin levels were raised throughout sexual arousal and there was no acute increase at orgasm. [7] A more recent study of men found an increase in plasma oxytocin immediantly after orgasm, but only in a portion of their sample that did not reach statistical significance. The authors noted that these changes "may simply reflect contractile properties on reproductive tissue."[8]


Oxytocin secreted from the pituitary gland cannot re-enter the brain because of the blood-brain barrier. Instead, the behavioral effects of oxytocin are thought to reflect release from centrally projecting oxytocin neurons, different from those that project to the pituitary gland. Oxytocin receptors are expressed by neurons in many parts of the brain and spinal cord, including the amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus, septum and brainstem.

* Sexual arousal. Oxytocin injected into the cerebrospinal fluid causes spontaneous erections in rats,[12] reflecting actions in the hypothalamus and spinal cord.
* Bonding. In the Prairie Vole, oxytocin released into the brain of the female during sexual activity is important for forming a monogamous pair bond with her sexual partner. Vasopressin appears to have a similar effect in males.[13] In people, plasma concentrations of oxytocin have been reported to be higher amongst people who claim to be falling in love. Oxytocin has a role in social behaviors in many species, and so it seems likely that it has similar roles in humans.
* Autism. A 1998 study found significantly lower levels of oxytocin in blood plasma of autistic children.[14] A 2003 study found a decrease in autism spectrum repetitive behaviors when oxytocin was administered intravenously.[15] A 2007 study reported that oxytocin helped autistic adults retain the ability to evaluate the emotional significance of speech intonation.[16]
* Maternal behavior. Sheep and rat females given oxytocin antagonists after giving birth do not exhibit typical maternal behavior. By contrast, virgin female sheep show maternal behavior towards foreign lambs upon cerebrospinal fluid infusion of oxytocin, which they would not do otherwise. [17]
* Increasing trust and reducing fear. In a risky investment game, experimental subjects given nasally administered oxytocin displayed "the highest level of trust" twice as often as the control group. Subjects who were told that they were interacting with a computer showed no such reaction, leading to the conclusion that oxytocin was not merely affecting risk-aversion.[18] Nasally administered oxytocin has also been reported to reduce fear, possibly by inhibiting the amygdala (which is thought to be responsible for fear responses).[19] There is no conclusive evidence for access of oxytocin to the brain through intranasal administration, however.
* Affecting generosity by increasing empathy during perspective taking. In a neuroeconomics experiment, intranasal oxytocin increased generosity in the Ultimatum Game by 80% but has no effect in the Dictator Game that measures altruism. Perspective-taking is not required in the Dictator Game, but the researchers in this experimental explicitly induced perspective-taking in the Ultimatum Game by not identifying to participants which role they would be in.[20]
* According to some studies in animals, oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance to various addictive drugs (opiates, cocaine, alcohol) and reduces withdrawal symptoms.[21]
* Preparing fetal neurons for delivery. Crossing the placenta, maternal oxytocin reaches the fetal brain and induces a switch in the action of neurotransmitter GABA from excitatory to inhibitory on fetal cortical neurons. This silences the fetal brain for the period of delivery and reduces its vulnerability to hypoxic damage.[22]
* Certain learning and memory functions are impaired by centrally administered oxytocin.[12]
* The illicit drug MDMA (ecstasy) may increase feelings of love, empathy and connection to others by stimulating oxytocin activity via activation of serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, if initial studies in animals apply to humans.[23]


1:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

For the record, WS, I'm not advocating any position. I'm disputing that their position is unreasonable.

Fallibilism cuts both ways, Doctor.

As for your generic indictment of Christian thought, I don't get the impression you know enough about it to judge that either.

The virgin issue, and your disdain for the concept of sin can be seen not in terms of crime and punishment, but in terms of good and the absence of it. Sort of a Zen thing, and in fact, using natural law reasoning, the Dalai Lama's views on sex are nearly identical to the pope's.

The dynamic here is not necessarily heaven or hell, or even the Bible. You seem to think that some people feel funny about their colorful sexual histories merely as a result of cultural/social pressure and convention, of externally induced senses of guilt. I do not think this is necessarily so.

But laugh away if that is your best answer. Peace.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, if all you're doing is making an appeal to fallibilism, then you've got no real point. Of course we might always be wrong, but this cuts against all claims, not any claims in particular. In particular, you don't get to wait until you're losing an argument and then cry "fallibilism!"

Think what you want about my knowledge of Christianity. I made no blanket indictment. on the contrary, I pointed out that there's lots good about it, but lots that's clearly in error. To deny this, you've got to claim that, unlike all other theories we know of, this one is magically right to every jot and tittle.

And, incidentally, there's no doubt that I know more about the "proofs" of the existence of God, and discussions of the problem of evil than you do, and more than enough to speak intelligently of them. Though I'm just expressing the philosophical consensus when I report that Christian arguments there are, to say the least, rather badly beaten up.

God knows what you're talking about with the sin business. Nobody here is denying the objectivity of right and wrong. What's been disputed is, rather, a very narrow and parochial conception of which particular things are wrong. In particular, there's not a decent argument in the world for the conclusion that every instance of non-marital sex is wrong.

As for your penultimate paragraph: yes, it is, in fact, absolutely beyond dispute that *some* people feel bad about colorful sexual pasts only because of social pressure/conditioning. Though nothing that I've said in any way suggests that that is always so. Some people probably have a psychological predisposition to do so, and there are, no doubt, other reasons as well.

But the real question isn't about the causes of feelings; rather, it is about whether one *ought* to feel guilt about every single instance of non-marital sex. The view presupposed by the claims and actions detailed in the story is that the answer is *yes.* There is not a decent reason in the world to believe that this is true.

Nobody claimed that laughing was the "best answer." For one thing, laughing isn't an answer, it's a response. For another, no one claimed anything about primacy.

Yet, among the many reasonable responses one might have to the story in question, one of them is clearly laughter.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, we agree on a few things. I found the article laughable for its dishonesty and ignorance. Anyone who wants to honestly examine the re-virgining phenomenon should look elsewhere.

You also allow that there might be valid psychological reasons to draw some boundaries around one's own sexual behavior. That's enough for now. Where the lines are drawn is another question, a matter for deep consideration and concern for the needs of the human heart.

As for philosophical consensuses, in principle I don't believe in them. All that might be said is that the supporting arguments for a particular position may be to date inadequate, but these things do evolve, because that's the nature of such things.


8:06 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

To be clear: we don't agree about what's laughable, then, for I don't see anything wrong with the article. I detect no ignorance or dishonesty at all. What's laughable is revirginization and those who take it seriously.

And also to be clear: I only point to the philosophical consensus in order to indicate that there's nothing quirky about my assessments. The real point is that there are clearly-identifiable errors in the relevant arguments.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Thinking of how “I could have ruined one of greatest fulfillments of my life,” the first time having sex with a husband, she wanted to “have that opportunity again. I know my [future] husband deserves a whole person.”

Now, you might be happy, but you also might not know what true happiness is. Yes, I'm arguing from fallibilism, which is why I refuse to laugh.

And no, I never thought you were being quirky with your assessments of Aquinas' attempt to prove the existence of God. But if there were a consensus the other way [and I suppose at one time there was], that wouldn't prove anything either, eh?

And then something happened (it is said while he was celebrating Mass) the nature of which will never be known among mortal men.

His friend Reginald asked him to return also to his equally regular habits of reading and writing, and following the controversies of the hour. He said with a singular emphasis, "I can write no more." There seems to have been a silence; after which Reginald again ventured to approach the subject; and Thomas answered him with even greater vigour, "I can write no more. I have seen things which make all my writings like straw."
---GK Chesterton, The Dumb Ox

Laugh if you must, mate. But you can't say he didn't try to meet you halfway.

3:42 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"Now, you might be happy, but you also might not know what true happiness is."

Poor, silly WS, wasting his virginity, never to know the true happiness of the first time having sex with his husband.

6:41 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Also, Tom, do you realize that really, all you ever say is "blah blah blah so you MIGHT be WRONG!"

Seriously. Look at your posts. In this last one, for instance, you make two points:

1) WS might not know what happiness is.
2) Consensus doesn't prove anything.

Both are nothing but "Well this doesn't mean FOR SURE, ABSOLUTELY CERTAINLY that you're right, WS.."

And you always follow with an explicit or implicit "therefore, I'm JUST AS JUSTIFIED in thinking you're wrong."

See, that's why your thinking keeps turning people off, Tom. You always seem to think that if you can show that there's a smidgen of doubt hovering around your opponent's position, then you're equally justified in holding the opposing position even if you provide no evidence or argumentation for it. That's false. There can be degrees of justification. One position can have more evidence in its favor than another. In this case, WS's position has way more evidence than yours. You provide no evidence, you merely say he might be wrong and then assert that you're just as justified as he is.

Stop it, damn it. It's old and annoying and boring. Do you seriously not see how that's a waste of time? It's so weird to me that you've done this for sooooo long and you just never ever seem to get it.

9:02 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

The revirgins can be chaste again. They can't be virgins again. The meaning of the word doesn't permit it.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It's just a word, then. Meaning is something altogether different.

I mean, what do you think, re-virgins think they can fool God? Or themselves? Only a sophist or a Pharisee would believe such a ridiculous thing.

Once again, LL, you cut to the heart of the matter, albeit unintentionally. As I suggested from comment one, virginity would be a state of mind, or spirit, whichever you prefer.

12:47 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Uh, yeah, 'virginity' is a word. I would have thought that clear even to you. Is it "just a word"? You're the one who wants to redefine it in search of some "higher" purpose.

Words can be redefined. That happens in linguistics. It's normal. Maybe it will happen here, though I doubt it.

Here, women are getting their hymens rebuilt. Who are they fooling by doing so? Their partners, maybe, but more likely themselves.

What is, is. Absolution and redemption are different from changing history. What's next is more important anyway.

It's pretty typical of you, TVD, to find distinctions where none exist or, as in this case, to conflate meanings that already exist for the convenience of your worldview. I can count on you delivering newspeak whenever you need to defend wishful thinking.

This is wishful thinking. It does, however, have a long history, starting with Mary, a young woman in trouble, and Joseph, who stood by her.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. TVD writes (quoting):
"Thinking of how “I could have ruined one of greatest fulfillments of my life,” the first time having sex with a husband, she wanted to “have that opportunity again. I know my [future] husband deserves a whole person.” "

Egad, the confusions. Let's pick just one: if you have sex with someone, then you are no longer a whole person. See how dirty and bad and awful sex is? After you have it, then--if you're female, anyway--you are no longer a whole person. There are a hundred ways to try to finesse that point...but none of them work. What a horrificy view.

1. "Now, you might be happy, but you also might not know what true happiness is. Yes, I'm arguing from fallibilism, which is why I refuse to laugh."

A. That's what you've got, eh? That's how you're going to play it? The old "despite all available evidence, you aren't REALLY happy..." Egad, man, have you no intellectual conscience? Given that I'm just about the happiest sane person I know, this line of attack is particularly, er, unpromising.

You're move here is sometimes called the "no true Scotsman" could look it up.

B. As the Mystic, in essence, notes: no, you aren't a fallibilist, Tom. We've been over this before. You are a skeptic...but only when it suits you. Standards of proof for your own position are low; but your opponents are supposed to meet an unmeetable standard.

2. Tvd writes:
"And no, I never thought you were being quirky with your assessments of Aquinas' attempt to prove the existence of God. But if there were a consensus the other way [and I suppose at one time there was], that wouldn't prove anything either, eh?"

More skepticism. No one ever claimed that consensus PROVES anything. But the consensus of experts is usually the best thing non-experts have to go on. So I pointed to it. The best thing, of course, is to look at the details of the arguments, whereupon you can see for yourself that they fail.

3. The Aquinas bit is irrelevant, except insofar as it points us to this fact: in the end, Christianity seems to have to lean on the claim that believers have evidence that non-believers don't have. When you look at the evidence available to both, Christianity loses. So they just say they have evidence we don't. Note that, whatever you can say about atheists, at least we don't say "we see magical atheistic truths you can't see!" Anyway, that's not any kind of "meeting half way".

4. LL's right--whatever they are, they aren't virgins. They're schmirgins or something. So what they should really say is "hey, we discovered that virginity isn't what's really important--it's schmirginity that is!" A step in the right direction! But what's schmirginity if it really is important? Well, it obviously has nothing to do with whether or not you've actually had sex. Again, good. Perhaps to be a schmirgin is to have the right attitude about sex. NOW we're talkin'. It IS important to have the right attitude about sex. But after that point, I'll be things start getting nutty...

1:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Revirgin, schrmirgin---linguistically the same. You got the point. It's the meaning behind them that's important, and you describe it adequately.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And I'm not ignoring your meta-argument, WS. I'd be happy to examine your "king of the hill" appraoch to truth.

I'd tried to look at this issue in subjective human term, but for the record neither here or elsewhere in our discussions have I ever asserted that the Christian religion is true or even that God exists, only that these things are possible.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. No, that's not the idea behind the word 'virginity.' As LL noted: you're not talking about virginity anymore.

2. God knows what you're talking about with this "king of the hill" business...though I'm starting to remember why it's not fruitful to engage in discussions with you.

3. You clearly believe Christianity is true.

But I know you have the power to keep typing long after you've been refuted. Lord, do I know...

6:16 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Refuted. You kill me sometimes, O King of the Hill.

6:36 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

TVD has a prospective plenary indulgence that permits him to ignore logic and change the values of his terms - and ours - at whim. Hence your inability - and mine - to refute his statements. Since those statements have no reliable referents, nor any abiding coherence, they're not subject to refutation.

So, a;eoifaoeijfa;kjs;kljfslijis!

8:52 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Your response,LL, is informed--or should I say misinformed--by your reprehensibly scientistic and materialistic weltanschauung, and your obvious liberal presupposition that puppies should be killed. Once again you prove my point, simultaneously revealing your ignorance of Chesterton, not to mention C. S. Lewis. There is, for your information, a well-worked out theology of incoherence which, if not for your woeful ignorance, you would realize proves that George W. Bush is the messiah. Not that I myself support Bush, for I do not. Yet he IS the messiah, as will become clear in the fullness of time. This conclusion is, of course, endorsed by Aquinas and Habermas.

You might dispute this, but I'll just keep asserting it until you get tired of typing.

10:39 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

You win, WS. I henceforth abjure the killing of puppies.

Hey, can I arrange to lose my virginity again? More spiritually, of course...

11:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Until you give a fair and accurate account of what schmirginity is, WS, you've refuted nothing except your caricature of it.

As for me, who is not at issue here or in any fair discussion, you have no idea what I believe.

Nor is it relevant.

As for CS Lewis, he is on to you, Gaius/Titius, from the first.

Is Lewis right and you wrong? I will not assert that this is true, altho I think it's possible.

Are you right and he is wrong? Possible, sure. I cannot not speak from certainty.

3:09 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, that's about the third time you've leveled the Gaius/Titius charge against me, proving yet again your cluelessness on this front. Especially since I've explained all this before.

I've spent most of my time in philosophy trying to explain why folks roughly like Lewis's G and T are wrong...and not a little time around these parts, too.

But folks like you always think that anybody who disagrees with you is a nihilist. That's a fundamental confusion that makes the real discussion inscrutable to you.

7:47 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

My vote for most hilariously idiotic post of the thread:

"Until you give a fair and accurate account of what schmirginity is, WS, you've refuted nothing except your caricature of it." - Tom Van Dyke


9:43 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Give it a try, Mystic. You've tried to state the opposing position fairly before but never pulled it off.

That's good news, WS, but the facts are not in evidence.

Look I agree about the surgical re-virginization. In fact, I'm developing a spray-on polymer membrane called Hymen-Again. You can become a virgin again every morning if you want to.

1:24 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Is Lewis right and you wrong? I will not assert that this is true, altho I think it's possible.

Are you right and he is wrong? Possible, sure. I cannot not speak from certainty.

Eventually, TVD's goal in many a discourse is to put arrant nonsense at the same faux-skeptical status as probable or at least sincerely sought truth.

Well, if we're really in the Cartesian evil genius's matrix, we could all be in Plato's cave with Job as a test of our faith or stepping in Leucippus's (or was that Democritus's) river, just one different universe in the multiverse.

So! Refute that! You can't, so all you have left is belief, and one is as good as another. Except that mine's better ... because it's mine. But I haven't told you what mine is.

Or something similarly slippery and incoherent.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think you're thinking of Heraclitus, LL.

I'm not sure whether Tom is really in search of a definition of schmirginity, or is, rather, still just trying to waste liberals' time so that they can't do anything productive...

See, the point, Tom, is that by the time you modify the view in question to the point that it makes sense, it won't be about virginity anymore. In fact, what you'll get is a liberal view of sex: be honest, be fair, be respectful, be prudent. Sex is not sui generis. The failure of the conservative view of sex turns on trying to treat it as somehow morally different than all other human activities. Which it isn't.

But, again: the very fact that Tom has been able to antagonize us all into wasting this much time on this just by vaguely gesturing toward the shadows of a few crappy arguments shows the futility and foolishness of such discussions.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You waste your own time on the ad homs, WS. To the substance, then:

Sex is not sui generis. The failure of the conservative view of sex turns on trying to treat it as somehow morally different than all other human activities.

I'd like to see your affirmative argument on that, instead of mere assertion.

My counterargument is that it certainly is sui generis. There is absolutely nothing analogous to it, certainly not swimming. Sex is the absolutely most personal thing to share with the Other, and of course the fact that it sometimes makes babies, completing the cycle of life speaks to its sui generis-ness.

My second counterargument would be on my very original purely subjective human terms. If re-virginization makes a person happier, I'm in favor.

Perhaps you could "re-educate" them away from a sense of the sacred when it comes to sex. But from my observation of the human pageant, it's my opinion that the sacred brings more joy than the mundane, or put another way, if everything is spectial, then nothing is.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

My last comment here, as, once again, it's clear that trying to reason with you gets nowhere.

1. As you've demonstrated before, you don't know what an argument is. So this makes things difficult...

2. The burden of proof is, of course, on those who would say that sex IS different, not on those of us who recognize it isn't.

3. Your arguments:

a. Sex is the most personal thing you can share with (here your postmodernism is showing) "the Other" [sic]

Not true. Sometimes sex is very personal, sometimes not. Some conversations are far more personal that some sex. Some kisses are WAY more personal than some sex. There is some tendency for people to find sex personal (though it's just a tendency)--but then the important moral category is *personal acts*, not sex. All personal acts will involve certain moral obligations, and the sexual nature of the act will be irrelevant.

b. It makes babies.
Not exactly. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. At any rate, now the important category is *baby-making acts*. So in-vitro fertilization will share whatever properties sex-that-leads-to-babies have, whereas sex acts in which at least one person is infertile will not. Again, then, you can't get sex into a special category.

So no, sex is not sui generis, and not an important moral category.

Once again you launch an ad hominem that's apparently supposed to be sly. I, of course, have no desire to re-educate anybody about anything, especially sex. That's your guys' territory. Feeling like x is F does not, under normal circumstances, make x F. Feeling like something is sacred does not make it sacred.

Nobody here's trying to make anybody do anything. But if one does something stupid, don't demand that we not laugh at it.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I think it's unkind, nor do you remotely prove it's stupid.

The burden of proof is, of course, on those who would say that sex IS different, not on those of us who recognize it isn't.

Well done, King of the Hill. You ignore all of human history and likely the human heart itself, and declare your non-position the default one.

At least I'm willing to start from an equal platform.

As for a) and b), I used the qualifiers "can" and "sometimes," which you simply ran roughshod over.

And I meant no ad hom with the "re-educate" riff. It seems the logical salve [per your position] for anyone who feels scarred by their sexual history who might otherwise be tempted toward re-virginization.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

My postmodernism, WS? God forbid!

Perhaps a neologism for a very old concept. In fact, the Theology of the Body makes an elegant connection between man's incompleteness that hungers for God and mindful sexual union with another person.

("Mindful" dragging the Dalai Lama into this so it's not all about that old prude the Pope, and in contradistinction to "mindless" sex, which may [or may not!] be harmful to the dignity and therefore happiness of the human person.)

(Do I believe a word of all this? Mebbe. Mebbe not. Irrelevant. Offered only to demonstrate that I'm not just winging it here.)

7:35 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

If you assert that there's a difference between A and B, then it's up to you to say what it is, not up to me to say what it isn't.

Ergo, so far as I can tell, you DO have the BoP here, despite your complaining about it. In fact, that you said what you thought the differences were shows that you probably agree with me on that point.

But, as we've seen, those reasons are only tendencies.

But we've seen that it isn't sex *per se* that is morally special. Rather, making other humans seems to be...but that's not essentially tied to sex; among other things, many of us make sure there is no chance of that happening. So that's out.

Feelings of intimacy, personalness and so forth are also not essentially tied to sex. Sometimes sex is very personal, sometimes not. Sometimes conversation is personal, sometimes not.

So, even if there are special moral rules about making new humans and/or that govern personal interactions, this doesn't show that sex is sui generis.

The liberal view--far superior to the conservative one here--is that sex can mean different things to different people at different times. If Smith and Jones agree that they'd like to have sex recreationally, they make sure they aren't going to accidentally produce another human and so forth, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with them doing it. It ends up being, for them, just like playing a game of 1-on-1 hoops.

Now, this isn't to say that everybody is somehow under an obligation to see every sex act like that. To recognize that as a legitimate option is in no way to deny that sex is sometimes something much, much different, for it is.

The conservative view is that sex is always and everywhere necessarily one kind of thing, and that special moral rules must apply to it regardless of how the participants feel, regardless of whether it is procreative.

The real conservative view is that it's dirty and awful--a necessary evil only excused as a means to procreation. *shudder*. Now THAT'S inhuman.

That view is what grounds the view that the loss of virginity is a defilement.

Please accept my apologies for my recent crankiness, though.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Thanks for that last part.

"Conservative" and "liberal" are to my mind totally unhelpful terms here. They carry too much baggage.

Is the Dalai Lama and the Zen tradition "conservative?" I like to think of them outside of that box, as a sort of control in the thought experiment.

I also have evaded your frequent use of the term "moral." The dynamic I'm suggesting here is not right or wrong---moral or immoral---but good, better, best. Jesus and the Zen masters are frequently on the same page, which is why both systems are congenial.

Sex is dirty? Yes, some folks think so, and they're probably putatively Christian. I can't answer for them. John 8 sez dirty sex is dirty I reckon, but still, Jesus withholds any condemnation of the person.

The act is not the person, because people can change. In the temporal, material world, [the word "secular" actually has its roots in this] one who has murdered is a murderer, and one who has had sex [even unwillfully!] is no longer a virgin.


What re-virgins are addressing is their sense of loss. But it's not a loss of "purity," and that's important here. Being a virgin---a neutral, and by definition, a sterile condition---is not what being as a virgin means atall.

"Re-virgins" are fully contemplating having sex again, and that's what's happening here. Otherwise they'd just run away to the nunnery.

They want to "gift" their virginity, to their loving and proper partner, and to themselves in the joy of giving something unique, special, and priceless.

It's the thought that counts, eh?

I find it touching, WS, and beautiful. The gift of a re-virginity is every bit as good or better, or best, than anything that happens between 16-year-olds in the back of a car.

It is mindful.

Thx for making me think on all this. I didn't start out here.

10:06 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Is English your ninth language, Tom?

11:45 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It certainly feels that way. But only here.

3:38 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Well see, you do things that don't seem to make sense. For instance, you say:

"Is the Dalai Lama and the Zen tradition "conservative?" I like to think of them outside of that box, as a sort of control in the thought experiment."

It makes little sense for a couple of reasons:

1) Why group the Dalai Lama and Zen? They aren't even part of the same religion.. The Dalai Lama is part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, not Zen. He has nothing to do with Zen.

2) Why would these forms of Buddhism be a "control" in a thought experiment involving liberals and conservatives?

3) What is this thought experiment of which you speak?

It's things like this where you come off as so unclear that it's hard to think you're not intentionally obfuscating your speech.

You do it all again with every paragraph. You say:

"I also have evaded your frequent use of the term "moral." The dynamic I'm suggesting here is not right or wrong---moral or immoral---but good, better, best. Jesus and the Zen masters are frequently on the same page, which is why both systems are congenial."

That makes no sense. What are you talking about? What's good, better, best? Regarding what are Jesus and the Zen masters (and the Dalai Lama? I suspect this is more evidence to the conclusion that you believe the Dalai Lama is part of Zen Buddhism..) "on the same page"? Sex and virginity? If so, where are you getting this information and how are you drawing this conclusion? Why does it impact this discussion? I don't get this paragraph at ALL.

"What re-virgins are addressing is their sense of loss. But it's not a loss of "purity," and that's important here. Being a virgin---a neutral, and by definition, a sterile condition---is not what being as a virgin means atall.

"Re-virgins" are fully contemplating having sex again, and that's what's happening here. Otherwise they'd just run away to the nunnery."

Another bunch of stuff I don't get. You say that "virgin" doesn't mean anything in regards to a loss of purity..ok..but you don't tell us what it DOES mean. You just tell us that we're wrong. Then you start talking about how "re-virgins" are contemplating having sex again, as though the contemplation of sex somehow is incompatible with being a virgin, which is clearly false.

Ugh, it's just a mess, Tom. A mess! All the hundreds and hundreds of posts where people beg and implore you to be clear, and you just have to be as weird and unclear as you can be.

My guess why: You value eloquence very highly. Also, you seem to just LOVE saying as much as possible in as few words as possible.

That's all fine, but the problem is how frequently this backfires in your face when you load up a sentence with a bajillion presumptions that you haven't worked out or thought of and expect us to just go along with it all.

Brevity is the soul of wit, and wit is cool when you're hangin' with friends and bullshitting, but when you're in a philosophical discussion, you need to be really really precise and clear, and you can be witty within that framework, but if you're not really precise and clear, you're just going to get frustrated and frustrate everyone else.

I suggest taking this forum as different from other forums because it's moderated and run by a philosopher. Bring your A game here with respects to clarity and precision.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Please substitute "Tibetan Buddhism" for "Zen," because that's what I meant---it was sort of a mental typo, not a confusion. The error was mine, and thank you for the correction.

4:35 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Oh! Well then, it all makes sense now


6:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

My friend, sincerity never warrants derision. That's the lesson here, and one that just came clear to me today in another context.

Life is a tough town.


11:13 PM  

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