That whole house is sticky now

Dec. 20th, 2014 06:08 pm
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

When my girls were little (and when they were bigger too) we always had a Gingerbread Party.  It used to be that we’d fill up the house with people, and food, and music, and I’d bake a couple hundred gingerbread cookies, and make a few pounds of royal icing (that kind that gets hard when it dries) and then we’d just make merry all over the place while my gingerbread cookies got decorated by littles and big ones alike.  It’s been a few years since we did it now.  With no real littles around, the tradition seemed silly to the big kids I think, and I’d invite them and we’d try to make it happen and they’d say no, because it was gingerbread and what self respecting young person trying to assert themselves as an adult shows up for a gingerbread party? It undermines your adulthood.

loucookies 2014-12-20

loupiano 2014-12-20

In my secret heart through, I really, truly believed that I wasn’t the only one who missed the gingerbread party. I brought it up a few years, but nobody seemed to want to – but I thought they were lying.  I had rented kids over to scratch my itch (the neighbours, and Jen provided a few) but this year I took a different tack.  I invited the family for dinner. A regular family dinner, like we do all the time, and then – I ambushed them.

samthumbsup 2014-12-20 loudecorates 2014-12-20 pato 2014-12-20

When everyone arrived, the gingerbread was laid out, icing was made and put into ziplocks to be makeshift piping bags (they actually work really, really well) and from there, instinct took over.

carlos 2014-12-20

loudecoratessmile 2014-12-20


joe 2014-12-20

It was a wonderful evening.  Music was made, dumb reindeer songs were sung, Lou decorated his first gingerbread, and everyone got into it. I’d go into the kitchen to lay out more food (the food – holy cats they demolished it all) and come back out to find someone else had sidled up to the table and was having a go.  People came and went from the table, but the die hards -the ones who decorated the most and had the biggest fun, were the young men. Exactly the ones who shrink back in horror when you suggest such a thing.

oldjoe 2014-12-20 (1)

The older men didn’t have a terrible time either, and my mum and Joe’s were happier than I can tell you.  It reeked of good, clean fun.  When the night was over, and the last gingerbread decorated, and the house tidied, I sat on the chesterfield and had a good, long smirk.

mumcarol 2014-12-20 loudecoratesbetter 2014-12-20

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I knew they would love it.  Sneak attack gingerbread  party.  One of my better plans, and worth the sacrifice of the knitting time.  They’ll remember this more than whether or not I finished their mittens.

What did Luis hang today?

El jersey.  (That’s an easy one to learn in Spanish, isn’t it?)

eljersey 2014-12-20

I knit this one almost to the pattern (although I admit to changing the shoulder shaping, and the pattern on the yoke, so it would match the hat. WHAT.  I thought it should be a set) and Joe used a paperclip to make a tiny little hanger.

jerseywithhangar 2014-12-20

I know that a sweater isn’t something that would thrill Lou (and that likely explains it’s late arrival on the tree) but it was intended as a little homage to the many sweaters I’ve knit him.  I am the sweater Auntie, and when he’s bigger, maybe he’ll think of the sweaters I’ve made him over the years, keeping him warm and cozy.  (More likely he’ll remember that Sam let him squirt icing straight into his mouth at the party, but I can’t compete with that.)

Gifts for knitters, Day 20

This one’s quick and dirty, easy and fast.  Personalized labels for your knitter to sew into the things they make. There’s great ones here, and charming ones here, and if labels aren’t quite your kntiter’s style, think about some personalized tags.  They all say “I’m proud of the things you make” and that’s a great message to send your knitter.

[syndicated profile] friendlyatheist_feed

Posted by Hemant Mehta

Yesterday, as Sony Pictures announced that it would not release the Seth Rogan/James Franco movie The Interview because of threats from North Korea, the Center for Inquiry stepped up and said it would be glad to host screenings of the film:

In a letter to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, CFI president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay expresses his disappointment at Sony’s capitulation to threats by still-unknown individuals, as it sends a troubling message that even powerful corporations will censor ideas that might offend certain people.

“Much of our work is centered on securing the right to hold and express unpopular opinions and beliefs in places where dissent is crushed through persecution, violence, imprisonment, and death,” writes Lindsay. “It is a sad turn of events that a powerful source of free expression such as Sony Pictures could choose to give in to a shadowy group’s intolerance of dissent.”

You can read the full letter here.

It’s not the first time the organization has done something like this. In 2006, in response to the violent uproar over the Muhammad cartoons featured in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the CFI-overseen magazine Free Inquiry published several of the images in their pages, leading Borders bookstores to remove the issue from their shelves:

Paul Kurtz, the editor in chief of Free Inquiry, said, “To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press — so vital for our democracy.”

Odds are Sony won’t take CFI up on its offer, but that’s all the more reason for more groups to follow their lead here. If the movie is shown everywhere — or at least if that offer is made by many groups — there’s strength in numbers and a showing of solidarity. (Hell, it doesn’t even mean anyone has to watch it.)

Well done, CFI. Even if the movie isn’t screened in Buffalo, this is the message more Americans need to hear.

Deadline Has Passed!

Dec. 20th, 2014 06:17 pm
jenn_calaelen: (yuletide)
[personal profile] jenn_calaelen posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
We have briefly closed the collection. Don’t worry - it will open again.

Look for pinch hits in the next few hours! The next batches of pinch hits will be due at 18:00 UTC, December 22.
oursin: Photograph of Queen Victoria, overwritten with Not Amused (queen victoria is not amused)
[personal profile] oursin

The two Georges were more Victorian than Victoria and made mid-20th-century Britain into a nation that was prudish, dingy and insular.

Yes, I think that is a point one could make, but might one not also invoke who George V's father was and the sort of (negative) influence that might have had on How He Wanted To Be King? (I.e. not Edward the Caresser).

We note that they were both not the Designated Heir who ended up landed with the job.

I rather love the idea that Ramsey MacDonald was George V's favourite Prime Minister - we ask ourselves whether he (unlike his father) had liked John Brown... or whether there was a family love-that-Scottish-accent thing going on.

We note that the George VI bio goes with the standard narrative and doesn't go down that route which claims that far from being 'gracious, photogenic and supportive', his lady wife insisted on progenating via Artificial Insemination.

kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
[personal profile] kafj
How can you stop being an a**hole, get out of your own way and make room for more of your magic to happen in 2015?

Today I would like to be a tortoise. I would like to pull my head and arms and legs into a shell, and go to sleep in a box full of straw, and spend the winter in a shed. And nobody would find this at all odd because, you know, that's what tortoises do. Nobody would feel at all hurt or insulted, nobody would expect me to send them Christmas cards, nobody would expect me to be anywhere but in my box. Because I am a tortoise.

Which is a long way of saying that I am knackered, and have been driving myself far too hard and expecting far too much of myself. I have been doing too much travelling, too much socialising, too much messing around on the internet... Not that I don't love all those things, but there are ways of doing them that drain me, and ways of doing them that fill me up, and at the moment they all seem to be wearing me out. Hence my desire to hibernate.

How can I sort this out for next year? I have a couple of ideas, and they are mostly about being more clever with my diary. Firstly, I'm thinking about working from home one day a week. I'd been resisting this, because of being terrified that I'd end up a hermit, never speaking to anybody - but one day a week is unlikely to result in this dire scenario becoming reality. On an ordinary work day I travel one hundred and sixteen miles. If I don't have to do that five days running, I think I'll wind up much less tired. Also, I've seen a small ad from a piano teacher who does daytime lessons. One of those hours that I'm not spending on the train, I can use for piano.

Then I can be clever with my annual leave. My employer is extremely generous when it comes to annual leave. This year, now I don't have to use it on moving house and boring stuff like that, I'm going to book at least two separate weeks of absolutely nothing at all, as well as using some of it on actual honest to God holidays. And by 'holidays' I do not mean 'visiting my parents on the Isle of Wight again': dearly as I love my parents, visits to them are never as relaxing as I think they're going to be. Also, it's high time I went abroad again.

Next year, I'm going to let myself have fun, damn it.
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A post-WS oneshot where Bucky mistakenly thinks that Steve and Sam are dating, due to their close friendship and the fact that Sam lives in Steve’s apartment.

So he tries to hide his jealousy by being over-the-top supportive - dropping little ambiguous comments about being happy for them, and even getting them various little “couply” gifts for their home. Bucky thinks his congratulations are clear enough, but his comments are always vague enough that Steve and Sam can only share a “what the fuck?” sort of look whenever Bucky leaves the room.

Absolutely NO ONE in the Tower understands what the hell Bucky keeps talking about, until one day it’s just him and Steve, and Bucky awkwardly tries to tell him (yet again) that he’s happy for them; that he only ever wanted Steve to be happy. Then Steve outright asks him, “Why do you keep saying that?” Bucky’s stammered, uncomfortably broad answer is only MORE confusing, so Steve asks, “Buck, what the hell are you even on about?”

So Bucky bites the bullet and gets to the point. “You and Sam. Sam, and… well, I mean, you. Together. Like… You know. I mean…” (Clears throat) “I know that sorta thing’s okay now and I just wanted you to know that I support you. As long as he treats you right, me n’ him won’t have any problems. He breaks your heart, though, and then I can’t say the sa—”

"Sam and I are dating?"

"Uh… Yes?" And then it’s Bucky’s turn to look at Steve strangely and wonder what the fuck he’s talking about. Steve just laughs and asks, "When was anyone plannin’ on telling ME that?"

Turns out that Sam only lives with Steve because Steve still suffers through those nightmares of his at night, and he wanted the extra company. Sam sleeps on the couch. “It happened before you were feelin’ like yourself again, so I didn’t wanna put that added stress on you,” Steve explains.

Bucky feels like an idiot; turns red and just stares at the ground, mumbling, “Oh…”

But then Steve starts laughing - like, full, giddy, excited laughter, as if he finds the whole thing absolutely hilarious. Bucky’s about to glare at him and tell him to fuck off, when Steve leans towards him and takes the side of his face in hand; calls him an idiot and says, “Jesus Christ, Buck, just kiss me already if you’re so jealous.”

And Bucky really WILL tell him to fuck off.

After he kisses him first.

(Then, you know, sexy times ensue.)

(no subject)

Dec. 20th, 2014 12:40 pm
the_rck: figure perched in a tree with barren branches (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
My first priority for this afternoon is to wrap presents. I have leeway on Scott's presents because he'll be at work during the day Monday and Tuesday, but it would be nice to have them done. I want to do some of Cordelia's presents while she's away, though, because there won't be many opportunities for that. The more I can get wrapped this afternoon, the earlier Scott and I can get to bed on Christmas Eve.

I will have two extra kids on Monday and Tuesday. I volunteered for that, but I was at least half hoping that their parents wouldn't take me up on it. My main plan for Monday and Tuesday is baking some more. I was going to do some of that this afternoon, but I don't really feel like washing the necessary dishes (mixing bowl, measuring cups, and baking pans). I need to call my mother today to ask about one of my recipes because I wrote down everything but the size of the pan it goes in. Trying to bake in in a 9x13 pan when it goes in an 8x8 would be untenable. I also need to look for a bar recipe that appeals to me that uses butterscotch chips. I suppose I can make the recipe on the back of the bag and just do it as bars, but I'd like to see what options I have.

I baked three sets of bars yesterday-- chocolate chip bars, brownies, and blackberry jam bars. I got all the chocolate chip bars and the brownies into my big plastic tub. I got about two thirds of the blackberry bars into a much smaller tin. We only have two or three more small tins, so I'm going to be scrambling to figure out how to store what I make Monday and Tuesday. I do plan to send some cookies home with the two kids who'll be here then. They're Muslim, so they don't celebrate Christmas, but I figure cookies are welcome any time.

Scott got home at a reasonable time yesterday and showered pretty much immediately. We had an early dinner and headed north to Scott's sister's place. She wasn't going to be home because she had a party to attend with her church group. As it turned out, her husband wasn't home when we arrived, either. I would have been comfortable leaving Cordelia alone with her cousins for half an hour or so until her uncle arrived, but she asked us to stay. She and Scott played cards with our niece.

After our brother-in-law arrived (with pizza), Scott and I hugged Cordelia and went. We stopped at an Arby's on our way to the highway and got milkshakes. Arby's milkshakes are nice and thick. That's good in one way because they stay frozen even to the end. It's bad in another way because getting anything up through the straw takes a lot of effort. Both of us had sore tongues by the time we finished our shakes.

Scott went to bed almost as soon as we got home. I stayed up another two maybe two and a half hours. I did nothing particularly noteworthy during that time.

I also need to edit my Yuletide fic to reflect comments from the first beta reader. I'm waiting to hear back from the the second beta reader. I don't feel any great need to hurry because I won't post the edited version of the fic until I have both sets of comments. I am wishing I was writing in something besides TextEdit-- I can't get the search function to work there, so I'm going to be skimming the fic, looking for key words, to find the points that the first beta reader has suggested changes.

I slept a lot later this morning than I expected to. I didn't get up until quarter after eleven. That really throws off my medication schedule for the day. Oh, well, I'll muddle through.

One Hour to Deadline!

Dec. 20th, 2014 05:03 pm
[syndicated profile] yuletide_admin_feed

Posted by jenn_calaelen

You can do it!

After the deadline, we will close the collection for an hour or two for some administrative work. (We’ll let you know when it’s open again so that pinch hitters and treat writers can post their stories.)

Your mod and tagmod team will check to see who doesn’t have a fic and queue up many, many pinch hits. We will also check for assignments posted as drafts, assignments that are just under wordcount, and assignments posted as placeholders. If we find any of those, we will contact you to ask you to sort this out; if we do not hear back from you shortly, we will send your recipient out to pinch hit.

Please help us out by checking whether or not your assignment is a draft, checking your wordcount after you have posted your fic (the word count on AO3 may differ slightly from that in Scrivener, Word, etc), and not posting any placeholders.

Don't worry if you don't have a gift already at this stage - for example, many pinch hits have not been written yet. We will not open the collection until everyone who didn’t default has a story.

If you are unlikely to see your gift in the first few days after reveals, consider also leaving a comment at the I’ll be Away post on the yuletide community.

Panicking? Problems? Email us at

20. on holiday traditions

Dec. 20th, 2014 09:15 am
ignipes: (Default)
[personal profile] ignipes
For [personal profile] musesfool: Favorite holiday traditions.

My favorite holiday tradition is actually about Thanksgiving, not Christmas. I spend Thanksgiving every year in Yosemite with an assortment of family members and friends. I love it because it's a beautiful place at a beautiful time of year, completely removed from all the stressful consumerist insanity that takes over that weekend for many people. I hike and eat good food and take starlit walks at night and it's very relaxing and lovely, and it's perfect for Thanksgiving. I don't ever want to spend that weekend any other way.

Another holiday tradition I like is very ordinary but still nice: every year around Christmas we make pizzelles, Italian waffle cookies, because our Italian grandmother always made them for Christmas, and now that she's gone my sister and I keep up the tradition. They're delicious and everybody loves them, and none of the ones you can buy in any store are anywhere near as good as homemade. Other types of cookies come and go from our baking, but we never, ever do Christmas without homemade pizzelles.

The masterlist of my December posts is here. There are a few days still unclaimed!


Dec. 20th, 2014 11:05 am
yhlee: go game (baduk, wei qi) (baduk 1 (photo: ISa [Flickr])
[personal profile] yhlee
More xkcd spam:


Yeah, if all those white pieces were go stones, even I could tell that white is in a ludicrously bad position (snapshot, anyway).

One Hour to Deadline!

Dec. 20th, 2014 05:03 pm
jenn_calaelen: (yuletide)
[personal profile] jenn_calaelen posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
You can do it!

After the deadline, we will close the collection for an hour or two for some administrative work. (We’ll let you know when it’s open again so that pinch hitters and treat writers can post their stories.)

Your mod and tagmod team will check to see who doesn’t have a fic and queue up many, many pinch hits. We will also check for assignments posted as drafts, assignments that are just under wordcount, and assignments posted as placeholders. If we find any of those, we will contact you to ask you to sort this out; if we do not hear back from you shortly, we will send your recipient out to pinch hit.

Please help us out by checking whether or not your assignment is a draft, checking your wordcount after you have posted your fic (the word count on AO3 may differ slightly from that in Scrivener, Word, etc), and not posting any placeholders.

Don't worry if you don't have a gift already at this stage - for example, many pinch hits have not been written yet. We will not open the collection until everyone who didn’t default has a story.

If you are unlikely to see your gift in the first few days after reveals, consider also leaving a comment at the I’ll be Away post on the yuletide community.

Panicking? Problems? Email us at

One Last Sale!

Dec. 20th, 2014 08:35 am
[syndicated profile] ittybittykitty_feed

Posted by Laurie Cinotto

Happy Saturday, friends! I wanted to let you all know that we've got a fresh batch of Sparkle Balls all packed up and ready for your kitties. The store has been restocked, and they're on sale!  In fact, absolutely EVERYTHING in the IBKC shop is 20% off all weekend long.

If your order is a gift,  we'll gladly add one of our IBKC holiday cards to your order for an additional $2.  You'll see the single card option in our "Card" section. Just add it to your basket, and when you check out, leave us a note and let us know how you would like to have it signed.

To receive 20% your order, just enter the code "CATLOVER" when you check out.  The sale ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday night (pacific time). This is our last sale of the season, so please take advantage of the savings this weekend!

Thank you!

To browse our shop, click HERE!

And to all of you folks who supported our store this season, thank you very much! You've been keeping us busy, and running to the post office nearly every day! We appreciate you!

Male Shame, the Root of Female Shame

Dec. 20th, 2014 04:30 pm
[syndicated profile] friendlyatheist_feed

Posted by Hemant Mehta

This is an article by Darrel Ray. It appears in the current issue of American Atheist magazine. American Atheist magazine is available at Barnes & Noble and Book World bookstores in the U.S. and at Chapters/Indigo bookstores in Canada. Go to to subscribe or to join American Atheists. Members receive free digital subscription. It’s also available from iTunes.

For thousands of years, religions have used shame as a method of control. It is easy to see how shame is detrimental to females in patriarchal religions, but it has grave consequences for males as well. We hear a good deal today about the shaming of women and girls, but we don’t hear as much about male shame. Male shame is all around us and starts at infancy. Its message is strong and consistent: males must act a certain way or they are not really male. Males must always be seen as distinctly different and superior to females. From male shame comes a wide range of behaviors designed to oppress women and ensure male dominance. Understanding the interplay and dynamics of shame makes it possible to explain much of the misogynistic behavior we see in the religious and non-religious alike.

Male Shame Messages

These messages are on bumper stickers, church billboards, in religious child-rearing books, and in sermons. You can hear them in speeches by politicians opposing women’s rights and marriage equality. Real men love Jesus, real men don’t watch porn, real men don’t have sex before marriage, real men don’t “spare the rod,” real men are straight, real men are tough, real men don’t masturbate, real men control their women, real men discipline their daughters, real men don’t believe in gay rights, real men openly shame other men who do not conform to the religious ideal. These are only a few of the messages that our culture in the U.S. deeply programs into many men.

Male shame is most easily seen in relation to women or girls. Boys who act superior to girls are exhibiting the results of male shame. Someone taught them this idea, and behind the idea are a number of shaming messages beginning with, “If you are like a girl in some way, then you are less than male, less than a man.” For example, if a boy has a mannerism that is seen as feminine, he may be teased and bullied by other boys for acting like a girl. In this case, it is the bullies who are responding to male shame. They feel they must contrast themselves from the feminine in order to avoid being shamed themselves. They are afraid of the feminine but terrified of becoming the objects of shaming and teasing by other boys.

The ultra-masculine bully tends to set the tone for everyone around him. His power comes from the threat of him labeling someone else in the group a “homo,” “fag,” “sissy,” etc. Out of fear, other men go along. It is a form of intimidation and bullying that keeps the group in line and any potential “gay” threats at bay.

This is a powerful pattern that starts early in life and is perpetuated across generations by parents, teachers, preachers, coaches, and other authority figures. A father may tell his son, “Don’t cry like a girl when you get hurt.” A mother may tell her son, “Toughen up and act like a man.” Neither the father nor the mother would tell their girl to toughen up and act like a woman or not to cry like a boy.

Male Shame and Religion

Churches and religious organizations teach male shame as Biblical principles. For example, the Man Up Ministries Channel on YouTube posts a weekly “Manhood Minute” and Man Up Philly is an annual conference sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. There are countless other examples.

The path to adulthood is full of signals about gender-appropriate behavior, roles, and expectations — as well as the consequences for not complying. They are the roots of the social constructs we live by every day for a lifetime.

All patriarchal religions are hell-bent on maintaining the gender binary, which is the social construct that defines sex and gender as the two distinct and rigidly fixed categories of male and female. It is a critical component of the strategy to keep people shamed and guilt-ridden. In my book The God Virus, I talk about how guilt and shame are the currency by which people stay infected with religious ideas about sexuality. What would happen to most religions if shame were not part of sexuality? Without shame, the notion of virginity, for example, would be meaningless. Remove that shame, and it becomes clear that men are programmed to protect a daughter’s virginity as if her body were his property and not her own. Tying virginity to shame is part of a larger system of social control, one that could be called the procreation culture. It is a culture that wants to tightly control who to marry, when to marry, and what the status of the bride must be. Virginity ideas also say a lot about male status. A man who marries a non-virgin is seen as less of a man and may be shamed by other men.

“The concepts of abstinence and virginity support the religious mantra that sex is for procreation, never for pleasure’s sake alone,” says Sandra Meade, vice chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition and the host of The Tenth Voice on KKFI-FM in Kansas City, Kansas. “The concept of the gender binary is also used to enforce the mantra of ‘sex is reserved for doing god’s will after marriage.’ When same-sex relationships are denounced by a religion, it is because the couple can’t procreate. A couple that can’t procreate goes against god’s law and is unnatural. A transsexual woman doesn’t have a uterus and therefore cannot give birth, which violates the acceptable boundaries of the female role codified by the rigidity of the gender binary. Virginity and the gender binary are both used as control mechanisms to enforce a culture of procreation in god’s name.”

In a patriarchal society, a man is only a man in relation to his status with women. If other men see him as submissive or subservient to a woman, he is less of a man. If he cannot control the women within his family, he is less of a man. If a woman can beat him in a so-called masculine activity, like a sport or an intellectual enterprise, he is less of a man. If a man in a patriarchal society has one or more of these characteristics, then they probably are related to male shame that is rooted in religious dogma about gender roles.

The essence of male shame is related to insecurity about one’s role and place in the world. Patriarchal religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in the gender binary and dismiss all other forms of sexuality as unnatural and morally wrong. Sexuality not condoned by the religion is a sin and impacts the status of the man. That is why gay men and male masturbation get so much more public attention and condemnation from religious authorities than lesbians and female masturbation. Neither homosexuality nor masturbation are procreative for a male. Therefore, they are useless to the religion and patriarchy. These behaviors blur the lines and call into question religious categories and the gender binary.

Darrel Ray (image via Steve Solomon)

Male Shame and Domestic Violence

In most religious societies, males are at the top of the pecking order and receive the message that they are superior to women. But their senses may tell them otherwise. A man may observe that his wife is better at math, his daughter may be better at sports than his son, or his female boss may be better at handling people and getting results. The evidence for female equality, if not superiority, is all around them, yet their religion and religiously dominated culture say otherwise. This leads to confusion and emotional turmoil in men who try to live as their religion dictates. Reality constantly interferes with dogma. The result can be threats and violence against those who don’t conform to the patriarchal ideal. Independent women, girls, homosexuals, and transsexuals all violate the patriarchal norm and deserve ostracism, punishment, or worse.

I would suggest that male shame is at the heart of much sexual abuse, both emotional and physical. It begins with the messages boys receive from infancy. Many religious parents display anxiety when infant boys touch themselves. There are actual discussion groups on religious websites that discuss what to do when infants or young boys touch themselves.

As boys grow up, they get constant indoctrination from religious music, literature, teachers, and peers about the evils of sex and the temptations of the body. Even if they are raised in a somewhat sex-positive home, any boy suspected of “playing with himself” will get teased and harassed in the locker room, school, and playground. At church, he will be told that any kind of sexual activity before marriage is sinful. At school, he may be subjected to “abstinence-only” classes that have strong messages of shame for both boys and girls. In these classes, they will be taught about the importance of protecting a girl’s virginity and how sex before marriage will eventually destroy the marriage.

Male shame around masturbation is just the beginning of religious training. With this insidious brainwashing come other messages about manhood and dominance over women, about a woman’s duty to serve and please a man, about men’s bodies and sex organs, and about male dominance. At the same time, boys are taught to judge people with these religious notions, from judging boys on how manly they act or don’t act to judging girls on their bodies and looks. The father who uses religiously based shame on his daughter for dressing too provocatively is exerting dominance as the patriarch over the females in his family or group. The mother who tells her son to marry a virgin is perpetuating ideas of male ownership of women’s bodies.

It is only a small step from here for the father to feel the right to use emotional or even physical means to enforce his shame message. The religious father who harasses his daughter feels he is well within his rights as the patriarch. Often the mother is totally complicit in this. What is the motivation? In religious families it is twofold. First, religious families fear being shamed for not controlling their children, especially their daughters. Second, the threat of eternal damnation in the afterlife is very real to many religious parents. I will discuss these in order.

Male Shame and Family Shame

In patriarchal religions, a man must be seen as being in control and in charge, especially of his family, and, most of all, the females. His fear of losing control may lead him to shame and even abuse his wife, daughters, or any sons who are not manly enough. Loss of control can bring shame down upon the man by other men and women. “How are you a man if you cannot control your own daughter or wife?”

In some communities, the shame of the man may even lead to expulsion from the family or death to the daughter. Honor killings in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Toronto are a product of males protecting their honor and expiating the shame they perceive from the community.

These horrendous acts toward girls are really shame-avoidance behavior. In shame-based religions, men are taught that shame must be avoided or else vindicated. This leads to violence, largely against girls, though it can and often is used against boys, especially gay boys. Many Mormons and other Christians find great shame in a homosexual child. That is why 40% of all homeless children in Salt Lake City are gay boys and why so many Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, and Pentecostals disown their gay and lesbian children.

Male Shame and Eternal Damnation

The focus on eternal punishment or separation from a god is central to many patriarchal religions. Believing that one’s child will be damned for their sexual behavior or identity gives the parent license to do almost anything, including beating, isolating, and even disowning them. They do this for the child’s own “eternal good” and to prevent other children from catching the disease. A child who disobeys a fundamental sexual premise commits an unforgivable sin. Unless that child turns away from their sinful behavior, they might as well have not been born.

The afterlife is an excuse for all kinds of control and abuse of children and spouses. In the name of the afterlife, fundamentalist Christians beat their children so they will not go to hell. Muslims disown or even kill daughters for having premarital sex. Mormons condemn their gay sons and kick them out of their homes. Concern for an afterlife gives a parent permission to invade a child’s private space, tell him what he can and cannot do with his body, ostracize him for sexual behavior that the god disapproves of, and beat or otherwise punish him for rebellion against the god.

Without the worry of having to avoid hell, the reasons for abuse disappear. Focusing on present life makes people more cognizant of goals and desires in the near term, rather than in some vague eternity. When the afterlife is constantly looming in a parent’s mind, the anxiety often overwhelms common sense about normal childhood behavior and leads to incredible parental anxiety and anger against a defiant child. This can often lead to a power struggle as the child naturally resists this unnecessary and irrational level of control and the parent becomes even more insistent and controlling to keep the child from disobeying god. All too often, the result leads to panic and punitive action by the parent, and abuse and emotional trauma for the child.

You may think that I am talking about isolated events or at least something that’s uncommon in your neighborhood. It is not. If there is a Baptist, Mormon, Pentecostal, or Jehovah’s Witness church in your neighborhood, to name a few, it is happening in the majority of those families with preteens or teens.

Male Shame and Cults

Male shame is an excellent tool for tight social control. That is why all cults use it liberally. The rules about marriage, baptism, diet, clothing, etc., vary dramatically from one cult to the next and can be quite arbitrary. What does not vary is the shame each cult places on violating those rules. A Jewish Orthodox man who does not dress exactly as prescribed will find himself pushed from the community. A Wahib Muslim man who educates his daughter instead of his sons would be seen as blasphemous. A Jehovah’s Witness father who openly approves of his daughter’s marriage to a Buddhist would suffer serious consequences in the community. An Amish father who supports his children going to high school — never mind college — would be seen as betraying the community. Serious consequences for deviant behavior are what make a religious community cohesive and able to resist the outside world. The cornerstone of this begins with male shame and moves on down through the generations and genders in the form of female shame.

Over the years, I have spoken with many fugitives of religion and cults. Those who left mainstream religions often say it was the fear of hell and damnation that kept them in the religion. Those who have left cults, however, speak of hell and damnation, but also of the shame and fear of being ostracized, cut off from family, losing contact with lifelong friends, losing children. Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses or fundamentalist Hindu, families fear the shame that comes when one of their own leaves the cult. In order to show that the disease has not infected everyone, the family must cut off all contact with the lost member. These are almost universal rules for cults, and the enforcement of these rules falls heavily on the men.

Unfortunately, it can be far worse than simple ostracism. Some cults enforce physical penalties such as stoning, rape, or selling a girl into prostitution or slavery. The horrors being committed by ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is just one example.

How do societies convince men to enforce such horrendous crimes against their own families? Fear of shame from the entire community, especially other men, will drive men to do many violent acts. Allowing communal violence against a fallen family member demonstrates the willingness to defend the community as a whole against threats both physical and ideological.

These examples may seem extreme, but they can be found anywhere religion holds sway. If you have a Jehovah’s Witnesses family in your neighborhood, there is tremendous shame being taught to girls and boys every day. If there is a strictly observant Muslim or Jewish family near you, the shame being taught in those homes is ruining lives in the name of keeping the religion pure and the family untainted by sexual sin. In a misguided approach to religious freedom, many states in the U.S. allow children to be beaten. What would otherwise be classified as child abuse is tolerated as religious discipline in the home.

How is This Relevant to You?

Even if you or your family are not directly connected with any of these cults, you are still surrounded by shame rooted in religion. As a member of this culture, you were exposed to these ideas long before your rational mind had the ability to evaluate them. No matter how you identify — transsexual, bisexual, heterosexual, male, female, etc. — our culture has a shame message for you, and you probably respond to some of those shame messages at some level. Our challenge is to identify the beliefs that hook us into shame. You cannot feel shame if you do not have the shame hooks already present in your belief structure. Shame is a learned process, and it can be unlearned. You were not born feeling shame about masturbating, fantasizing, or being homosexual; you learned it.

If you are afraid to admit you masturbate, chances are good that there is a lot of religious shame underlying that idea. You may believe that real men don’t need to masturbate, that masturbation is for sissies, that a man who masturbates is violating his body and damaging his marriage, or that it is shameful. I have met many non-religious people who are quite uncomfortable with the whole notion of masturbation. Even if you are a secular parent, you may be passing along this message to your children, just as you may have learned it from your parents.

If you are interested in getting science-based sex education into your schools, you will face a host of shame-filled parents who want an “abstinence-only” curriculum. If your son is on a sports team in high school or college, he will frequently hear male-shame messages in the locker room. He will hear other boys using religious ideas about sexuality to shame girls and berate them. He will get strong shame messages about homosexuals and transsexuals. He will hear male coaches berate boys by using terms such as “sissy,” “girl,” “pansy,” and other sexist and misogynistic language designed to shame boys and show that girls are inferior.

Let’s Challenge Male Shame

It is time for our culture to face the destructive power of male shame and recognize that we cannot hope to improve the treatment of women in our culture until we deal with this insidious belief system being taught to boys and men in locker rooms, sports teams, and churches right now. If men are encouraged and taught to use dehumanizing language for those who do not fit the gender binary, then we cannot hope to see homosexuals and transsexuals treated with dignity in our society.

Male shame seriously disrupts healthy relationships with women and other men. In my book Sex and God, I talk about how male shame keeps men from exploring their emotions and communicating them to those they love most. Male shame keeps a man from telling his partner his innermost sexual feelings and desires. Male shame makes a man hate himself every time he masturbates. Male shame can drive a man to express his sexuality illegally or violently when he projects his shame onto homosexuals or women. Male shame leads a man to violence against those he loves when he feels other men may think less of him if his wife isn’t properly submissive. Male shame keeps a man enslaved with the fear of hell, damnation, or public humiliation.

We can break the chains of this system. Let us begin by recognizing and challenging male shame in ourselves. What shame messages were you taught? What secret beliefs about women or homosexuals do you harbor? What ideas about masculinity and power over women are part of your inner world? Where do you feel shame in your sex life?

If you are in a relationship with a man, consider that male shame impacts you as well, and that you may inadvertently contribute to it. If you feel shame around your own sexuality, that may translate into poor communication with your partner. If you are horrified of your partner sharing his real feelings about sex and sexuality, especially if those feelings do not conform to your masculine ideal, you may be responding to shame-based beliefs. If your partner told you he often fantasizes about sex with other people — male or female — what beliefs would you reveal in your response?

All too often, men and women say that they want their partners to be open and honest with them, but when that honesty is expressed, shame-based beliefs rise up and create huge barriers to communication. This leads to less honesty and a shutting down of communication. It can, and often does, lead to the loss of intimacy.

Eliminate male shame, and the roadblocks to intimate communications fall and the relationship can develop without the corrosive influence of sex-negative religious ideas. Openly examining male shame will shed a bright light on religion-based child abuse, pederast priests, the beating and brainwashing of children, and the shaming of girls by men and boys. Men’s own mental health will benefit by eliminating the oppression of dogma and learned fear.

Humanist sexuality focuses on healthy human development, informed adult consent, education, and open communication about wants, desires, and needs. It is a refreshing vision for anyone who wants a full life for themselves and their families. It is also invigorating to explore and identify shaming beliefs and change them into affirming ideas and behaviors.

It is my hope that the West, especially the U.S., moves rapidly toward a humanist society that values people for who they are, not what their gender, race, ethnicity, or religion may be. It is a final step in the journey toward everyone having the civil rights to be who they are without fear of persecution or bullying. As we challenge male shame, I think we will find that alternative ways of relating to one another are much more rewarding. Having a full appreciation for sexuality in all its forms will liberate us from the shackles of religious sexual shame and make communication within and between the sexes much more enriching.

Darrel Ray, Ed.D., is a psychologist and author of several books including Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality and The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. He is the founder of Recovering from Religion and director of The Secular Therapy Project.

You can view his latest talks and interviews on the topic of male shame here.

His podcast, Secular Sexuality, is free on iTunes. Its discussions are aimed at ridding us of the effects and control that our religious culture has had on the way we view sex, our bodies, the bodies of others, and so many other important ideas that affect our quality of life.


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