Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Holly & Anne Tell Penn Jillette Where Babies Come From

Our essay in Aeon magazine called "Sex Makes Babies" has gotten some mixed feedback, and the best reaction we've received so far has come from Penn Jillette. 

He had us on Penn's Sunday School to discuss things. It was a riot (aside from my Skype deciding to update during the show!)

As you'll hear (or as you heard) in the conversation, the Aeon essay is a brief discussion of something we called "reproductive consciousness" that deserves a book. We were so lucky that our amazing editor, Brigid Hains, allowed us 6800 words! But grappling with this enormous idea really deserves 100k or so. 

Whether humans recognize kin in the same ways that other animals do... that's a huge question we need to address And want to. 

Whether humans are self-domesticated and whether reproductive consciousness plays a role in that is definitely something that we need to work through.

Whether reproductive consciousness changes how folks think about free will is also, suddenly, worth a think. 

There are a lot of big ideas wrapped up in this big idea but there are smaller ones too...

Here's one especially relevant to Sunday School.

You may know how the biblical story of Adam's rib may be a myth about why humans lack a penis bone.  Read about it here

Likewise, let me humbly suggest that the story of The Fall is a myth about the origins of reproductive consciousness. 

Before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they were perfectly wonderful people. However, after they disobeyed God by eating the fruit He cast them out of The Garden and plagued all of their descendents with Original Sin.    

Beyond “right and wrong” or “good and evil” as is commonly written, what if the knowledge that Adam and Eve gained was reproductive?  After all, the punishments and decrees that follow are entirely based on procreation and sex. Women are doomed to have painful dangerous labor during childbirth since Eve was the brains  behind the debauched meal.  Eve’s sin could symbolize a woman’s ability to seduce and, worse, to cuckold a man (only a reality for humans once this Knowledge is on the table), embellished by the fact that she “eats fruit” (origins of euphemism too?) with the serpent before she shares it, sinfully, with Adam.

For naively going along with Eve, Adam’s sin transformed men into highly invested husbands and fathers, cursed to work the fields to feed their families.  

With this brand new notion of paternity (thanks to this new Knowledge) comes the need to secure it, thus the decree that women shall be ruled over by men and that a woman may only have sex with her husband (but vice versa is not spelled out).

Once humans pulled the curtain back on the facts of life and gained reproductive consciousness, it’s understandable that God would become pretty upset. When we learned how to control our own reproduction, “playing god” couldn’t be monopolized by God anymore.

But we mortals would have a rougher time of it too. Once males could track their lineage biologically, they’d be forced to behave in highly inconvenient, less pleasurable, more restrictive, and increasingly costly ways in order to secure paternity and avoid being cuckolded (if that mattered to people, and clearly it does and it has). Increasing parental investment, forming contractual commitments to women, and then preventing wives from bleeping other men would take time and energy. Not to mention all the work it takes to actually get the chance to have sex with a woman under these new conditions.

And while tracking paternity would have been beneficial to mothers because they’d secure more resources and protection for themselves and their offspring, it would also come with a price. To participate in a system where women were no longer trusted, women had to tolerate restrictions on where they could go, how they could dress, and with whom they could interact. And once wealth started to accumulate through paternal lineages, the stakes would be raised to the level of political power and war. It would be so much easier to keep up this new, seemingly unnatural and awfully restrictive sex and marriage system if it were all passed down from God. 

Whether or not my blasphemous interpretation holds any water, Genesis keenly describes what happened to so many of our ancestors because of reproductive consciousness.

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