Tag Archives: sex

Against Everyone With Conner Habib 92: On The Origins Of Sex

5 Dec

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AGAINST EVERYONE WITH CONNER HABIB 92
THE ORIGINS OF SEX or LIFE SUPERLIVES

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Friends,

To keep going with the themes of symbiosis from AEWCH 91, I thought I’d  present my short essay series on the origins of sex, Life Superlives, as an episode. The gist of it is this – what are the bacterial origins of sex, and what can we learn about our lives today from these scientific origin stories?

Rather than present show notes as usual, I’ve reproduced the original essays here, along with a bibliography below.

Enjoy this solo episode! Back to the conversations next week.

XO
CH

Sun1. Sex in the Gaze of the Sun

For all the problems that accompany sex in our lives — shame and fear, jealous lovers, unplanned pregnancies, STIs — one might be surprised that, according to the scientific narrative, sex began as a healing act which diverted crisis.

Once upon a time, billions of years ago, the Sun’s violent and ultraviolet rays cascaded over an ozone-less Earth, greeting the only lifeforms with harsh light. These were the bacteria; prokaryotes, so named for their lack of nuclei (pro = before, karyon = nut or core).

These beings arose only to dissolve in the radiated presence of light.  They already had a way to repair themselves, or life would have never survived its bright beginning. Their DNA — the double-stranded molecule that many of us know about but that scientists still have trouble understanding — had begun to replicate itself through a series of gestures from various enzymes. If one part of a DNA strand was damaged, it was amputated by an enzyme that could cut the DNA bonds apart (a nuclease), and then another enzyme arrived to create wholeness and heal the void.

In the gaze of the Sun, the tiny prokaryotic innards were often too damaged to recombinate on their own. So these beings reached, in the mordial soup, for the ejected DNA of their dead kin, the floating pieces of bodies amongst them. They used their own enzymes in conjunction with the dead to repair themselves.

This was the beginning of sex for living organisms.

It was a co-mingling of partners. The Sun was there first. It aroused the prokaryotes, initiated sex, and then the presence of the dead infused the living with a new possibility for life.

Experiments today that replicate ultraviolet early-Earth intensities prompt similar responses in bacteria.

Life’s first sexual partner was a star.

That also means that by evolutionary implication, our first sexual partner was a star. The ancestors of all our ancestors undulated across the Earth, under a pulsing sexual sphere.

As children, we stare at the Sun, and it blots out our perception. As adults, we know better. When we look at the Sun, we turn away, flushed. It remains a flirtatious, sexual glance cast upon an unbearably beautiful face.

PromoImage2. The Orgy Against Identity

Life threads through the world, not just living, but superliving, creating more life and more possibilities for what life can be. Every individual has within itself the potential to change, utterly, all potentials.

First, bacteria and the Sun embraced over vast distances, and created sex. After sex was created, different forms of sex were possible.

Bacterial sex can take the form of gene-swapping on a “lateral” level. In other words, genes flow freely from bacterium to bacterium, breaking from an initial host and finding their way into another.

If this happened in humans, “…a man with red hair and freckles might wake up, after a swim with a brunette and her dog, with brown hair and floppy ears.”

Because of their freely exchanged genes, bacteria are engaged in the largest and most continuous orgy of all time.

Or maybe it’s microscopic self-love. It depends on how you define bacterial species:

“(Since) all strains of bacteria can potentially share all bacterial genes, then  strictly speaking, there are no true species in the bacterial world. All bacteria are one  organism, one entity capable of genetic engineering on a planetary or global scale.”

Look closely at the world, and you will see that life defies scale: Are the tiniest organisms really just the largest organism alive, spreading across the planet and into its pores, a giant body with infinite organs? Life superlives.

In another form of bacterial sex, conjugation, a “donor” bacterium transfers genetic material into a “recipient.” The ordinary terms are biological sex — “male” and “female” — are useless in the underlying current of life: hen the donor transfers its genetic material to the recipient, it loses its donor characteristics, and the recipient receives them. Bacteria fuck their identities into each other.

Look closely, again, at the world. You will see the slippage of identity.

dali3. Carnal Incarnations

Life was born, and it superlived.

Early organisms brushed up against each other, and when they did, they consumed each other. But not always. Encounter after encounter between them gave rise to a new form of union: symbiosis.

Here’s an example. Imagine a tiny, ancient oxygen-respiring bacterium. Small, but hungry, it was  was a fierce predator. Now imagine a larger, blobbier organism – a thermoplasm, contracting and expanding itself through its shapeless life. The two come together again and again, usually leading to the thermoplasm being invaded and eaten from the inside out by its smaller relative. But not every invasion killed the thermoplasm, and soon – how? We don’t know – the invader organism was taken up by the invaded, incorporated into its being. Permanently.

The thermoplasm could now resist the death-bringing properties of oxygen, and the bacterium found rest from the hunt.

Symbiosis is the ultimate procreative sex act. Two beings merge and form a third. Not a separate being, but a reincarnation of both selves.

Symbiosis is the origin of all multicellular organisms, and likely one of the main motivators of the rise of new species.

Symbiosis is sex, super-sexing.

This creative act is the foundation of human life. Let me explain.

Many protoctists (usually mislabeled “protozoans” – there is no “zoo” in them, since they aren’t animals) like the thermoplasm, reproduce through cell division, also called mitosis, in which an organism copies its own DNA and then pulls itself in two. A startling feature of mitosis is that, even though it’s called cell “division,” it doesn’t actually divide the number or chromosomes, structures in the cell that bear many of the cell’s genes.

In the procreative variety of sex that humans have, sperm and egg cells merge to create a new being. Sperm cells and egg cells have only half the chromosomes compared to the other cells in human beings. When sperm and egg meet, each carries a complimentary half of those chromosomes. This is how sperm and egg meet and form a new being. Rather than dividing (mitosis) humans are created by compliment (meiosis).

Our cells have forms that are meant to meet. They await each other. In other words, human beings are formed through a sort of predestined symbiosis.

Look at your hands, now. They are composed of cells upon cells, grouped together in the whorls and arches of your skin, the bones beneath, the connecting tendons. Your hands are a gathering of cells. And those cells are the ancient agreements of bacteria.

Sex is us. It’s what makes our cells, it’s what made us capable of making new forms of sex and new beings.

And it’s more than just us.

From its inception, sex has been a meeting of forces far beyond bodies and desires.

LC4. Sex Before Life

We end this series with a story from before the beginning.

Once upon a time,

biology tells us,

Before bacteria…

Before the superliving hypersex of symbiosis…

Before life…

the Earth was teeming with bonds of sugars, phosphates, and nitrogenous substances.

These bonds, or ribonucleic acid (RNA), huddled into themselves, and stretched their ways throughout the surface of the planet.

For these molecules, language was form. When they encounter each other, they strained to understand each other through strange acts of translation. They wrapped themselves up into each other, and this act of language, this braiding of being, created new forms.

A mysterious correspondence: an exchange of material, packed with meaning. This was the exuberant world full of RNA, and this was the birth of sex.

This story provides us with a new and sideways answer to the old question of chicken and egg. Did two chickens having sex make the fertilized egg from which another chicken sprung?

Or did the first chicken spring from a pre-existing egg?

When we look into the origins of sex, we discover an unexpected truth.

Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A. Sex.

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of  Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

Rel@tionships: Writer and digital lit theorist Joanna Walsh on AEWCH 84

24 Sep
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Like the show? Support it on Patreon! The show is funded exclusively by listeners like you, and your contribution is vital and deeply appreciated!
AEWCH84TitleCardFriends,
We have so many inherited metaphors about love, relating, and intimacy, that even the thought of new narratives about them makes us uncomfortable. Well, good. Let’s be uncomfortable. To that end, I spoke with writer and literary & digital theorist Joanna Walsh, whose work explores the contours (and corners and failed uploads)( of love and intimacy, and relationships.
When I read Joanna’s book of stories Vertigo, a few years back, I knew I wanted to talk with her. Joanna’s fiction has an intense and even at times relentless quality of repetition, of observation. It’s the sort of fiction that gives you the sense that you are not just engaged with the efforts of a great writer, but a great thinker too. The conversation is, as usual, wide-ranging, but we stay close to the idea of how we relate to one another and why our old ideas of relating are not enough to describe our experiences.
Talking with Joanna is a dizzying experience because she is so brilliant, so learned, and able to articulate so many profound truths in clear, concise language. I’m honored to have gotten the chance to spend time with her. Three good places to start: her book of short stories, (which she reads from), her novel, Break.up: A Novel In Essays, and her book of pornographic fairy tales Grow A Pair.
We discuss
  • How intimacy is formed
  • How the I is composed by others
  • Tension in fairy tales
  • Why we have sex to masturbate
  • Theorists with bad ethics
  • Experimental writing as a way of relating
  • “Emotional logic problems”
  • Living in tension
  • The emotions women are “supposed” to feel in their assigned roles
  • The occult bodies and technological intervention
  • What the internet gives, what the internet takes away
  • Watching porn in clips instead of a whole movie
  • Who we are in our normal lives (and how that contains our creative and erotic life)
And in addition to the conversation, Joanna also reads her entrancing story, “Vagues”!

 

QUEER NON-BINARY SEX REVOLUTION NOW! It’s Andrea Lawlor on AEWCH!

18 Jun
LISTEN HERE OR ON iTunesSpotifyOvercastSoundcloud  
Pay for your podcast is the new “pay for your porn.” Your Patreon contribution goes a long way to supporting not just to the podcast, but to my writing, lectures, activism, and other work as well. Support the queer creators you love! If you find something of value on my show, give back and support the many hours of free podcast content and other public output that I offer every month for the price of a latte or Guinness or lunch or cover charge for a painfully clean gay bar.
Pay for the podcasts you love by signing up for my Patreon today. 
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Friends,
Just when I felt like I was getting bored with queer culture, I was thrown back into it and out of my blinkered, jaded bullshit by the queer radical author, Andrea Lawlor and their novel of full frontal sexual liberation, Paul Takes The Form Of A Mortal Girl! It’s a novel about a shapeshifting postpunk anarchist, and is, I believe, more like me than any other novel. In some ways, this is the most sexual episode I’ve ever done, because we center sex the whole time. I cannot recommend Andrea’s novel enough. It captures a time, but more importantly, captures a style of spirit and a current of queerness that is so vital for the world’s anatomy today.
We talk
  • desire and detachment
  • my crush on a frat boy singing “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates
  • centering sex in our politics and literature
  • how “sex = death” has been replaced by “sex = harm” (and how that marks progress and stagnancy)
  • sex as a teacher
  • where our limits as readers are or should be, and how hyper-literalness harms our experience
  • how sex and transformation relate to fairy tales
  • is trans a universal condition?
  • how sexual liberation allows us to be full human beings
  • indie rock and zine culture as queer expression
  • how queerness brings intensity, relief, and brilliance into living

SHOW NOTES are HERE.

XO
CH

  • JR

We’re Here! We’re Queer! We’re On Against Everyone With Conner Habib! Me + Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on the State Of Queer, 2019!

22 Jan
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PATRONS GET ACCESS TO THE FULL YOUTUBE VERSION HERE  
Friends, 
At the opening of 2019, I’m reviewing the state of something in 2019: what’s on the scene now and what to look for in the coming year! This week, it’s the State Of Queer 109, and who better to talk about it with than one of the queerest people I know, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author and editor of multiple queerer than queer books, including her new novel, Sketchtasy, her deeply moving memoir about abuse, The End of San Francisco, and the collection, That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Mattilda is also an outspoken activist, and the only person I know who legit looks like she could tie Adam West’s Batman to a buzzsaw and then go dancing afterward. She’s also written the most scathing film review I’ve ever read; a review that not only condemns the film, but mainstream gay culture in general.
Mattilda and I talk nostalgia, how people make “queer” an accoutrement rather than a radically felt and enacted principle, the trans military ban and why patriotism is the opposite of queerness, the generation of queers that grew up in AIDS culture but weren’t dying en masse from it, the naive celebration of Truvada for PrEP, why gay marriage is a compromised strategy(and honestly just kinda sucks), why you should never invite Mattilda to your wedding, masculinity and A Star Is Born, and more.
I wanted to go on and on with Mattilda, but we’ll talk and collaborate again for sure. For now, enjoy MBS & CH doing the State Of Queer 2019!
As always, you can get copious show notes here.
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The State of Sexuality 2019: Dr. Chris Donaghue returns to AEWCH to set us, um, not straight.

15 Jan

 

LISTEN HERE OR ON iTunesSpotifyOvercastSoundcloud

PATRONS GET ACCESS TO THE FULL YOUTUBE VERSION HERE

FOR TICKETS TO MY UPCOMING ONLINE EVENT WITH PETER & CAITLIN DOUGHTY, GOD SEX DEATH, CLICK HERE (ARE YOU A PATREON PATRON? YOU GET A DISCOUNT!)

Friends!

My friend the sexologist, author, and radio show host Dr. Chris Donaghue is back on AEWCH as part of my “The State Of” series of AEWCH in January! At the opening of 2019, I’m reviewing the state of something in 2019: what’s on the scene now and what to look for in the coming year! I couldn’t think of anyone better to discuss the State Of Sexuality 2019 than Dr. Chris Donaghue! The episode comes right on the heels of the release of Chris’s new book Rebel Love: Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, and Have the Best Sex of Your Life which is the first good self help book on relationships to come out in…ever?

We talk about how academic jargon keeps people out of meaningful discussions, whether or not sexuality is political, the fourth wave of feminism and foursomes, looking back on sexual experiences with curiosity, how our identities intersect with our sexualities, how to talk about the political content of adult scenes without condemning the desires for it, desire shaming, why sex is everywhere and safe, why sex and porn addiction don’t exist, the benefits and problems of “body positivity”, the problems with “enthusiastic consent,” how to heal sexual assault and end it culturally, and more!

SHOW NOTES are here.

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NEW ONLINE EVENT: GOD SEX DEATH featuring CONNER HABIB with CAITLIN DOUGHTY & PETER ROLLINS on 1/20!

1 Jan

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God Sex Death is an online course that takes on three fundamental aspects of being human, featuring short lectures, conversation, and Q & A with three of today’s innovative figures in conversation: Theologian Peter Rollins, Sexpert Conner Habib, and Mortician Caitlin Doughty.

But there’s a catch! Rather than talking about the topics they know best, they’ll each be taking on each other’s area of expertise.

This is a course that examines the intersections of human experience like no other. What does someone who knows so much about death have to say about sex? What does someone schooled in the profane have to offer on the sacred? And what can an expert in the eternal illuminate about the end of everything?

After each short presentation, we’ll talk with each other and then turn the questions over to YOU. We’ll be answer all your nagging God Sex Death questions!

Can’t attend the day of? Not to worry, a standard ticket gets you exclusive access to a recording of the whole thing for 90 days!

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, the bestselling author of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory and From Here To Eternity: Traveling The World To Find The Good Death. She’s also the host of the YouTube series Ask A Mortician, where she answers every question conceivable about death. From “What’s the most horrible way to die?” To “What happens to whale carcasses?”

Conner Habib is the host of the podcast Against Everyone with Conner Habib, and an internationally recognized expert on pornography, sexuality, and culture. His essays appear in Salon, Vice, CR Fashion Book, and more. He gives lectures at universities and organizations around the world, and he’s probably the only person alive who’s won awards for teaching, writing, and performing in porn.

Peter Rollins is the author of multiple books, including The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction, Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine. Each year in Belfast, Peter hosts Wake, a five day festival that explores the nature of belief, God, doubt, and politics. Peter hosts the podcast The Fundamentalists, on which he is made fun of weekly by comedian Elliot Morgan.

CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS

There are three different tickets types.

Standard: You’ll get access to the course, the Q&A, and the recording of the course for 90 days. 15.00

Plus: You’ll get everything above and you’ll also get: The exclusive God, Sex Death Reading List curated by Caitlin, Conner, and Peter. Each of us will recommend one book on each of the topics. 20.00

Gold: You’ll get everything from the Standard and Plus tickets and: Three Exclusive 2019 God Sex Death Tips Videos from Caitlin, Conner, and Peter! That’s right, you’ll get three separate videos (one from each speakers, each speaking about their area of expertise), giving you a tip on how to explore, think about, and think more deeply about God, sex, and death! These are short videos with a personal feel ONLY available to Gold ticket holders, telling you how to go deeper into each topic! 30.00

HOW DOES IT WORK?

A few days before the course starts, you’ll receive a link to the live webinar and instructions on what to do when you get to the site.

It’s simple, and all you need is your computer, the internet, and a few clicks to get started!

Plus and Gold ticket holders will get their benefits within 48 hours of the conclusion of the course!

***

For groups of three or more, please contact me for group registration rates!

How To Destroy The Patriarchy: Muslim feminist author and radical, Mona Eltahawy, on AEWCH 50, the best episode of AEWCH ever!

4 Dec

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LINKS TO THE PODCAST VERSION: 

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(Note: AEWCH is and will continue to be free as a podcast going forward, but AEWCH 50 is the LAST episode available publicly on YouTube. If you want YouTube versions of the show, go to patreon.com/connerhabib and sign up at any level; you’ll get instant access!)

Friends,

On my favorite episode of AEWCH so far, I speak with feminist author and radical, Mona Eltahawy. Mona is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why The Middle East Needs A Sexual Revolution, a book which has shaken the Arab world, feminist discourse, and also, on a personal note, has changed my inner life. Mona articulates what patriarchy is — and why it is our urgent task to resist it — better than anyone I’ve ever read or spoken to. Even if you have some resistance to the term (*ahem* hello, bros), Mona will help you see why this framing is so important. .

Mona and I talk about:

  • our sexual assaults and how we recovered and transmuted them into action
  • what patriarchy is, exactly, and how it enables and protects power
  • why enthusiastic consent is a problem (and how our consent is violated every day)
  • the urgent and political task of pleasure
  • why masculinity is a desire and the Brett Kavanaugh meltdown, where white male rage comes from
  • the way white people (particularly white women) pathologize Muslims (particularly Muslim women) without confronting their own issues
  • what we can learn about consent from porn performers
  • why sex isn’t and is special and why a sexual revolution is so important
  • the “trifecta of patriarchy and misogyny”
  • why we need to reject monogamy as a default relationship structure
  • why we don’t have to say “everything is political” to fight bullshit
  • how patriarchy hurts men too

I am so excited and proud to share this episode with you.

Click here for SHOW NOTES, which are free and available to everyone.

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