Tag Archives: sexuality

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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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
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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.
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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

Sex & The Occult: Conner Habib talks with Christian occultist and sexuality research Lisa Romero on AEWCH 68!

30 Apr

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Please pay for the podcasts you love, including this one. Thispodcast is always free and available to the public, but your supportis crucial to keep it going. If you find something of value on myshow, give back and support the many hours of free content I offerevery month for the price of a latte or cocktail or lunch.

Sign up for my Patreon today by clicking here. It’s quick, easy, and you get cool stuff in return.

AEWCH68 Title CardFriends,

So excited to finally be talking directly about sex and the occult on my show, and there’s no one I’d rather do that with than author and teacher, and Christian occultist Lisa Romero!

Lisa has written multiple (excellent) books on meditation and spiritual development, but the one that drew me to have her on for this episode was her excellent book, Sex Education and the Spirit: Understanding Our Communal Responsibility for the Healthy Development of Gender and Sexuality within Society. It’s a book that looks at sex and sexuality from a developmental perspective, but in a spiritual way, rather than from a materialistic perspective.This episode goes really deep and presupposes your ability to go on the magical mystery tour with us. But there are lots of insights to be had by the secular as well. I hope whatever your belief system is, you’ll stick with it.

We discuss:

  • what sex is, anyway, from a non-materialistic view, especially in the light of the evolution of consciousness.
  • how we all have individuated relationships to sex (and what that has to do with freedom).
  • the scientific definition of sex and why that matters now.
  • how sex and attraction get confusing when different aspects of our being get into conflict with each other.
  • why a Christian occultist approach to sex never takes the form of “don’t do this.”
  • how sexuality gives us the ability to transform our lives and bring our spiritual development forward.
  • the Catholic Church developing its response to sex in response to the Reformation.
  • the problems with the sex positive movement.
  • the four levels of attraction and how they relate to the subtle bodies.
  • displaced sex as a creative process.
  • what anthroposophists can learn from Freud and Lacan.
  • why masturbating men should hook themselves up to the power grid.
  • why Conner doesn’t do or care about “sex magic.”

Show notes are available here.

XO, CH

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Conner Habib on the Blindboy Podcast: Recorded live at Vicar Street in Dublin and available now!

24 Apr

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Friends,

In lieu of an episode of Against Everyone With Conner Habib this week, I’m posting my appearance on The Blindboy Podcast! We recorded at a sold out live show at Vicar Street on March 4, and it was amazing. It was my first Irish media appearance since moving here, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Irish audiences.

And it’s a great introduction to both me and the range of my efforts, as well as Blindboy’s (who’s a great author, and part of the Dada-esque band/political prank group The Rubberbandits.)

We discuss

  • What the occult is
  • Paranormal experiences, including my dead mom
  • How I got my porn name
  • Why sex workers want decriminalization, not legalization, and Sex Workers Alliance Ireland
  • What a post work world looks like
  • Why adult performers (like Bill Bailey) deserve mainstream recognition and memorials when they die
  • Consent in porn

I wish Blindboy would’ve put in the audience questions! But don’t worry, we’ll do something together again sometime soon.

So excited to share this with you folks. New AEWCH ep up next week!

XO
CH

CH+BB

CONSENT IS NOT ENOUGH: I talk with feminist icon, Laurie Penny on AEWCH 64!

27 Mar
We need to do better in our conversations about consent. And I don’t just mean because we don’t know how to respect consent, I mean because our conversation about it is hopelessly simplistic, ahistorical, and underdeveloped. I’ll be exploring this topic in more depth on the show.
And, well, who better to speak with first than feminist author and icon (yes, the word is apt), Laurie Penny! Laurie is the author of multiple books and countless (okay, maybe not countless, but a lot) of essays. Many of those essays can be found in Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults , and many of her ideas are presented at length in Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution. She’s also just finished writing a book on consent and season one of the Joss Whedon HBO series, The Nevers. For more Laurie, support her Patreon and get tons of cool stuff.
Laurie and I discuss:
  • the basics of consent and why it’s dual work
  • what sex work can tell us about consent
  • how desire plays itself out in politics
  • the James Deen sexual assaults
  • how women have to deal with the fall out of sexual assaults
  • what happens when your friend (or partner!) is a sexual assaulter
  • why almost every instance of abuse is also a gaslighting
  • whether or not Freud ignored abuse or went a long way to support survivors
  • why we need to support survivors speaking up and also be thoughtful about their sexual politics at the same time
  • the difference between consent as “rules” and an ethics of consent
  • Emma Goldman
  • How millennials are naming the problem.
  • The supernatural premise and politics of Laurie’s show with Joss Whedon, The Nevers.
Here are the SHOW NOTES for the episode.
Sorry for the disparity in volume between Laurie and I; she’s just a little quieter than me, and the equipment I have does best when both people speak at the same volume level. That said, I want to get new mics, and your contribution will go directly to that.
LIKE THIS EPISODE OF AEWCH? Check out AEWCH 50 with MONA ELTAHAWY and AEWCH 24 with ERIN GLORIA RYAN.

CHLP

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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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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