Sydney meetup with Darrel Ray
I spent yesterday evening in Sydney (leaving me pretty tired this morning after the long drive home, late at night), attending a function put together by Sydney Atheists. This involved a lecture from Darrel Ray and a dinner afterwards for those who wished to go along. I enjoyed meeting Darrel Ray, and we had a good conversation over dinner. It ranged across many topics including possible secular objections to pornography, codes of conduct at atheist conventions, the current internal wars within the atheist movement, and some of the personalities involved in the latter. I don’t like to blog about what is said in private conversations, except to the extent that I think the other person involved would be cool with it, so I’ll pass over the detail. Suffice to say that Darrel seemed like a friendly, but thoughtful and considered, sort of bloke.
His lecture must have gone for a full hour, or close to it, followed by a question time that was almost as long. The focus was on sexual morals and attitudes for secular people, and the general approach was to argue against the traditional morality that we’ve inherited, with all the guilt and shame bound up with it, and of course with its entanglement with religious notions of sin and purity. Darrel provided an entertaining slide show to illustrate what is known about the respective sexualities of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and human beings, with an emphasis on how we all (except maybe the gorillas) co-opt sex for a lot more than reproduction. Human sexuality, in particular, is fluid, diverse, and multiply repurposed.
He argued strongly against the notion of sex having a morally proper purpose restricted to reproduction, against shaming people over their sexual displays or practices (so long as we are talking about consenting adults), and specifically against the claim that we are naturally monogamous animals (and by implication against any notion that our moral norms should be constructed to meet the needs of naturally monogamous animals). Instead, he argued for a secular approach to sexuality that is sex-positive, non-judgmental as far as possible, broadly inclusive, and intolerant of slut shaming and other forms of sexual intolerance.
All good food for thought, and the audience of 60 or 70 people seemed fascinated.