Sex

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Lunar landing

As some of you will know, the church has its knickers in a twist about sex.

The church—be in no doubt about this—talks bollocks. One of the reasons it can’t recognize balls is that it’s stuck in the past (“surely not” I hear you say) and it ignores biology, the most fundamental thing of all.

So to get the juices flowing, and in preparation for things to come, I offer you this.

Structure

The gonads of the early embryo can develop into either testes or ovaries. It seems that the ovary develops unless hormonal conditions at a certain stage of development ‘switch’ on the testis, as it were. The female is the default setting. Very rarely (1 in over 80,000 births), an individual may have an ovary on one side and a testis on the other, or a gonad may contain both ovarian and testicular tissue.

The ovary stays more or less where it started, but the testis descends into the scrotum. Undescended testes, this descent having been arrested, are common: about 3 in 100 male births. In a sense, an undescended testis signifies incomplete male development.

The clitoris and penis both develop from the same embryonic precursor. The female, again, seems to be the default setting. Penile congenital anomalies such as hypospadias, where the opening is on the under surface of the penis, are surprisingly common (some say 1 in 300 male births). They can be regarded as varying degrees of reversion to the female anatomy. How small does a penis have to be before it is a clitoris? If you’re interested, there are websites (so I’m told) that show all sorts of penile anomalies and how some people have them modified.

The scrotum and the labia majora develop from the same structures: the scrotum is the two labia sewn together. You can see the ‘seam’: you’ll need a mirror unless you have a tolerant friend. How large do labia have to be before they become scrotum-like?

Every adult male prostate gland contains a vestige of the precursor of the uterus.

Every adult female has structures that in males develop into the tube conveying spermatozoa from testis to penis.

Some people are born with external genitalia of one sex and internal genitalia of another. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be neither one thing nor the other—a girl may be born with an abnormally large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a small penis, or with a divided scrotum, like labia.

Structural anomalies in the male are more common than in the female, though you may recall the fuss about the South African ‘female’ athlete who was reported to lack both ovaries and uterus.

Chromosomes

Normal male: XY chromosomes. Normal female: XX chromosomes. The incidence of newborns that are neither XX nor XY has been put at about 1 in 1700. Here are some examples:

    • XXX: 1 in 1000. Female, often no other manifestations.
    • XYY: 1 in 1000. Male, often no other manifestations.
    • XXY: Klinefelter’s syndrome. 1 in about 1000, often sterile, males with female fat distribution. May never be diagnosed, so may be commoner than we think.
    • XO: Turner’s syndrome. 1 in about 3000. Appear female, nearly always sterile.
    • Mosaic, some cells XX, some XY. Very uncommon.

Psychological sex – ‘what do I feel or experience?’

We know very little. It seems that a part of the brain may be switched on to ‘I think I’m a male’ at a certain stage of development. It seems, again, that the female is the default state. There are reports of people who feel as if they have been born into the body of the ‘wrong’ gender. There are reports of an area of the human brain that in homosexual men is more like that of heterosexual women than that of heterosexual men: male body, female brain perhaps.

  • If a man admires or envies the muscularity of a male athlete, does that mean he is homosexual? Do rugby players who grab their opponents’ bollocks in the scrum have something else on their minds?
  • If a woman admires a Rubens lady of generous proportion, does that mean she is lesbian?

My view is that we are all on a sliding scale of sexuality, and we move to and fro. But the unfashionable truth is that we don’t know much for certain.

Defining man/male and woman/female

We simplify sex categories into male, female, and sometimes intersex, for cultural purposes. This is unsubtle. There is much scope for naturally occurring structural and chromosomal anomaly, and a spectrum of psychological sex.

Pleasure

To what extent did ancient writers associate procreation with sexual intercourse? In Biblical times, the roles of ova and spermatozoa were not as we know them today. It was held at one stage that semen merely initiated the development of the embryo in the mother, and at another stage that a spermatozoon contained the miniature human and that it was ‘injected’ into the mother, who was merely the vessel (oven) in which the embryo grew. (As an aside, both these shed interesting light on notions of virgin births in Biblical times, even accepting that virgin as we understand the word is the correct translation – which it isn’t.) This matters to the same-sex debate, because it is relevant to whether or not the ancients recognised the importance of pleasure in sexual intercourse—what we might term the psychological “reward” effects that come from the flood of endorphins released in orgasm.

If we say that sexual pleasure is banned, and that intercourse is only for the purpose of procreation, then intercourse must be restricted only to those times in the menstrual cycle when conception is possible. This turns current Catholic teaching on its head, for using the safe period for the avoidance of conception should surely be just as much a ‘sin’ as using a condom. Catholic teaching logically should restrict intercourse to the unsafe period.

So, how do we define man and woman?

  • Inspecting genitalia mightn’t give a definite answer, and who would be daft enough to suggest it?
  • Chromosomal tests might not be a reliable indicator of what gender the person feels.
  • Assessing the ability to engage in vaginal intercourse might do the trick. Doubtless assessors could be appointed by the state – a job for voyeurs (what’s wrong with voyeurism?). If one or both partners were infertile, then intercourse would be only for pleasure, so there might have to be pleasure police.

Conclusion

If we say we are certain, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Horses for courses

Art (Manuscript) - variousAs is now well known, Church of England bishops have recently covered themselves in glory and ordure by reiterating the church’s teaching that hanky-panky is permitted only between people of contradictory gender that are married to each other.

Polygamy, entirely Biblical by the way, is out. Same-sex sex is out—no question. Opposite-sex sex if you’re civilly partnered rather than married is out. Adolescent fumbles behind the chip shop, or bike sheds if you’re at school, are presumably out, out, out. For heaven’s sake, how is a decent upstanding teenager to learn the ropes? And what about the Archbishop of York who said of a royal couple living together before marriage that people would be wise to “test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow”.

You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Church of England bishops, it seems, have a view on lots of things. People ignore them. They had a view on how we should vote. People, even their groupies, ignored that. They had a view on brexit. People, even their groupies, ignored that. So they changed their view.

It comes as no surprise, then, that at the forthcoming General Synod the agenda include discussion on the carbon footprints of churches. On the blog Thinking Anglicans, a correspondent has recently suggested tongue in cheek that each church should review how its carbon footprint is affected by people travelling to church. He points out that so many people came to one of the large evangelical churches in Bristol by car—Chelsea tractor I expect—that Sunday parking outside his house was a nightmare.

This set me thinking.

I wonder how many people attend services on foot or by public transport, well known to be reliable on Sundays. I see horse and cart soon becoming a necessity and imagine the conversations between the Mrs Proudies and the hapless Archdeacons when a new bishop arrives, to say nothing of discussions on the quality of locks and keys.

This would enable the appointment of diocesan stable-hands, grooms and cleaners-up-after to add to the growing army of diocesan posts—only these people would actually be useful.

There are many other benefits that I can imagine, not the least of which is a general slowing down, for I doubt the horses pulling clerical, nay episcopal, carriages would be capable of running at Ascot (a horse worthy of an episcopal employer would surely not be entered to run at Aintree: do they have champagne that far north?).

Another consequence would be that since it would take longer to travel between palace and parish, bishops would perforce visit the parishes less often. This could be seen as a bad thing, or a good thing.

There would have to be a position paper written on the carbon hoofprint of increased horse dung, but maybe not, for it might be that horses were merely redeployed such that it was not necessary to breed more of the elegant equines.

Having said that, breeding more would benefit the artificial insemination industry and enable bishops to produce episcopal guidelines on what was and was not permissible in that reproductive activity. And if there were more dung, just think how the rose gardens and vegetable patches would benefit—this latter being significant in carbon footprint reduction and “woke” ideas about diet.

Which brings me to a dietary question: why is the fare offered at church events so unhealthy? Chocolate, pastry, flour, sandwiches, cakes. General Synod should discuss this.

There is so much about which the bishops have yet to opine: as Alan Bennett remarked in his monologue Bed Among the Lentils, the role of the church is unclear in so many hitherto uncolonised departments of life—underfloor central heating for example.

But they need to get their fingers out, for soon there won’t be anybody to opine to.

Misconceptions

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Stalagmites in the Philippines – or are they?

Sorry, girls and boys and all stations between in these woke times, but this piece is a bit churchy to start with. If you stay with it, it becomes less so, and then rather exciting.

Christmas is over again. Somewhere in the last few weeks you’re likely to have heard the word virgin. You may even have heard it in the context of the Biblical nativity stories. If so, you should know that the use of virgin arose because of a mistranslation long, long ago of the Hebrew almah –  a young woman of childbearing age – which has nothing to do with what we call virginity.

That mistranslation – GOK when it happened – has completely fouled up Christianity and its attitude to sex.

Theories about the paternity of Jesus have been around for well over 200 years, but you’re unlikely to have heard them in sermons, mine excepted. We know nothing about where Jesus’ Y chromosome came from, but one thing’s for sure: Jesus wasn’t born parthenogenetically – he would have been she. That would be taking ‘wokery’ too far.

Some people who should know better think the virgin birth is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is a mistake. That doctrine concerns the conception of Mary, not Jesus. The idea is that since Mary was chosen to be Jesus’ mama, she must have been special, sinless from conception. SWMBO has just interjected as I dictate into my computer “why?” A good question.

Let me repeat: the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is all about Mary. It has nothing to do with Jesus. IMHO it’s piffle, and if you read my MA dissertation available on this website (see Theotokos above, or click here), you’ll find out why. In short, we are all Marys. Mary is one of us.

So that’s another misconception.

Now to the modern day.

The phrase “fell pregnant” is often heard. “She fell pregnant”, or “I fell pregnant”. Obviously in the latter case the “I” wouldn’t be me: it’s reported speech such as you might read in the account of a court case, yer honour. SWMBO looms large in today’s wee fantasy: she’s just this minute told me that sometimes the phrase “catch on” is used, as in, for example: “they had no protection, but thankfully, she didn’t catch on”. This was new to me despite my 69.5 yeas of terrestrial existence, and my dissolute life.

There must be a positive plethora of penises, invisible and erect, cluttering up the pavements. How else can you account for “I fell pregnant”?

Imagine walking along minding your own business, tripping over something, and happening to fall, or catch on, in such a way as to find yourself “sitting” on an erect member ready to shoot. Incredible really.

Would this be an immaculate conception?

Reader, I have to tell you that I find the image of a pavement as a forest of sturdy cocks primed for action peculiarly mesmerising. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Or do I mean ecstasy?

Finally, I ask you to note that the correct word for the male member is cock. Penis is a Latin word meaning little tail, so merely a euphemism. Phallus is Greek for wooden pole. A cock is defined as “a short tube for the passage of liquid” – as in stopcock* (look it up if you don’t believe me). I suppose the use of penis arose when the matrons of ancient Rome needed a euphemism: “come on, Flavius, lunch is ready, so put your little tail away and go and wash your hands.” Imagine what would happen in our hospitals if doctors and nurses stopped using the Latin euphemism and started using the proper English word. **

So many misconceptions.

* or ballcock. So many opportunities for ribald utterances there.

** I thank my friend and erstwhile colleague Tom Farrell for this linguistic gobbet.

The Holy, Blessed and Glorious Onion

220px-Moscow_05-2012_StBasilCathedralEthical veganism having been declared a philosophical belief (here) provides me with the new religion I was seeking for retirement.

The onion has more than twelve times as much DNA as you or me, so I shall worship the Holy, Blessed and Glorious Onion. I can set up onion temples with onion domes. I can invent liturgies in which clouds of incense mask onion odours. I can make garlands of onions, wear them, and do with onions what SWMBO does with them when she stuffs a chicken.

I can still eat chicken, of course, because in the US it’s considered a vegetable. Some people are vegetables, so I can eat them too. To quote Jonathan Swift, who proposed eating babies to alleviate Dublin’s poverty problem (A Modest Proposal), “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasee, or a ragoust.” I’m sure that well-cared for adults would be just as succulent.

A vegan was recently reported are saying that he didn’t like using buses because of the possibility that insects would be harmed in the making of the journey. Surely, that’s a certainty, not a possibility? Not only do I feel for the insect collection that develops on the windscreen and bumper, but also the poor dears that are squashed under the tires. I am well-known as holding the view that the only proper place for a cat is under the wheel of a heavy truck, but the possibility of an insect being squashed there is much greater than that of a cat being so flattened. Unfortunately.

Vegans need not only to ensure that they ingest enough protein, but also give serious consideration to what happens should they find themselves with an infection. You see, the things I really feel sorry for are our fellow inhabitants of planet earth, bacteria and viruses. The way that we use antibiotics in the genocide of these poor defenceless creatures is deplorable and indefensible.

Home thoughts from back home

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Michael Thomas Bass, MP outside Burton Town Hall

See Home thoughts from abroad

Observations and reflections after a Dublin Yuletide

It’s not wheat that bothers me, it’s yeast. It’s taken a long time for me to realise it.

In Dublin I stuffed my face more or less continuously for five days with soda bread, smoked salmon, and lashings of butter.

Not a bother.

Dublin airport fry-up at 8 am today, with one slice of ordinary toast, was another story. Copious sweating within minutes.

Soda bread – good.

Wheat – not good, probably.

Yeast – evil.

So the ideal place for me to live is, of course, Burton upon Trent—a town full of breweries with a pervasive hoppy and yeasty atmosphere. I think not. It’s God’s way of telling me that Irish soda bread is divine, which I’ve long suspected.

Change of subject

So far, Ireland has benefited from brexit with firms moving there from the UK. Whether that mini-boom continues remains to be seen. I hope it does for the sake of my Irish pensions.

But when my friends in Dublin raised brexit with me, they spoke to me in a “does he take sugar?” kind-of way, as if I, representing all the English, were a sad, self-harming imbecile. I assured them that I voted remain, but nevertheless I felt—feel—ashamed to be English. In truth, I’m probably not: more likely a mixture of Celtic, Viking and Slav.

My offspring are eligible for Irish, therefore EU, citizenship, living there since 1988 and intending to remain. One has, the other I think will. I don’t qualify, though if Scotland does the deed I could do it that way.

GOK what brexit will do for the island of Ireland. Economically I hope that the six counties and the Republic continue to grow together. Politically—who knows? A “border” of some sort between NI and Great Britain? What a bloody mess. Yet another example of the arrogance and ignorance of perfidious Albion.

Jonathan Swift would have had something to say. He is worth re-reading.

My Christmas homily if I were giving one

3306734280_7aeb48a6d5_z-e1573696472514Imagine the birth. Mary pushing, shoving, moaning, yelling.

Imagine the placenta, umbilical cord, blood, fluid.

Imagine the mess.

Imagine, for a moment, that the stable and animals are not fiction.

Imagine the noise, the animal dung, the hay getting places it shouldn’t.

Imagine the mess.

The nativity is messy. The infant is born into mess. My life is messy. Your life is messy. If you say it’s not, I don’t believe you. Being human is messy. But being human is what the nativity is all about.

People try to clean up Jesus. People try to clean up God. But the truth is that God is not present only in things that have to be cleaned up. God does not demand tidiness or purity. God does not demand cosmetics or fig leaves to cover up bits of us that we think will thus be hidden. God does not demand that we pretend.

God is present in your mess and mine — the mess of the world.

We have no need to pretend. As it says at the beginning of St John’s Gospel, every single one of us is a child of the Divine. Just as I am, just as you are.

The message of the incarnation is that you and I can be like Mary — agents of the divine, of God, of Jesus. Let Jesus grow in you as Mary did. As it says in verse 4 of “O little town”, O holy child of Bethlehem, be born in us today. Everything you do to make life a bit better for somebody else is you acting as God’s agent. Everything you do to make life more difficult or unpleasant for somebody else is you acting as Satan’s agent. Choose well.

Enjoy being human. Help others to enjoy being human. Help others to glimpse joy and delight, even if only for a moment. Then, you are letting the holy child be born in you again and again.

The Christmas message is not about making yourself sick on chocolates, or stuffing your face with turkey, or arguing about what to watch on TV, or about reliving your childhood. It’s not about going to church so that you don’t have to go again for another twelve months.

It’s about bringing joy to the world — and helping others do likewise.

Happy Christmas.

Home thoughts from abroad

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Royal Dublin Fusiliers Memorial

Oh, to be in Dublin now that nollaig’s here,

So I went, two days before Christmas.

Sunny and cold – my favourite weather. Some like it hot, others not. SWMBO says I’m a dog.

How can I tell its not England?

Well of course, there’s euro and speed limits in kilometres and elegant Georgian architecture and the green, white, orange trídhathach na hÉireann.

Ah sure, don’t waste my time: you’d expect them. Anything else?

Ermmm. Well now, let’s see.

  • Lots and lots of young people.
  • Lots of well-dressed people.
  • People from all over the world, some visiting, some at home here.
  • Happy looking families, you know, mum, dad, girls, boys.

Hang on a minute, you can’t say that. It contravenes woke gender fluidity stereotype laws.

Feck off.

  • Street corner flower sellers.
  • Cheerful faces.
  • Healthy faces.
  • Clean streets.
  • No really fat people. Haven’t seen a single one.
  • No people on mobility scooters. Haven’t seen a single one.

In Dublin now.

Election and empire

Untitled1To be honest, I haven’t been that bothered about the General Election.

Corbyn is unelectable in any circumstances: whatever the truth of the matter, he was and is perceived as pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic, and financially irresponsible.

I like many Labour policies, but I most strongly object to their murdering fetuses stance, their choose-your-own-gender nonsense and all that flows from it, the clamping down on dissent against illiberal “liberal” orthodoxy, and the Islingtonian sect mentality (the C of E is developing a similar sect mentality—thank God I’ve retired—but the C of E is irrelevant so it doesn’t matter).

I like some Conservative policies. We should. protect our borders. That doesn’t mean we should repel refugees: far from it, we should welcome them. We should expect immigrants to respect our society. We should  be thrifty. We should  take responsibility for ourselves, especially our health, for at present there is an expectation that the NHS will sort our stupid decisions (try to slither through the alcohol-induced vomit on the floor of A&E on a Saturday night). But I wonder when was the last time a Prime Minister was so openly dishonest, untrustworthy and apparently lacking in decency.

As for brexit, I voted remain. With daughter and son in Dublin and pensions in Euro, it made sense personally. There is something about togetherness that is admirable. Yes, the EU is run by seemingly arrogant, self-seeking and unelected suits, but one way to deal with that would have been to change it from the inside. But it is as it is, and Владимир Владимирович will be pleased.

But one thing niggles at me. I have this feeling that a very significant factor in the leave vote was concern about immigration. If so—I’ll be condemned for this—I rather suspect that it’s immigration not from the EU, but from the former Empire. Leaving the EU will do nothing about that.