Group Sex Meets Information Theory

A while ago, I got to wondering, as I sometimes do, exactly what makes an orgy. For example, if fifteen people are all in a room having sex, but only within existing partnerships, and there’s no “extra-partner” sex happening, is it an orgy? If four people are all fucking each other, is that an orgy, or is it just a foursome?

As it turns out, the dictionary is of precious little assistance with answering questions like this. I consulted a number of different dictionaries, and got a number of different answers–one said an orgy is five or more people having sex, one said more than two, one said an event dominated by “excessive” sexual activity (whatever the hell that means), and so on.

Now, to me, three people having sex is a threesome; four people having sex is a foursome; it doesn’t get to be an orgy until you’ve got five or more people.

But is a play party an orgy? Clearly not all orgies are play parties, but is a play party an orgy? What about a play party where people aren’t having penetrative sex? How about a mutual masturbation event…is that an orgy? My impulse is to say “no;” it isn’t an orgy unless there are five or more people and there’s fucking going on, so mutual masturbation doesn’t count. (Edit: There are many kinds of sexual activities that aren’t penetrative sex that I would consider to be an orgy, so I’m still not quite sure exactly where the borderline for the definition of “orgy” is.)

From there it was a short intellectual hop to wondering how many different kinds of group sex there are1, and what the relationship between them is.

So I started working on a Venn diagram of group sex. Then I started enlisting the help of all the people around me.

Then I started realizing that some of the potential overlaps are complicated beyond what you might at first think. For example, not all swing parties include group sex, yet most folks would probably think of a swing party as a group sex event.

And it soon became clear that certain rules of geometry2 precluded doing this as a traditional Venn diagram, because it’s not possible to show all the overlaps and exclusions with circles.

So the project got a little more complex.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with: Where group sex intersects with information theory!

Some assumptions I’ve made for this chart:

1. An orgy must involve penetrative sex of some kind (including manual sex) but can not involve all the participants being sexual with one and only one person; a gang bang and an orgy are exclusive, non-overlapping sex.

2. An orgy can never bee a threesome or a foursome.

3. If penetrative sex happens, it is no longer a puppy pile; ergo, orgies and gang bangs exclude puppy piles.

I have the feeling I missed some categories of group sex, though, and I don’t know how universal these assumptions are.

1 As opposed to how many different kinds of sexual activity you can have in a group sex situation, which is a completely different question altogether.

2 Specifically, group theory, about which I know less than what would fit in the white space of a postage stamp.

Yet Another Side Project

I know there are quite a few Macintosh folks on my flist. The rest of you can move along; nothing to see here.

A lot of folks in the Mac community are familiar with, a long-time Mac troubleshooting and forum site that’s been with us for about thirteen years. I have been a MacFixIt forum user for nearly that entire length of time, and managed to rack up just over 12,000 posts during my stay there.

Alas, all good things1 must come to an end; recently, Cnet News bought MacFixIt and closed it down.

Which is a damn shame, because the forums there represented what was arguably, minus a few hiccups, one of the best Macintosh communities on the Web.

So I opened my mouth, which is often foolish, and said hey, wouldn’t it be cool if some enterprising person set up a forum to replace it and we could all move over there? And other folks said hey, great idea, Tacit, when will you have the new place ready for us?

So I am pleased to announce the formation of a brand-new Mac community, Fine Tuned Mac.

Anyone out there who’s interested in a Mac community, I invite you to join us! We don’t bite2, and if you need any troubleshooting help, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable bunch3.

1 Except me, and many of my friends and partners, I hope.

2 Much.

3 Well, us and TechSurvivors, another Mac troubleshooting forum I like and recommend.

Art meets sex

Back when i was still living in Atlanta, zaiah came out to visit a couple of times. During her last visit, I ended up with what I thought was a nasty cold but which actually turned out to be antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.

Now, I don’t know if you have had any experience with pneumonia, Gentle Reader, but in the likely and fortunate event you have not, I can inform you that it will cause certain biological urges of a licentious nature to wither in much the same way that a snowman wilts under a flamethrower. Which is a damn shame.

Anyway, while I was miserable in bed and sleeping most of the day, zaiah started drawing on me with Magic Markers, and took a picture of the result with my iPhone.

Since then, it’s become something of a standard part of our sex lives. She loves drawing on me, and I love being drawn on…and yes, it is sex. Many things other than the insertion of Tab A into Slot B are sex, legions of horny teenagers who’ve taken Purity Pledges but still want to get their funk on notwithstanding (“you mean if you do me in the ass I’ll still be a virgin? Oh, okay then!”).

I have quite a collection of iPhone photos now, which are all kinda fun and cheerful and which you can see if you don’t mind looking at possibly not-safe-for-work images that might include some portion of my butt

Life in Oregon: Das Beach

Last weekend, gidget23 invited me to go out to the beach and hang with the local goth/industrial crowd.

Now, I’ve been to beaches before. In fact, I used to live in Tampa, Florida, so I’ve been to beaches that are claimed to be the best beaches in the world before. So I think I can be forgiven for believing that I had some sort of idea what “going to the beach” is like.

I’m not much of a beach person, so the internal dialog went something like “-1 for beach, -27 for getting up at 10 AM to make it happen, +10 for meeting the local goth/industrial peeps, +30 for spending time with gidget23, -1 for not knowing where the place is, +2 for iPhone GPS win, -10 for ‘it’s going to be really cold, dress warmly!’…that adds up to a net positive, so what the hell. Sure!”

Little did I know.

You see, Gentle Reader, they do not do beaches here in the Pacific Northwest the way they do beaches in Florida.

The Pacific Northwest is all about rugged natural scenic beauty. It’s a little silly, in fact, just how beautiful this place is. Imagine, if you will, a temperate rainforest that comes right up to the coast, and stops at the sheer cliff face that marks the beginning of the beach, and…

Yeah. Not like Florida at all.

I sadly neglected to bring my real camera, and had to content myself with the camera in my iPhone. The iPhone camera does a pretty good job with even lighting, but struggles hard with unusual or challening lighting conditions, like backlighting.

Anyway, this is a rock. A big-ass volcanic rock just jutting up out of the beach. It’s probably about two and a half or three stories high at the uppermost point, and my god, is it gorgeous.


The rock has this really cool planar stress geometry, and fractures in these really interesting cleave patterns. When pieces break off, they’re a bright red rust color inside, which fades to a darker color when it’s exposed. Rich in iron, I reckon.

I hear there’s a big future in iron, though I don’t know why we have to keep changing things all the time. I mean, bronze has been good enough for me, and it was good enough for my father, and this newfangled iron stuff is dangerous and hard to work with, and…

Ahem. Anyway, this chunk of rock is so friggin’ cool that if I had unlimited time, I can see myself dedicating three or four years to learning about geology and chemistry and materials science just so I could understand it better.

And CAVES! Did I mention this beach has caves?

Yes, that’s the entrance to a cave. Not a very big one, but still… Caves! At the beach! How cool is that?

The view from another opening on the other side of the outcropping. This particular cave is underwater at high tide, which is also pretty cool. The 10-year-old me would have been absolutely delighted, dreaming of pirates and lost treasure; the adult me is, if anything, even more delighted.

Caves! At the beach!

This narrow crevasse fissure opens up into a larger chamber beyond; it was a fairly difficult scrabble, but totally worth it. Too dark to get any pics inside; the iPhone camera has no flash.

The view looking down from the top of that big chunk of rock.

The 20-year-old me used to free-climb buildings, which kind of makes the current me shiver sometimes. The 20-year-old me was definitely laughing at the current me with the amount of effort it took to get to the top, but no matter. The current me has a laptop computer and the Internet and a cell phone that’s also a computer, so I think the current me wins.

I like the sand castles arranged like a line marching to the sea.

Okay, seriously, a waterfall at the beach? That’s just scenic beauty overkill. At this point, the landscape is just showing off.

Upstream of the waterfall, and it’s still ridiculously gorgeous.

If I live to be ten thousand years old, I will never stop being awestruck at how awesome life is. One tiny little insignificant speck of a universe vast and magnificent beyond human comprehension, and even that little speck is able to blow my mind with the beauty of the physical universe. How can life ever be anything but a constant celebration of wonder?

I saw a tiny little plant growing up between the stones that tend to litter the base of the cliffs around northwestern beaches, and I just have to say:

Epiphany and George Sodini

“You’re polyamorous? That’s so greedy!”

I’ve heard that about a zillion and eleventy-four times, and it’s totally baffled me every single time I’ve heard it. I hae never, ever once quite understood how the notion that my partners are free to form attachments to and relationships with anyone they choose, and how I am free to form attachments to and relationships with, anyone we choose so long as we all choose to treat one another with reciprocal respect and kindness, is “greedy.”

Quite the opposite, in fact. To me, “you are my partner, and therefore I forbid you to make your own choices about relationship and I forbid you to have certain kinds of relationships with anyone except me” seems more than a little greedy.

It took an asshole with a gun to make me understand where “You’re polyamorous? That’s so greedy!” comes from.

This is George. George is, or was, an asshole. In the unlikely event that you’re not aware of him, George spent many, many years unable to get any woman to go out with him, so George decided to solve the problem by walking into a women’s fitness center, shooting the place up, killing a bunch of women and injuring a bunch more, and then shooting himself.

So, yeah, asshole.

This particular asshole kept a long, rambling online journal just stuffed full of the most boggling array of misunderstandings and misapprehensions one could ever expect to see outside of a Creation Science seminar. His site is currently offline (which I think is a shame; the insight it offers into the mind of a profoundly fucked-up person is worth preservation), but bits of it have been picked up and scattered all over the Net. Those barely coherent noodlings on misogyny and racism are, paradoxically, what gave me the insight into what a person who says “You’re polyamorous? That’s so greedy!” is actually saying.

George’s Web site is kaput, but nothing on the Internet ever really dies. There are Web sites all over the place which have picked up and preserved some of his journal entries, and it’s quite a sewer of racism and misogyny…but what struck me is how ordinary his particular flavor of misogyny is. what’s really scary is that George’s rants are not too far from the sort of stuff you see in places like LiveJournal, OK Cupid, and other blogs and dating sites every day.

Take this, for instance:

Moving into Christmas again. No girlfriend since 1984, last Christmas with Pam was in 1983. Who knows why. I am not ugly or too weird. No sex since July 1990 either (I was 29). No shit! Over eighteen years ago. And did it maybe only 50-75 times in my life.

Or this:

Just got back from tanning, been doing this for a while. No gym today, my elbow is sore again. I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne – yet 30 million women rejected me – over an 18 or 25-year period. That is how I see it. Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are. A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend. This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded. Every other guy does this successfully to a degree.

Or this little gem:

I was reading several posts on different forums and it seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little hoe has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason. Thanks for nada, bitches! Bye.

I spent quite a bit of time talking with my sweetie figmentj about George; these journal quotes got me to thinking about the nature of interpersonal relationships and expectations, and she’s an awesome sounding board for that sort of cognitive noodling.

The things he wrote reek to me of…well, not objectification, precisely, but certainly of a sense of entitlement. There’s also a very deep sense of disconnect; I don’t know if he ever really thought of women as being quite fully human.

And I don’t think he’s alone in that.

There are two things in particular that jumped out at me, reading these journal entries. The first is the idea that “getting” a woman is a bit like getting a car: it’s a quantifiable process. To get a car, you go into the dealership, the dealer looks at your credit rating, you pick a car that matches the amount of money you have available for a down payment, and as long as you have enough money and your credit rating is OK, you leave with a car. It’s an easy, defined process.

A lot of men seem to think the same thing is true of getting a woman. As long as you are not “ugly or too weird” and you have enough money, you can get a woman. You pick out someone who you can afford and are attractive enough to have; she looks to make sure you’re not too weird, and as long as there’s nothing wrong with you, you go home with her.

This might not be objectification per se, but it’s awfully close–it seems, I think, to see women as an undifferentiated mass, rather than as a group of individuals, each of whom has her own ideas about what she wants.

The second part that struck me is “A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend.” It reeks of an entitlement perspective; I need you for the things you do for me, and I deserve to have those things. A man needs a toaster to make toast, a coffee maker to make coffee, a computer to get connected to the Internet, and a woman for confidence. As long as he has money and is not too weird, he deserves to be able to have these things.

And seriously, I see this kind of thinking just about everywhere. “How can I get a woman to have sex with me?” is a popular refrain on the Internet. (To a person who thinks it’s a question of “getting” a woman to do what he wants her to do, I suspect the answer is likely to be incomprehensible; you don’t “get” a woman to sleep with you, you become a person who is interesting to other people, and those other people will then…er, find you interesting.)

“You’re polyamorous? That’s so greedy!” The statement is loaded down with exactly the same sort of world view that I see clearly in George’s writing. There’s an entire world of preconceptions and assumptions bundled up in those five words.

It starts, I think, with a group conception of women that sees the world’s females as an undifferentiated mass resource; there are about as many women as men, and women expect certain things in exchange for companionship and sex–it’s simply a question of giving women what they expect and you, too, can walk off the lot with a woman of your own, whose attractiveness depends on how much currency you have to spend. Each man is entitled to a woman by right.

Polyamory upsets the balance. People with multiple women are somehow walking into a dealership with no cash and no credit but still driving off the lot with a bunch of cars; they’ve discovered some kind of way to hack the system, to upset the economic exchange, leaving fewer women for the other men who deserve them.

And men shouldn’t be allowed to have a woman if they are too weird. You accept social norms and adopt normative behaviors in exchange for having a woman. That’s the way the system works. (In a very literal sense. I actually had a person tell me recently that he couldn’t figure out how a weird, creepy-looking guy like me could even “get” one woman to sleep with him, much less several. How do you “get” a dealer to give you a car when you don’t have credit? What manner of black magic could persuade a woman to have sex with a man who is too weird?)

Okay, so maybe there’s a bit of “well, duh” going on here. But seriously, I was so busy being baffled by the “WTF is selfish about allowing a partner to make her own choices about her lovers?” to see the “women are a rationed commodity and if you keep taking all of them that leaves fewer for me; I’m not too ugly or too weird, so you’re taking away something I am entitled to have a share of myself.”

Honestly, I do think there has to be just a pinch of objectification and more than a little sense of entitlement to make a statement like “polyamory is selfish.” It would never occur to someone who doesn’t see women as some kind of amorphous group; a person who sees women as a collection of individuals would be more inclined to say “A woman who wants a polyamorous relationship would be a poor match for me, so a polyamorous person isn’t taking anything away from me; I wouldn’t choose these women even if they were single, because we have different relationship goals.”

George believed that he was entitled to have a woman, because he wasn’t too weird and because every man needs a woman for confidence. I imagine that the smell of misogyny probably oozed off of him; he wasn’t rejected by women as a group, he was rejected by each individual woman unlucky enough to cross paths with him.

So thank you, George Sodini. You’re an asshole who exemplifies a certain kind of misogyny so clearly that you make other misogynists more comprehensible.

But you’re still an asshole.

Exploring Portland: Bull Run

My sweetie zaiah has her master’s degree in engineering with an emphasis in water resource engineering, so last weekend she scored us seats on an eight and a half hour tour of Portland’s water collection and distribution network.

Which was pretty cool, actually, even if it did mean getting up at 7 AM.

Of the thirty or so people on the tour, I was the only one without a degree in engineering and/or working in the field of water resource management.

Portland’s water supply is interesting. The city’s water comes from the Bull Run watershed, which includes streams, rivers, and lakes in the Federally protected Bull Run watershed district–a largely pristine temperate old-growth rainforest.

It starts in places like this–streams fed by rain and springs. You can almost drink the water straight out of the stream here (at least if it weren’t for the possibility of microorganisms)–the water’s so clean that Portland doesn’t do any filtration at all. They chlorinate it to kill bugs, and they let it sit for a while in huge underground bunkers to give sediment a chance to settle out, but other than that it’s straight from here to the pipeline.

Well, with the exception of a couple of dams along the way.

And the dams are, heh heh, pretty damn cool, heh heh. Clicky here to see more!

Today’s devil’s choice

So, before I introduce the poll I’m about to introduce, let me start by saying that I like sex. I really, really, really like sex. It’s fun, it’s enjoyable, it’s an amazing gateway to intimacy and shared experience, it’s an awesome tool for getting to know someone (and yourself), and it’s fun.

No surprise there.

So, here’s the poll. It’s a simple, one-question, yes/no thing:

Someone comes up to you and offers to place you into a fit, healthy, 23-year-old body. This new body will be completely immune to all diseases, and also totally free of the ravages of aging. You’ll never get old and you’ll never be sick; excluding accident or deliberate choice, you won’t die.

But, there’s a catch. You’ll never have sex again. You won’t feel the urge, you won’t have a sex drive, nada.

Do you take the deal?

Me, I say “yes,” for the very simple reason that giving up sex for radically extended life seems like a no-brainer to me. After all, I can’t have sex when I’m dead! So to me the question actually reads “Would you like to not have sex and also be dead, or would you prefer to not have sex but still be alive?” Since I take joy in many things in life other than sex, like bacon and cats and friends and blue skies and spinning fire and World of Warcraft and Leonardo da Vinci and vodka cranberries and VNV Nation and flying kites, the choice between “no sex and also dead” or “no sex but still alive” is an easy one.

Plus, I think that if I were given enough time, I’d probably find something just as good as sex. zaiah thinks that I’m an optimist.