Moral Drift

There’s a concept I’ve been playing with for a while, which I’ve termed Moral Drift. I’m not sure whether there are other names for the same concept, perhaps someone more widely read than I will comment.

I’ve been reading about morality, ethics, and philosophy generally, and one of the dichotomies often discussed is whether there are Absolute Morals, or Relative Morals.

Basically, if California says it’s ok for women to wear bikinis at the beach, but it’s uncool for women in conservative Muslim nations to cover everything except their eyes, but Saudia Arabia says that wearing a bikini is morally bad, and covering yourself is good, who gets to claim Rightness? Are morals relative to the society (or individual, or group, or other context) and no other group has the right to comment, or are morals absolute and There Is A Right Answer? People have Opinions about this topic, and I’m not going to dive into it further here.

Moral Drift ties into this. Regardless of the view of Relativism or Absolutism, it must be recognized that people in different cultures, groups, etc, believe that their way is correct, and not all these groups agree. I believe that the actions people see as Good or Bad are strongly tied into their social groups (which includes work, religion, nightlife, gaming, online, etc). The further a group is isolated from other groups, the greater the moral drift that will occur.

An example I like to use is the scandal of the members of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, who were found to be rorting the expenses system. They are paid a nominal stipend for their service, and many felt it was their right to get the maximum use from the expenses system. Because the members of the House of Lords were so removed from society at large, their moral compass drifted in this area, and they considered their actions neutral to good. Obviously, when the story broke in the national news, there was bedlam. Arrests were made, Peers were jailed.

You could argue that London, as a group, has drifted morally from the United Kingdom at large. London (and other large cities) are much more liberal, much less conservative, than the villages and rural communities. You could also argue, that by not moving with the rest of the UK, that the rural communities are drifting conservatively, by not keeping up with the morals of the day of the rest of society. I’m looking at you, Daily Mail readers.

Gamergaters are a great example of moral drift. Gaming culture has become so insulated from the real world that some pretty ugly behaviour is seen as socially acceptable inside that group.

The same phenomenon affects furry. You can see that the sexual permissiveness inside of furry far outstrips that of society at large (I would argue that this is a good thing, but then, my moral compass has drifted with furry, right?).

Each group that is the subject of moral drift, relative to society at large, sees no problem with its behaviour, and it’s the Outsiders who need to understand reality better. As with Moral Absolutism, in some cases this behaviour is good (furry) and some cases harmful (House of Lords, Gamergaters).

It is for this reason that I think having a mixed society is good. Having “rich suburbs” and “poor suburbs”, or as we’ve seen recently in some London housing developments “poor doors” for the social housing recipients,  increases the segregation of groups and increases friction between the groups. You naturally end up with a political party “for the rich” and one “for the poor/working-man”.

Having a good mix of people inside Furry is a good thing too, to prevent us drifting so far away from society at large as to cause real problems.

On Cubgate

As best I can tell Cubgate started with comments between @lildrkfx, @Eurofurence and @Cheetah_Spotty (EF Chairman) on twitter.

The genesis appears to be @lildrkfx’s umbrage with Eurofurence rules, in particular:

“The following items are explicitly NOT allowed in public:

  • Costumes or accessories related to age-play, pet-play or BDSM.”

On the face of it this seems reasonable. They’re banning apparel related to fetish activity, though some babyfurs would make a strong argument that there’s nothing fetishistic or sexual about age-play for them, that’s it’s solely a part of their identity and character.

@Eurofurence responded to @lildrkfx’s complaints about the rules in a pretty regressive way:

“If your overlap of interests with EF is so small, that not being able to wear a pacifier ruins the day, maybe it’s not for you.”

It sounds a lot like @Eurofurence would like babyfurs to stay in the closet and everyone can pretend they don’t exist.

Oddly, there’s nothing banning inflatable toys, which are also fetishized objects. When challenged about this, @Eurofurence responded “It’s not about whether it’s a fetish or not, but wether[sic] it is offensive in public or not. Giant pool toys are not.”

Having made this assertion, it’s no longer clear why the ban on age-play costumes and accessories. Where is the offense?

@Cheetah_Spotty waded in with a non-sequitur:

“I don’t care what fetish you have, but if being allowed to shit your pants in public is a requirement, we have a conflict of interest.”

I don’t really understand where this came from, as nothing like this had been part of the discussion till then. If this is the “offensive behaviour” @Eurofurence was alluding to, then perhaps a more targeted ban would have been suitable. Or does @Cheetah_Spotty really think that without a ban on babyfurs there’ll be dozens of people in shitty diapers around the convention? Apart from the apocryphal tale of the shitty diaper in the Anthrocon hallway (1 spurious event in 30 years), has this ever been a problem for conventions?

This looks a lot like a few senior people in the Eurofurence ranks have preconceptions about babyfurs and behaviour and are applying a ban without any evidence that one is required.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Her Instruments

I have recently finished reading M. C. A. Hogarth‘s trilogy “Her Instruments,” a set of novels set in the Pelted universe.

The term “Pelted”  here refers to a set of genetically modified ex-human, anthropomorphic races that exist in the universe. A satisfyingly furry set, including cats (Harat-Shar), foxes (Tam-illee), wolves (Hinichi) and centaurs (Glaseah), as well as many others. There is an appendix in book 2, Rose Point, which lists the various species.

Continue reading

Repression of self

Of those of us who are gay, many have experienced the frustration of being ‘in the closet’. A euphemism to refer to the repression of that part of ourselves.

In the media, when famous people or sportsmen come out, they often describe the relief, the freedom of doing so. I don’t think this feeling of repression is linked to sexuality specifically, but rather repression of an identity facet.

If there’s something about you that you feel is part of your identity, then to hide it from people important to you is frustrating, almost emotionally painful.

Sometimes these identity facets don’t make much sense. For example, why would being a diaperfur make up part of who you are?

All of my friends know about this part of me.

I have a twin brother, we used to be very close, but our lives moved in different directions. He’s straight, has two children, and is a teacher in a small country town. Recently, the topic of sex and sexuality come up in conversation, both with him and his wife, separately. Seeing them as sexual beings opened an empathic connection for me, and I felt I was able to broach this topic with him.

As it turns out, his wife was reading over his shoulder, so now they both know. It’s liberating. I hate having to hide parts of myself from people I care about, and being able to open up this one was very important to me.

Identity

Identity has always interested me. It’s a question of how people think about themselves.

Some people, when asked the question, “Who are you?”, reply with the simple “I am me. There isn’t any more to it than that.” That’s not how I see the world.

I have a series of identity facets that help define who I am. I am (in no particular order) a biker, a geek, a programmer, a gamer, a <censored>, a furry, gay, probably things I’ve left out.

Some of these facets are more palatable to general consumption than others. I’m not going to tell my mother’s friends that I’m a furry, for example.

I’ve spoken to quite a few people about these ideas. Most recently my brother and sister-in-law. His identity facets are more mainstream than mine (father, husband, teacher).

In some ways I’m jealous of this, in other ways I couldn’t bear to be other than who I am. Even the <censored> part.

Furry and sex

Sex and sexuality within furry has long been a contentious topic. Many people organizing cons and meets are terrified of gaining a public perception that sex is somehow involved with furry. As if this is a bad thing.

Part of the problem here is the different social and cultural views of sex. As far as I can tell from popular culture and media, sex is still a very taboo topic in the USA. Just think back to Nipplegate.

I’m from Australia, currently living in Britain. Sex in these countries is viewed less negatively, I think, though that is not to say positively.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the sex positivism that is part of modern furry culture. It’s this positivism that makes it ok to express non-standard sexualities in room parties or in conversation. For example: plushophiles, inflationists, babyfurs/diaperfurs, and to a lesser extent, zoophiles.

I think that furry is way ahead of the curve on this. I agree with others, the general public probably wouldn’t be ok with the degree of sexual expression inside of furry, but I don’t think this is furry’s problem. The general public just needs to grow up a bit.

What consenting adults do in privacy should be of no concern to others.