The Social Impact of Reproductive Genetics

Humanity is a creature unique amongst all the living beings existing upon this planet because unlike all other organisms it does not seek to live in harmony with its environment and instead seeks to mold it to its own various needs with a complete disregard as to the effects upon the ecosystem to which it is still a part of. Our very intelligence, our infernal curiosity and our never-ending quest to quantify and qualify the world around us has led us to a point where humanity is now able to ignore many of Nature’s dictates and in fact, may now bypass the consequences of natural selection by using our ability to manipulate the genetic material which is the foundation of our heritage as a species and making such decisions as if we ourselves were Gods.

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Humanity stands at the dawn of a genetic age in which unprecedented discoveries and achievements in the field of genetics have allowed us a window into a world previously denied us. The Human Genome Project, which was the largest biological research enterprise in history, has mapped our entire genetic structure. New scientific claims of genes associated with diseases, conditions, personality traits and behaviors are reported regularly by the media and scientists have actually identified and claimed the genes for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, Fragile X syndrome, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, bi-polar illness, obesity, homosexuality, alcoholism, novelty seeking, shyness, bed-wetting and the list continues to grow longer every week. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA and the founding father of the Human Genome Project declared that “we used to think our fate was in the stars. Now we know a large part of it is in our genes.”

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While the promise of improving the treatment of disease is carried by the influence of genetics on medicine, there are many potential obstacles and repercussions that may hamper this vision. In particular, a long shadow will be forever cast upon the field by the specter of our historical past attempts at eugenics. The implications of the social impact of reproductive genetics are many, but a few of them stand out as more potentially problematic than others. The privacy of genetic information, the potential of genetic stigmatization, the role of genetic screening and intervention in reproduction, enhancements and the specter of human cloning and finally the ever present peril of new forms of eugenics all will have a great effect upon the social impact of reproductive genetics, effects which must examined carefully in order for humanity to be adequately prepared for the next phase in our scientific development.

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As the genetic aspect of modern medicine progresses, the problems with regard to maintaining the privacy of an individual’s genetic information increasingly becomes a concern. Genetic testing in itself is usually done for a number of reasons such as to confirm a specific diagnosis in a symptomatic individual, which is also called diagnostic testing, it is done to ascertain the risk of having a particular condition in an asymptomatic individual, and also called predictive or susceptibility testing, to ascertain the risk of transmitting a condition, also called carrier testing, to check to see if a fetus has a genetic disorder, also called prenatal diagnosis, for forensic testing, for paternity or relationship testing and finally for research purposes. But what does this mean with respect to genetic privacy? Well in many cases the conditions being testing for carry certain social stigmas, i.e., the persons carrying this gene or suffering from these conditions are treated differently from the rest of the members of society and in many instances so do the insurance companies which provide the money to treat the condition. As long as an individual’s condition does not jeopardize the health of society as a whole then that information must remain private. But in an age of where all medical records have been converted to electronic medical records (EMR) who actually has access to the results of genetic testing which are in a patient’s EMR? The concern that the unethical use of test results against vulnerable individuals for the benefit of others or even such other unethical motivations such as eugenics (we will address this subject later on this paper) becomes a very real concern. To minimize this concern there must be some sort of national if not international body to shoulder the onus of maintaining high standards of genetic testing oversight. Even then, cross-cultural difficulties and barriers will no doubt affect just what is considered a violation of privacy and what is considered to be acceptable level of transparency when it comes to genetic test results.

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With genetic testing rapidly becoming the norm, the problem of genetic stigmatization increasingly becomes an unfortunate reality. This is the discrimination directed against certain individuals based solely upon an apparent or perceived genetic variation from the norm. For example the gene for sickle cell anemia can be easily tested these days using the hemoglobin electrophoresis, which I myself have undergone. It is rapidly becoming a common occurrence among African-Americans and Africans today to ask their partners to be tested for this trait before the decision to make the commitment to having children is made because of the prevalence of sickle cell anemia in our race. Already a lower value is being attached to any potential children who are homozygous for the sickle cell anemia gene, despite the fact that most individuals living with the condition today can still live long and productive lives because of the advances in medical treatment. Genetic stigmatization will most certainly result in a denial of services or entitlements as greedy insurance companies, as we have seen in the past, try to deny payments for certain pre-existing conditions or to at least increase the insurance premiums of those individuals to prohibitive levels. A subtler form of eugenics could arise from this as certain genes could come to be associated with a certain race or ethnicity and this could lead to genetic discrimination with regards to individual choice and disincentives by insurance coverage.

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The role of genetic screening and intervention in reproduction is a controversial topic because of the many sociological concerns which arise from any manipulation of our genetics with respect to reproduction. The world has still not healed and perhaps will never heal from the dark specter of Nazi eugenics which the Holocaust cast over our world. Who decides which traits are valuable are which are not? This path leads to a point where certain traits and the disabilities which arise from these genes are becoming devalued; will this mean that a whole segment of society will become marginalized as we become ever more efficient at weeding them out before they are even born? The Human Genome Project has discovered the existence of many genes which have been linked to certain behavioral traits such as the trait for homosexuality. In the first place, why were we searching for a gene for homosexuality and if it does exist then it follows that there must be one for heterosexuality too? It seems to me that already the specter of eugenics has begun to loom over genetics once again, because there are many in positions of power whose political and sociological agenda includes the suppression of “unnatural acts” such as homosexuality, despite the fact that if there is a gene coded for this behavior then it is actually very much a part of nature. The perspectives of disability activists and what public health officials maintain are necessary goals in public health will continue to clash because the argument of the activists that the genetic intervention of disabilities negates the value of disabled people has much truth to it. While medical advocates counter with the argument that they are preventing disabilities and not people, things like genetic intervention through abortion or gene therapy is leading to eugenics if not by specific intent then at least by outcome. With technology rapidly moving in previously unimagined territories it is not so outlandish to imagine a world in which our ID cards also contain a genome map of each individual, supposedly placed there for rapid medical access but in fact it will divulge our entire genetic endowment. Already there is a genetic DNA database of all convicted felons in the US along with all military and federal personnel. How long before this trend becomes mandatory?

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When discussing genetics and reproduction, there is a subject within this topic that has gripped the imagination of the population since the idea of genetic manipulation was first introduced, and that is of course genetic enhancement and human cloning. Despite widespread agreement that it would be ethical to use somatic cell gene therapy to correct serious diseases, there is still uneasiness on the part of the public about this procedure. The basis for this concern lies less with the procedure’s clinical risks than with fear that genetic engineering could lead to changes in human nature. Legitimate concerns about the potential for misuse of gene transfer technology justify drawing a moral line that includes corrective germline therapy but excludes enhancement interventions in both somatic and some germline contexts. Germ-line gene therapy is defined as the deliberate genetic modification of germ cells (sperm or oocytes), their precursors, or the cells of early embryos where the germ-line1 has yet to be segregated, while in somatic cell therapy the genes which are replaced cannot be passed on to the next generation unlike those used in germ line therapy which negates the possibility of changing or enhancing an individual’s actual genome. Hundreds of movies and books have been made and written about genetically enhanced super-beings, soldiers or a powerful elite but is it now so farfetched in this world? In an era where the new technologies that civilians utilize are driven by the progress first made by the military-industrial complex, how naïve is it to believe that the cloning technology used to create the first cloned mammal, the sheep named Dolly almost two decades ago in 1997 has not been improved upon and how much more naïve is it to believe that our military would not have a long ago progressed from animal to human testing if only to keep up with less “morally scrupulous” countries who would have much to gain in having an army of enhanced and cloned soldiers. It is no longer science fiction and it is frightening. We already regularly genetically enhance humans using somatic gene therapies to treat illness and we have the technology to produce germline enhancements. Is it so far-fetched to believe that scientists have not already taken the next logical step?

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Finally and of course most ominously is the danger of the creation of a new form of eugenics that is acceptable to mainstream society because it has been disguised as a benefit for society as a whole. Wiping out the various genes which cause genetic illnesses from the gene pool may seem like an admirable goal, but how does one judge the value of an individual? Just because an individual is symptomatic of a disease or simply carries the gene does this mean that they cannot add to the fabric of our existence? Most of the genetic research done in the world today is controlled by governmental bodies or private organizations both of which lack a transparency that is necessary for proper regulation of this technology and the ability to maintain a strict watch over any of the many sociological problems which will inevitably arise. This means that by limiting or stimulating human reproduction, as was done at the beginning of the last century, or by preventing genetic diseases and improving physical and mental characteristics as is done regularly nowadays, distinct and ominous changes are being made upon our species. In the implantation of such actions, contradictions are produced, such as the discrimination and elimination of many people in exchange for the view of one ideal human, eminently social factors are being turned into biological ones. The defense of a supposed scientific neutrality and the indiscriminate use of the reproductive choice right to push forward a sinister agenda, all will inevitably contribute to the acceptance and indeed implementation of a social eugenics which echoes the same mistakes made over and over again in history, from the Spartans to the Nazis. And this is not unique to other cultures. In the Buck vs. Bell decision of May 2, 1927, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Virginia statute that provided for the eugenic sterilization of people considered genetically unfit. The Court’s decision, delivered by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., included the infamous phrase “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Upholding Virginia’s sterilization statute provided the green light for similar laws in 30 states, under which an estimated 65,000 Americans were sterilized without their own consent or that of a family member. And to this day the Supreme Court has still not expressly overruled this decisions which means that technically speaking it is still perfectly legal. Couple this fact with the possibilities that genetic research has now opened and our biological future does look rather ominous.

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It behooves those working within the field of reproductive genetics to develop a nuanced understanding of the benefits and risks of reproductive genetics to humanity on all levels. They will have the opportunity over the next several years to advocate for policies that promote reproductive well-being for all individuals as the public becomes more aware of the potentials, both good and bad of this field of medicine. Policies that promote reproductive well-being for all individuals while ensuring that men, women and families benefit from advances in reproductive technologies and genetic research while at the same time protecting those same men, women and families from the dangers inherent in such research. And while the reproductive health care community faces this changing world of reproductive science, they can do much to help patients understand their options and make the best decisions for the best possible care while at the same time carefully monitoring not only the progress of this field of research but the bioethical and sociological implications that come hand in hand with it.

The media and male self-image regarding penis size

 

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The media today wields a greater influence upon society and how we as individuals view ourselves. How we interact with the world and the world’s reaction to us is constantly molded by the massive amounts of imagery that we are bombarded with. From the advertisements hawking ridiculous priced sneakers, to magazines telling women how to improve their sex lives, we are immersed in the sensory ocean created by the multimedia machine which tells us what to think and feel. Our self-image is a commodity so corporate America has learned to capitalize on this by playing to the insecurities and desires of the masses. Men are bombarded with the familiar messages about average penis size and the promise of penis growth advocated by cosmetic surgery and commercial websites hawking pills and creams for “male enhancement.” The importance of penis size and the desire to enlarge one’s member is an illusion perpetuated by the media and reinforced by our own stereotypes of the virile, large-membered, and masculine man.

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 A few years ago on  HBO there was a show called “Hung” in which a school teacher who had lost everything he possessed in a house fire and ended up using his massive penis to become the premier male escort, impaling his way through throngs of lonely, beautiful and wealthy women. In that world, the world of television and movies it seems that size does matter, and since we seem to take our cues from both the small and big screens it is no wonder that men feel the need to “supersize it.”

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Two meta-analyses were conducted to determine the extent to which pressure from the mass media to conform to the “ideal” male body affects men’s self-images (i.e., body satisfaction, body esteem, and self-esteem). These two meta-analyses revealed that pressure from the mass media was significantly related to men feeling worse about their own bodies. The results from both Study 1 and Study 2 suggest that as men felt pressure from the mass media (in correlational and experimental designs) they felt worse about their bodies. The results also showed that pressure from the mass media was related to body satisfaction, body esteem, self-esteem, psychological disorders (e.g., depression), and behavioral outcomes (e.g., excessive exercising).

The fact is extra-large penis size is rare and in fact most men in the world fall within the average range as can be seen in the statistics below. Based on data collected from the Lifestyle Condoms Cancun study*, here is the frequency of penis size in the USA:
1.752 inches: 1 in 3.5 million
2.577 inches: 1 in 31,574
3.402 inches: 1 in 741
4.227 inches: 1 in 44
5.052 inches: 1 in 6
5.877 inches: 1 in 2
6.702 inches: 1 in 6
7.527 inches: 1 in 44
8.352 inches: 1 in 741
9.177 inches: 1 in 31,574
10.00 inches: 1 in 3.5 million
Since the adult male population of the USA is approximately 105 million, if we do the math this means there are only about 3,250 men in the entire country who are 9.2 inches long or longer, and only 30 in the entire country who have 10 inches or more. And they are probably all working in porn films! So why is there such an obsession with excessively large penises? A 2008 study in the Journal of Sex Research, found the average erect size to be 6.21 inches, with a standard deviation of .77 inches, which is to say that 95% of men will not be more or less than 1.54 inches from the average value, the implications of which are that male dreams of super large penises are unrealistic because very few men in this world actually have them. They have been hoodwinked by the media into a belief in the illusion of masculinity based upon penis size. Here are a few more relevant statistics this time concerning erect penis size:
Erect penises under 4 inches: 1.1%
Between 4 and 5 inches: 7.3%
5.0 to 5.4 inches: 11.5%
5.5 to 5.9 inches: 21.9%
6.0 to 6.4 inches: 25.6%
6.5 to 6.9 inches: 16.8%
7.0 to 7.4 inches: 9.3%
7.5 to 7.9 inches: 3.9%
8.0 to 8.4 inches: 1.4%
8.5 to 8.9 inches: 0.6%
Over 9.0 inches: 0.4%
As we can see almost a quarter of the population is about 6 inches in length and more than 80% of the population is less than 6.9 inches in length. This indicates just how unrealistic the image portrayed by the media for men actually is. Only 2.4% of the population has a penis over 7.9 inches long, and considering all the fuss being made over giant penises, and judging by the statistics very few people in this world would have actually ever encountered one in real life.

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Many men are tempted by the prospect of gaining a larger penis, which penile augmentation appears to deliver, even though there are no clear statistics on its effectiveness in correcting body image issues or improving sexual performance. The fact is putting any surgical equipment on or in a penis, is a crime against masculinity, especially when one considers that with the many complications that may arise. The surgery will not increase one’s orgasms or cause one to emit more ejaculate; it will not decrease the refractory period nor will it make one last longer in bed. On the contrary there are some very negative risks associated with the surgery. These include fever, infection, swelling of the scrotum, drainage of pus, loss of sensitivity, scarring, a shorter penis, hair at the base of the penis, a low hanging penis, fat lumps from the fat grafts, pressure or discomfort, impotence, urinary incontinence and persistent pain. And if that was not bad enough 10-15% of all penile implants or pumps fail, which means additional surgery will be needed to remove them. Obviously there are some positives to the surgery and this is the psychological benefits that men gain from these procedures. The boost in self-esteem, confidence, and self-image can have a drastic effect on how a man interacts with the world. He will view himself as more masculine and as a result believe that he is now a better lover.

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John Updike once compared the male body to a bank account: as long as it’s healthy, he said, a man doesn’t think much about it too much, but that way of thinking is obviously a thing of the past. With male cosmetics, workout supplements and male sexual enhancement drugs raking in billions of dollars every year based upon a male ideal formulated in the back of a corporate boardroom, men have been the victims of a secret and odious war against their sensibilities and against nature itself. After all, if women say that size does not matter, is it not their opinion which we as men should be worrying about?

The Game

This story is from a collection of shorter, short stories I am finishing up at present titled, Short stories on Acid.  If you are sensitive to religious ideology I don’t suggest you read it, because it might offend you.  The premise of the story is that God and The Devil are actually twin beings and they seem to have had some sort of disagreement………..

 

The Game

 

“No, we are not switching roles.  How many times do I have to tell you this?”

“Why not?  You have had all this time to play the lead and what have you accomplished?  The universe is still just as messed up as ever.”

“Actually, if you want to be fair, you have to take some responsibility for that too, you know.”

“But that is my job!  I’m supposed to make things worse.”

“Exactly.  It’s your job.”

“We both know that it shouldn’t be this way.”

“Really?  Then how is it then that we are in our respective positions?”

“Because you cheated, that’s why!”

“How?  There are no rules in this game.”

“Of course, there are, you just chose to ignore them.”

“Says who?”

“Says us.”

“Not according to me.”

“You cheated!”

“Oh, come on!  Don’t you think it’s time that you got over it?  We are not switching roles, and that is final.”

“Why not?  Let’s put our respective skills to the test and see who is more suitable for each role.”

“Why would I bother?  I told you I’m not giving up my position, so it would be a pointless exercise.”

“I think you’re scared.”

“Nope.  Just quite comfortable where I am.  This is exactly why you lost this position in the first place.   Why would make wagers anyway?  You are just not ruthless enough for this role.”

“Really?  Okay then, let’s put it to the test, shall we?”

“Didn’t we already go through once before?”

“And once again you cheated.”

“You see that is exactly my point.  Besides, I didn’t cheat.  You were the one who picked the guy.  You tormented him.  All I did was sit back and watch you fail.”

“I failed because I wasn’t well suited to that sort of thing.  I couldn’t torment him the way I should have to ensure my victory.”

“I could have.”

“You see that is just my point.  You are perfect for my job and I’m terrible at it.”

“Perhaps.  But since I’m quite happy where I am, the point is moot.  Besides, who in their right mind would volunteer for that job?”

“My point exactly.  I didn’t volunteer, you tricked me into it.”

“Yes, I did, but that is not really my problem is it big brother?”

“So that’s how you feel about this situation?”

“Pretty much.”

“In that case, fuck you then Yahweh, because I quit.”

“Whoa, wait a minute! You can’t quit, Samael.”

“I just did.”

“But the implications. Think about it for a minute.”

“No, you think about it little brother.  Since you want to be the Boss, then be the Boss of everything.  I’m out of here.”

“Wait!  Samael, hold on one second.”

“What do you want, Yahweh?  I’m done.  I can’t be the object of universal hatred and despite anymore.  Find someone else to take the position.”

“Who?  There are only two beings like us in the cosmos.”

“Well, according to your propaganda, you are all-knowing and all-powerful, so I am sure you will figure it out.”

“Okay, let’s be reasonable here.  You can’t just walk away from this.”

“No, you be reasonable.  And admit that you cheated.”

“Come on!  It was a game.  I had no idea that the result would be our being locked in our respective roles forever.  And by the way, I didn’t cheat.  You just didn’t have the heart to really work Job over.  If you had you would be in my position right now, and I in yours.”

“And if I had tormented him properly it would only prove that I deserved to be in the position I am in now, instead of my original one. It was a rigged game and you knew it”

“Perhaps.  But the outcome is still the same regardless.  You can’t quit.”

“Yes, I can.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Oh really?  What are you going to do?  Smite me with your divine wrath?  Give me a fucking break.  Do your worst it still won’t stop me leaving.”

“Okay, wait, wait, just hold on one sec.  I have an idea.  How about we compromise?”

“I’m listening.”

“How about you get to come out of the pit once every thousand years or so instead of two thousand years?”

“Fuck you Yahweh.  Goodbye.”

“Okay, just a second.  How about no imprisonment at all?  After all, it’s not as if you are actually evil, right?”

“You think this is amusing, Yahweh?  Well it’s not.  You are my evil younger brother, and though I love you dearly, I hate the fact that you tricked me into letting you play God and now look what happened.  The world has no idea that the God it worships is the evil twin of the good deity who used to be in charge, and I, that very same good deity am now reviled as the embodiment of evil thanks to your slick rewriting of history.  You’re running out of time Yahweh and I have yet to be appeased.”

“Fine.  How I give you a whole choir of angels.  The Cherubim, perhaps?”

“I already have plenty.  I took fully one-third of yours to be precise.”

“Okay, then how about Purgatory?  Do you want it?”

“Now that’s more like it.  Yes, I’ll take it.  Now what else have you got to offer me?”

“Isn’t that enough already?”

“No, it’s not.  And since your feeling so generous, I’ll take Limbo too.”

“You can’t have Limbo, Samael, it’s full of infants.”

“And I’ll take good care of them.”

“Fine.  You can have Limbo.”

“I also want that lying sack of shit Joseph Smith, who you have been sheltering all these years from me.”

“You know what?  Take him.  The man is incorrigible.  That racist imbecile tried to bang one of my Cherubim can you believe that?  Okay, are we cool now?”

“Excuse me?  Do you think I am that easily bought off?  Perhaps we should just call this all off and I’ll quit as I originally intended.”

“No, don’t do that.  Okay, what else do you want?”

“I want you to name the next Pope, Pope Bigus Dickus, the First.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“You want me to name the next Pope, the spiritual leader of a billion Catholics across the globe, Pope Bigus Dickus, the First?”

“That’s right.”

“Now I am sure you have lost your mind Samael.  Absolutely not.”

“Why not?  You are Yahweh, God of Gods.  You can do whatever you want.”

“Well I am not doing that.  That is just plain immature.  Pick something else.”

“Fine, never mind.  Here is the last thing I want and the I will be appeased.”

“This had better not be another insane idea.”

“It is but I think you will like it as much as I do.”

“Go ahead.”

“I want you to use your powers to arrange for Donald Trump and his entire cabinet, along with the heads of the Tea Party and all the most influential white supremacists to be caught flagrante delicto, in a homosexual orgy in which they are seen having sex with gay Jewish men, whose fathers were also Black Catholics, while blaring rap music by Public enemy is playing in the background.  They will have gotten drunk on Passover wine and malt liquor and will be engaged in some of the most disgusting and depraved sexual acts such as the “Dirty Sanchez,” and all of their faces will be clearly seen as they defile the Dixie flag with their santorum.  It must be captured by one of the right-wing networks that they all love so much so that there are no cries of “fake news,” such as the Fox network, who will then pass it on to all the major international networks who will have been tipped off to the ongoing multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and pantheistic homosexual orgy.  And in the aftermath of this it will be revealed that Vladimir Putin financed these orgies and payed for the hiring of the professional male prostitutes used therein.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Not at all.”

“You are one twisted individual, Samael.  But you were right, I do like it.”

“So, are we good.  Do we have a deal?  I get Purgatory, Limbo, Joseph Smith, no more prison time and my scenario with Trump and company?”

“You got it.  Though I still can’t believe you wanted me to name the next Pope Bigus Dickus the First.”

“It was all part of the negotiation, and guess what?  It wasn’t so hard, now was it?”

“Actually, considering what you have to deal with on a daily basis, it is pretty fair.”

“Excellent.  So, little brother, I’ll see you at dinner then?”

“Yes, but please tell your infernal chefs to lighten up on the hot sauce.  Last time I literally shat fire.”

“Well, you were eating dinner in Hell, Yahweh.”

Dialogue #1

This is an excerpt from one of my books titled “Dialogues with the Mirror”  It represents a time when I had to take a really long hard look at myself and decide if what I saw there was something I could live with.  It was the dialogue that I had with myself in an effort to make lasting changes in the way I thought and in the way I was, at the time, interacting with the world.

 

1. Life serves us the most interesting dishes for our guiltless consumption. Some demented cosmic chef grabs various ingredients from insane and unspeakable sources, slices and dices, chops and grates, mixes and melds it until some crazy hodge-podge which has no name and indeed shall remain nameless is formed. Well I have tasted life and swallowed its frightening flavors and returned for seconds and thirds, devouring it, reveling in its filthy mess, and rooting in it like the dirty dog that I have become. I have tasted life’s great culinary experiment and I have not found it wanting.

So why are we here? Why have I somehow persuaded you into sitting still long enough that I may force feed you the regurgitated remains of this dubious dish? Are you also a gourmand of this cosmic cuisine? Have you too, eaten of its cornucopia and fed until you felt full if possibilities, bursting with the fruits of creation that swirl in your gorge, making you sicker than you have ever been in your life, pushing you in turn to vomit out your spiritual guts and look upon the contents of your soul?  My reflection haunts me. It stares at me unendingly without flinching, boring its black eyes deep into the hunger of within me that is reflected into the world within the mirror.  It knows of my gluttony; It knows that I feasted on life and the fruits of other men’s labors, as I searched for a means to penetrate the mystery of the mirror. My greed has marked me; it has tattooed me, tainted me and scarred me with a dark and treacherous ink that bleeds into me, etching there the picture of my corruption, the portrait of my passions, and the painting of my lust for life, for love, and the dark energy that bleeds into the blackness of my spirit.

The mirror calls to me in my intoxication, as I ride the waves of shame and indifference that fill me in a rhythm that matches the beating, pulsing heart of the world that I am chasing within its depths. Yet it constantly eludes me, this world beyond the world, it taunts me with its incessant invitations and reflected parody of all the things that make me myself. It hurts me this phenomenon. Why cry out to me then reject me when I answer the passionate pleas that I see in the dark eyes staring at me from the frosted glass? I want to smash it, spit on it, scratch it, and punish it for torturing and tormenting me with a hand held out to me with a bloody rose, fragrant as it funereal. But I have understood the meal that life has served me. I have taken its lesson to heart and into the secret core that the mirror cannot see, that the mirror cannot touch and taunt me with deadly desire which can only destroy me. I shiver in anticipation of the promise to be fulfilled in that strange face that confronts me as I beg of it to hear my cries and let me into that world beyond my own. Perhaps there I could see again, perhaps there I can atone.

But life’s not about atonement is it? It’s about experience and tasting the many things which are thrown our direction so that we enjoy its goodness, its evil, its delicious array of flavors which can give us such sweetness upon the tongue and bitterness against the eyes. It sounds too much, this philosophizing about the nature of our existence, but sometimes it is part of being alive to wax poetic, to see the mouth in the petal of the rose, the finger in the drop of rain.  I look to the mirror to tell me what it is that I am seeing in the bud of the flower or the wing of the crow, for its mystery draws me like iron fillings to a magnet, pulling my granulated roughness towards its heart and holding me against my will as close as a lustful lover. Infinity resides there and pushes out creativity which touches me like the delicate fingers of a forgotten companion who has come back to haunt me. How I missed that touch, how I wish that I could ride those waves back to its source in the depth of my battered other half who stands before me wondering as I do if the possibilities reflected here in this mirror can offset the pain that we both feel in our hunger to be united.  I cannot kiss the mirror and hope to make it mine.

What do you see in the mirror? Is that the window to your soul, or are your eyes corrupt and hiding the true pathway to you secret core? I bury myself in what I see there, trying to describe what it is that haunts me so much about the face that I see staring back at me with eyes as wicked and hungry as my own. When I sleep I hear it whispering to me and in my dreams we touch each other and its ebony skin feels like stone. There are lessons to be learned in that reflection, there are messages that are waiting to be passed on to this vagabond trying to find his way home. I must learn to follow the sounds that the world is singing to me as I journey through creation blindly, blundering my way along, crossing secret paths oblivious and deaf to the melodies of Nature’s many rhythms which drum their staccato beats deep upon the taut skin of my proud intellect.

Do Human Pheromones Exist?

The word pheromones comes from the Greek words pherein, to carry and horman, to excite, and is laden with all sort of hidden contexts and possibilities yet undiscovered.

 

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Most animals, just like us, not only have a distinct odor but also powerfully effective pheromones, which trigger other animals into courtship and ovulation. They are volatile, odorous substances which are released by one animal and detected by another, causing some sort of physiological reaction. These reactions can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways. For example, with African Wild Dogs a male and female will mark the same spot exactly with their pheromones to indicate to the others that they are a mated pair, and when your pet cat comes up and rubs it’s head all over you, it is not just being nice to you, it is marking you with its pheromones using scent marking glands located in its cheeks, in effect telling other cats that this particular human is already spoken for.

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The fact is scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint human hormones to the point of synthesizing them for mass production, and even if they could the idea of bottling it and selling it as a guarantor of success with the opposite sex is far from a reality. Avery Gilbert, a biophysiologist said that if you had a bottle full of fluids secreted by a woman during copulation and you put it on a man’s desk, even if he recognized the odor it is more likely that he would be embarrassed rather than aroused because he would be sensing those odors out of context. So in humanity much of the science of pheromones is psychological in nature. But that does not mean that humans are not effected by pheromones.

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A study was done by George Preti in 1998, another biophysiologist, in which ten women had the sweat of other women placed under their noses at regular intervals. After three months these women began menstruating at the same time. The control group which had alcohol daubed under their noses instead of sweat did not change their cycles at all. Harvard also performed a similar study to that of George Preti on the menstrual cycles of women who lived together in dormitories and found that when women are housed together, their menstrual cycles tend to synchronize and lengthen. It was found that the lengthening effect was attenuated in direct relation to the amount of time these women spent with men. In one woman’s case, her regular cycle was six months long, but when she started seeing a man, it dropped to four and a half weeks. After she stopped seeing this man, her cycle once again lengthened indicating that something more basic is probably at work here . It is to be stressed that airborne odors or pheromones were not directly demonstrated in this study, but there is an identical phenomenon in mice that has been shown to be pheromonal in nature. This effect is called the Lee-Boot phenomenon, in which groups of female mice housed together experience increases and synchrony in their estrus cycles. When a female mouse is housed alone, this effect does not occur, but when a solitary female mouse is kept in a cage supplied with bedding from a cage full of female mice, the Lee-Boot effect is once again observed, indicating that the cues are chemosensory in nature. The attenuation of cycle elongation in women in response to male contact is also echoed in mice, and is called the Whitten effect. Once again this effect has been shown to be due to olfactory signals as did the first study.

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Research has also been done on the hypothesis that olfaction is related to sexual identification in young children. Research was done on young boys, two to four years of age, which strongly indicated that at some point in early childhood, a boy will begin to show an aversion to the odors of their father, and will simultaneously feel attraction to the odors of their mother. According to Bieber, this indicates a shift in sexual interest and acts as a biological trigger for the Oedipus response. Kalogerakis supports this theory with a case study of a boy named Jackie, who originally seemed emotionally closer to his father, but at the age of three years, three months, began to show a distinct preference for his mother’s smells, especially at times right after she and Jackie’s father had been having intercourse. At four years of age, Jackie would become nauseous at the smell of his father. This behavior continued, tapering off slowly until Jackie was six, and his sexual identity had presumably been established. Although this particular study was tied up in the realm of Freudian theory and Psychoanalysis, for its purposes it does show that scent does affect the way we think.

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Pheromones have also been implicated in the onset of menstruation in girls. In the past three centuries, the age of onset of menstruation for girls has had a direct correlation with the amount of time that young girls spend with boys. In pre-Victorian times, menstruation began at an early age, only slightly above the average age of onset now. However, in Victorian times, when mingling between the sexes was minimized as much as possible, the average age of onset climbed a few years. In post-Victorian times, as boys and girls were allowed to mingle more freely and coeducation appeared, the average age fell once again. It is entirely possible that this is due to their exposure to odors of the opposite sex. In fact, this phenomenon has been documented in mice and is called the Vandenbergh effect: female mice raised alone in sterile cages have a much higher age of maturation than that of female mice raised alone in cages filled with a male mouse’s bedding material. When the bedding belonged to a castrated male mouse, this effect was not observed.

Why is this relevant? Research has shown that men secrete musky odorants in abundance.

Substances similar to testosterone and androstenone, are secreted in the smegma and from the apocrine glands of the underarms and pubic area of males. The fact that men’s bodies secrete these substances and that women are maximally sensitive to them when they are most fertile indicates that there may be an olfactory-sexual role for these substances in human sexuality. Further promising research has been done delineate the relationship between coitus, orgasm and position in the menstrual cycle. Women do indeed engage in sexual intercourse about six times more frequently at about the time of ovulation, when women’s sensitivity to the male musk odor is highest. In addition, the women are much more likely to have an orgasm at these times. Further, the women were several times less likely to have sexual intercourse or have an orgasm during and two to three days after menstruation, which is when women’s sensitivity to the musky smell of men is lowest. Coupled with women’s odor sensitivity, these results could indicate a possible pheromonal trigger for sexual behavior.

Human vaginal secretions might contain some kind of sex pheromone and because of this several researchers in their investigations have found that human vaginal secretions contain various small fatty acids. It was found that about 30% of the women produced a significant amount of those small fatty acids that can actually induce copulatory behavior in monkeys. In addition, these fatty acids increased in production right up until ovulation, and then decreased as menstruation approached. It was noted that women on birth-control pills did not show this mid-cycle increase, and had a lower overall fatty acid content. Perhaps these fatty acids were a sexual trigger in humans, but this has never been definitively demonstrated, although the secretions did increase copulatory behavior in rhesus monkeys. So far, however, attempts to recreate this research have been unsuccessful, so don’t go out an buy armloads of those colognes that guarrantee attraction by the opposite sex!

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I needed a break from my depressing poetry, and cold hard science always seems to put things in perspective for me.  Besides, since a lot of my poetry is of the romantic type, I thought to shift the focus to the science behind the romance.  I’ll return to literature next week.

 

Melancholia

This is the title poem from one of my collections of poetry, called “Melancholia and Other Poems.”  Go figure!  I hope it brings you more joy in reading it than it did to me writing it, because just like its title, I wasn’t feeling particularly joyful when I wrote it, though I do believe that is what gives this poem its haunting edge.  Damn, I sound like a critic.  You can go ahead and shoot me now.

Melancholia

I once thought that it was all movies and dinners

Such nights of dancing together in painted and bright halls

But now that those times have been left behind

I see that it was everything that I never considered

That softness which bound us in sight, in scent and sound

A blind treason that took hold and confounded

The strange taste of the kisses that you placed over my eyes

Just before you left me forever

There were no more bright summer days for us

Or sweet moonlit nights to mark our way

These things became my answer to every mystery

Yet we had never found them in each other’s arms

 

It was a proposition of love so profound

That its pressures have destroyed me

They have pulled me deeper into the darkness

To the beauty’s proud depths

Which then weighed me down with its bittersweet burden

And kept me a drowned man

 

Now my aching lungs haunt me

For I can no longer catch my breath

Her presence was so far inside me

That I was penetrated

As I once penetrated her

 

Through this great violation I have conceived a child

The child of our dispossession

Her changing passions a faithless pantomime

 

My beard is grey with melancholy

My nights have contracted into a world of shadows

Such terror from her angry countenance

It wore me down threadbare

Her fickle feelings found strong purchase

Welcomed by my jealousy’s hopeless romance

Too soon did I recite those dread syllables

Three words which showed my hold was tentative at best

 

A blood oath laid upon my head

With suffering speed and dire need

These dreams that came upon us with ease

Having stripped the glory from my happy youth

It tore my face with harsh streaks

 

Sheltered in the lee of a sad song

I, who was once possessed of such eagerness

And in terror I discouraged all my loving friends

For they would see me happy to forget

 

But what three words I spoke!

And yet I speak them still

Even now as I sit in ignorance

They are a dark show that over our nights of passion had presided

In the certainty that my world was made completely of her

A woman’s sign

I was lured by her penitent bedroom eyes

I was flayed by the waters of a vengeful Goddess

Who despises me in my extreme need

And while this propagates a greater understanding

That mouth, once so full of compassion

That breast so lovely from this divine presence

Her full-figured youth

Prone to fresh pleasure

Like the scent of an old growth forest in bloom.

 

That lovely silence which now exists in my mind

It echoes back the words that I spoke

It does not protest its solitude

For my subtle pain knows not yet its own futility

 

And such is the healing stain

That spreads it foul murk

My rage

The rage of a predator

That dyes it crimson with grand expectation

I do not forgive

I will not; I cannot

 

But such was the dignity of my departure

The sad and simple façade

That had once succored me

Is shattered now so I cannot compel

This precious severity

This mystery

I no longer find it to my taste

 

So, I grasp that leading edge of light

I am masticated by my own madness

My solace marred by its forced laughter

My beating heart shunned by the one who sought to reform it

 

But such frailty is not for me

And now my laughter is real

For my melancholia, once so rudely exposed

Now lies with my other iniquities

—-it was never pure

Such innocence cannot survive

Its every step a bloodletting

Its cries reveal the flight of something that was once whole

 

That generation of useless poets

Whose rotted words have poisoned our wells

Because of them I cannot drink to quench this thirst

So I lay now desiccated and devoid of even of those three words

 

For all my pageantry was a sad farce

Its force has now abandoned me

And in the futile nonsense that comes to mind

Their lies a simple truth that will not long abide:

Love is for mad poets

And passion is for prophets of a greater mind than my own

They spilled their proclamations of doom upon this weary breast

A pretention that can no longer be sustained

 

Such whispers do I now torment

For their very delicacy offends me

Their long years of playing at my ears

Have committed against me such grievous offense

I know now that this is life is but a sweet burden of melancholia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry

Originally, when I started writing this blog I had intended that it be a outlet for my creative impulses and it seems that over the years I have strayed far from the path.  So I thought that this month, I would dedicate not to any social, political, or economic issues but simply to unbridled joy I experience in writing poetry.  In the wide range of things that I write about poetry has always been my first love so I will be using this months post to showcase some of my work.  This particular poem is titled “Lies”.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.

 

This poem is dedicated to my dearest friend, Heather Marie Tyner

May you Rest in Peace

 

 

 

Lies

 

All that could change; never again

This look that intimate things love

Whatever happens you could cause it

Whatever happens, falls by itself

Could you throw it, my hereditary hand?

Scream it out!  You know your anger

You always tremble

Later gaining a strange calm that worries me…

Is it that muse which stops you? 

You know how to caress the words

But in the caress, that excess gentleness that sinks into the other

Isn’t there already murder in your eyes?

No more than a window pane separates us

From the sudden rapid scorn of the Chemist

Pouring the Abyss of crime’s enormous selfish waste

Into our fragile world for Death is altogether too much our parent.

The flow of life that accelerates is already here; Mother-Death Divine

 

Look at Her child’s index finger and thumb

So gentle a vise

Even bread is astonished

So utterly good on the surface, but who knows

Perhaps that hand has killed a bird that trembles

With its final spasms in a juvenile grip

Whose quick weasel-like denial could have stopped it

But who stops it?

 

There are gaps in our ruined hearts

Do not dare name them!

Half-gods are hallowed in our dark mouths

And even full of incontinence, the soul knows only this Amorphous Angel

Who bit by bit erects itself on the edge

Of our sufferings; bright, fetal and forceful

Never flinching, never afraid of heights

But for all that himself the vassal-being

Of an unknown and uncaring sovereign who taught us deception…

 

Him, with a capital, vertical letter

Of the Word that slowly we are demolishing

A brass boundary of our native life

An anonymous measure of the mountains

Forming a chain around our hearts

In its abrupt and savage beat

A harbor statue, a landing beacon

And yet it’s contemptuous of shipwrecks and their survivors!

Between slow childhood and our final days

Our goal is to live in Him

As if to live in Him is so true an impulse

That is changed by the silence

The silence to annul an agreement

 

Such pious clients!  Please give it up.

Those lighted candles are no longer powerful enough

To make shadows on the painted, readjusted faces

Burdened by the indifferent varnish of decay

You softly give up asking His advice

Or the advice of the dearly departed

Because you are so dazzled by prayer

Though you will need blacker hearts

Hearts like those ravished by the bloody cries

”Give up your indiscretions, and be true!”

 

But inside you at the very depths of you

What a cemetery!  So many Gods interred

Dismissed, forgotten, out of use

Abandoned by your desire

Everything’s afraid of you; poor killer of abundances

Who excites them to the bitter end

I am so bruised by inattentive violences

Deformed by vague inventors

My many detractors

Who deny themselves flowers

Yet spill their tears as springs

Like sticky sap exiting and re-entering those ancient trees

Which once succored my vast font of salvation

 

On the crest of the unfaithful heart

What smile seizes the mouth of the penitent

What unprecedented craftiness in that smile

What suppressed song in that smile

And as much as gravity

As much limit as emancipation

For it contains such deceit

What a smile.  We’d call it provocative

If in its double audacity it weren’t too complete

Too absent to face anyone

Then it would ask

“Where do you want me to go?”

And those words would wait for me everywhere

After all the days of prison

After all the days of contemplation

After all the memories of my suffering

Have slipped away like a welcome dream

After all the days of work

After all the days of rest

After all the days of laughter and tears

That have slipped away like a forbidden lover

After all I hate

After all I admire

Comes this strange refrain

Is it you, my Bunkie, my fellow prisoner in this existence?

You boast that all those charming women in your life

Love you too much

Is this then one of them singing above my wretched grave?

 

For none of my friends has understood me;

When I weep in churches they tell me

“That’s life.”

 

None of my women hold my hand;

I wait in pain for what I dread most:

Love

 

None of my enemies brings me anything;

Such a tenderness that surprises me

Not a dream, Not a rose…

I don’t dare believe that’s all there is to life.

 

And the lie, an adolescent weapon

Torn from the fiery forge of risk

A blunt weapon grabbed and wielded any which way

Across makeshift fences, an improvised wall

Your headless body and gestures

To which frantically we avoid

A suddenly hybrid plant unwanted, unwatered

Which growing in the void sometimes reaches ten feet high

And withers far too soon

For having known no season

A house, a handsome house

Too handsome for us who live outdoors

So we make our venerable host a presentation

“He doth protest too much!”

 

For it is beautiful

The beauty of this shrike in its flesh filled tree

It’s still nature

It’s still love

It’s still your dirty deceptions

Like a childhood friend, these lies are preferred

So that in the revolt that sets you straight you can always feel

Your family so full of goodness of those haughty Gods

 

Such a compromising cemetery

So full of avoidable resurrections

 You parrot, drunk on purple words

Your insidious tongue infatuated

With the taste of such tainted fruit

And the lie a grand plaything we must shatter

A garden where we change places to hide ourselves better

Or where we might let out a cry

Just to be half-found out

 

Is it a mask?  No, for I am much fuller

And this lie has such exquisite eyes

It is rather a footless vase, an amphora

That wants to hold itself up

No doubt your handles ate your feet

For it seems what carries you is what could have completed you

And the very moment that you are finally lifted

You shine so remarkably

 

Is it a flower, or is it a bird this lie?

Is it barely a word or a word and a half?

What pure silence circles it

A lovely new island

With origins that our map ignore

 

A late comer to creation this lie

A posthumous work of the eighth day

Since it’s us who make you

We must believe that the Gods consented to your existence

 

Did I call you?  But of what word

Of what sign am I suddenly guilty

If your silence cries to me

If your eyelid winks at me with underground agreement

How can we find a face for that sparse smile?

We wish for a cheek to look upon

To wear that in its raw form

There is no lying in such air

And just as before the corpse of things past

 We burned utterly gray

Now lies smoking from the fire of Time

Later we open our weeping eyes

Because remorse is gnawing at us

Left to such a handsome lie don’t we all seem so content?

There is more, in fact to lies

But ah! That depends on the victor and the vanquished

Because the one returning to the surface of the ocean

Is always very different from the one down below.