Sager

So I’ve been having conversations with a few people who read my LJ, focusing on my comments about Sager in my previous post. I’m going to try and explain myself here, but I’m probably just going to make things worse. ::sigh::

First, a few snippets:

  • “Nick, you need to loosen up”
  • “You don’t know what you’re missing”
  • “It’s a lot more fun than you think”
  • “You just have to go out on a limb and try it”
  • “So I hear you were traumatized by the very idea of Sager happening last night?”


I’ll ignore the clichés for the moment, and try my best to answer the last question. First of all, “traumatized” is a bit of an over-statement. Bothered by the idea? Certainly. Sager is not something I want to do, or even see. I obviously do not have the right to prevent other people from engaging in such an activity, nor would they have to comply if I asked them to do it somewhere else. The burden is totally on me to avoid an event I don’t want to participate in, which is exactly what I did.

Each discussion started off with me just saying that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. However, it’s the explanation of why I don’t want to do it that is problematic, because it is unsurprisingly not entirely logical.

First of all, yes I think that cross-dressing is wrong. Yes, I think that wearing sexually suggestive clothing is wrong. Yes, I think that making out in public is wrong. This judgemental attitude is no different from the gut reaction I have to smokers, heavy drinkers, drug users, or any other behavior I avoid and consider objectionable. I’m not going to go out of my way to stop others in doing things that want to do. They have free will, and the choice is up to them.

I would probably find at least some aspects (e.g. the scantily clad women) of Sager attractive and even enjoyable. Which is the whole problem: the actions tied to Sager lead to thoughts and desires that I want to avoid, either because I don’t want to have them, or because having them goes against my own moral code. Hence, participating in Sager is a form of temptation, and the best way to avoid the end result is to avoid temptation in the first place.

I’m human, I have failings, I commit hypocrisies, and I can’t avoid such temptations forever. The reasonable part of me knows that sexuality is a perfectly normal, healthy, and good thing to embrace. Another part of me has been trained to believe that sexuality should be a secret thing that is shared exclusively between two committed spouses. (I’ve heard many times the argument that pre-relationship sexual experience makes the life-long relationship better, so don’t bother taking that stance).

This may be part of the reason (on top of general shyness) why I’ve never had a girlfriend: an honest fear of what dating or cuddling or anything might lead to. The thing is, I do want to have kids some day, and unless I come up with a way to bud asexually, sex has to enter the equation somewhere. I just don’t want to deal with that yet.

The thing is, I’m perfectly happy where I am now in terms of relationships, beyond the fact that if I want to get married and have kids someday, I will have to start dating at some point, and that it will just get harder as time goes on. My lack of a driver’s license is a similar situation. For the moment though, I just don’t want to expose myself to Sager or Sager-like situations.

I think I’ve fairly well answered the question “Why are you bothered by the very idea of Sager?”, so I’ll move on to addressing the clichés. I’m not someone who’s known for trying new things. I have gotten a lot better at it, I think. I like to refer to myself as a “recovering picky eater”, for example. I don’t think I’d have eaten a lot of the food I eat now only three short years ago.

I will never understand why people feel a need to force me to try things I don’t want to do. Sager is way, way, way beyond my comfort horizon, so saying “you don’t know what you’re missing” isn’t helpful at all. I have a decent idea what I am missing, and that’s enough information to make a decision. I don’t want to go to Sager, so I’m not going to go. The rest of the reason isn’t terribly important, although I’ve shared my thoughts on the matter here.

In conclusion, I blame my parents. Oh… um… hi Mom! :oP

I’m leaving comments enabled, because I want to hear your thoughts, but please be nice :o).

I Am The Walrus” from Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles

21 comments on “Sager
  1. Yeah, you make a good point here – that all of things that could be termed “the point of Sager” are pretty much opposed to your principles.

    I guess another point that could be made is that nobody really wants their first vaguely sexual experience to be through Sager, because that’s just scary.

  2. rabican says:

    Well, not that I was one of the people commenting before, but thanks for clarifying your stance on Sager, and of course you have every right to feel the way you feel. Honestly, I’m not even quite sure what I think of Sager. I went last night, didn’t do much, saw quite a bit, and am not unduly traumatized, but I don’t know what I feel about any of it, so.

  3. god_of_belac says:

    I can’t say I agree with you that “sexuality should be a secret thing that is shared exclusively between two committed spouses,” but that’s a valid position that worked for my grandmother.

    Certainly I do stuff at Sager that I wouldn’t do any other time (mainly, engage in the yearly grinding/kiss with Jonathan, and otherwise act non-straight, not to mention cross-dress), and it’s a nice lacuna where the normal rules don’t apply for a night. (As much as I think skirts are more comfortable than pants, I wouldn’t cross-dress without such a context, and even if I did I wouldn’t dress purposely sluttily).

  4. irilyth says:

    yes I think that cross-dressing is wrong

    I’m intrigued by this one. Do you think that it’s wrong when done for sexually suggestive purposes, or that it’s Just Plain Wrong for boys to wear skirts?

  5. Nicolas Ward says:

    It’s much less of a moral objection, e.g. when I say dressing suggestively is wrong, but it’s an abnormal activity I personally wouldn’t do. There are plenty of abnormal activities I do, of course, so take that as you will.

    And wearing a skirt is not very different from wearing a kilt. But a guy wearing fishnets, makeup, etc. is something else entirely.

  6. q10 says:

    i’d like some clarification on this too. i mean, i’m sure thinks a number of the things i do are wrong, and i respect that, but it seems quite strange to attach different moral significance to the same garment design when worn by members of different sexes, except in cases where there are clear engineering differences in terms of the interaction of such a garment with different anatomical configurations. so i get how anybody trying to look slutty would be wrong, and i get how men in bras would be wrong, but i’m not sure i see how, for example, wearing a long, flowy, reasonably unrevealing skirt to folkdance could be wrong for a man but (presumably) not for a woman.

    i hope that that didn’t sound hostile to anybody. it wasn’t intended to.

  7. Nicolas Ward says:

    I guess read it as “I think cross-dressing in the context of Sager is wrong”.

  8. Nicolas Ward says:

    “Wrong” might have been the uh… wrong… word to use, since its usage is a bit too flexible. Wrong happily envelops “incorrect”, “not what I would do”, “objectionable”, “offensive”, “damnable”, and others. I would definitely make a distinction between those levels of wrongness, and as I said above, I was using “wrong” it at least two different senses.

  9. irilyth says:

    I understood the distinction in terms of dressing suggestively; what I meant to get at was whether you saw cross-dressing as suggestive per se, or if you just didn’t like suggestive cross-dressing. It sounds like the suggestiveness, rather than the untraditional clothing itself, that you don’t enjoy?

  10. allecto says:

    My thoughts basically consist of this: *hug*

    People should leave you alone.

  11. stormwynd says:

    Sorry for inserting myself into what seems to be a fairly serious post and string of comments, but I found my way to your journal by way of ‘s. Besides having a bunch of interests in common with you — I also consider myself a nerd, though I’m not sure if your spelling it “nurd” makes it mean something different — I also graduated from Breck, albeit many years before you did, way back in 1985. Anyway, I’m posting this simply to ask if I could add you to my friends list. I like the journal entries that I read and would love to continue reading what you choose to put online. If you don’t feel like letting a complete stranger friend you, just say so, and I’ll quietly and nicely away.

  12. arctangent says:

    The simple answer is that “violating the dictates of culture is wrong unless you have a very good objective reason to, because your first priority is to fit into culture and fulfill other people’s expectations”.

    This is something that I’ve been toying with making into, if not my dominant moral philosophy, a part of it, for a while, since it makes a lot of sense to me. It is, however, in large part the opposite of what Sager is for — heck, it’s, by some people’s definitions, the opposite of what *Swarthmore* is for. (In the simplest definitions of “conservative” and “liberal”, after all, that’s the definition of “conservative”, which is a bad word to lots of Swatties.) The — probably hyperoffensive to many people — conclusion one extrapolates in terms of gender roles is that, yes, if people know your birth sex and expect you to act in certain gendered ways as a result, you should, because upsetting or unnerving people is wrong. (“Wrong” being, of course, a term that one can put different levels of weight on.)

    I won’t try to pigeonhole Nick without his consent, but I feel like he and I sort-of kind-of represent a more conservative culture than much of Swarthmore, and while someone who’s committed to creating cultural change (i.e. anyone involved in organizing Sager) would probably see themselves in opposition to me, the idea of live-and-let-live should apply just as much to those who want to live in conservative, traditional communities as to those who want to live in radical, experimental communities.

  13. Nicolas Ward says:

    Quite all right :o).

    That is a particularly interesting way of finding me. Although I suppose the world wide web is all about these sort of 6-degree things.

    Originally, yes, Nurd was meant to be a different thing back at Breck, in that my friends and I liked to think we had social skills, unlike the typical nerd stereotype. The advantage now is that every Google hit on UltraNurd pertains to me in some way :o).

    If you graduated in ’85… were you there doing the campus move to Golden Valley?

  14. flammifera says:

    I’m rather oddly pleased to find that my comment made it to your list. ;)

    That said, I do understand your reasoning. I mean, this —

    Which is the whole problem: the actions tied to Sager lead to thoughts and desires that I want to avoid, either because I don’t want to have them, or because having them goes against my own moral code.

    — is not antithetical to how I theoretically feel, and grew up believing fiercely. I’m currently going through a period of experimentation and deciding what of that attitude I want to keep, but certainly this fits with my deepest instincts.

    So, er, I hope I didn’t make you feel too persecuted — it’s just too much fun to tease you about Sager and foods you don’t like…but I know how it feels to be constantly teased about something that you wish people would drop, so I can back off. :)

  15. kid_prufrock says:

    “… violating the dictates of culture is wrong unless you have a very good objective reason to, because your first priority is to fit into culture and fulfill other people’s expectations …”
    I’m quite sympathetic to the general spirit of this sort of view. But this particular maxim commits you to the difficult (and I suspect ultimately intractable) tasks of giving content to the notions of “a very good objective reason” and of “culture”. When it comes to the first issue, I think it turns out to be notoriously difficult to give any satisfying sort of treatment of objectivity in the context of value-theory; as for the second, I fear you may be treating “culture” as a more monolithic institution than is justified in our (wildly heterogeneous) society.

  16. arctangent says:

    Enh, I came off more strongly than I meant to, I suppose. I’m only considering making it a part of my basic philosophy of life; I haven’t for sure done so, because of the problems you mention.

    It’s an attitude more than anything else — certainly nothing so concrete as to be able to generate a list of proscribed behaviors. Perhaps if we strike “objective” and just say “a very good reason”, and if we see culture as a self-interpreted thing — well, it may not say much but it does say that a concerted attempt to live one’s life in general defiance of cultural norms for the sake of being different is not something I really want to be part of.

    There are many reasons people cross-dress, of course, but the primary reason someone would choose to do it as a lifestyle seems to me to be to undercut existing gender roles. And they may consider themselves having good reasons in doing so (they really can’t be happy under existing gender classifications, they think there’s real unhappiness being generated by existing gender classifications by people at large, etc.) However, to me the cultural disruption caused in my cultural sphere by it is big enough that, while I certainly can tolerate it and don’t reject anyone as a person for doing it (I’ve gone to Sager the past two years out of curiosity and to socialize) I don’t want it as part of my life, and it’s because I am conservative; I don’t have a problem with the personal cultural norms that form my worldview, and I don’t see any pressing need to play around with squishing, stretching and bending them, at least not in the exciting exploratory way that many of my peers in age and education seem to.

  17. stormwynd says:

    Re: the 6 degrees of separation thing — except for a huge influx of people I added after meeting them at the Nimbus 2003 symposium last year (which is where I met , just about all of the people on my flist have been added this way. They comment in a current friend’s journal, and I wander over to their journal and check out what’s going on.

    I started at Breck in my 9th grade year, which was the first year at the Golden Valley campus. My admissions interview the previous spring was held at the old campus, but I never actually attended classes there. It didn’t dawn on me right away that the campus was new to *everyone*, returning students included, so I was kind of confused the first week or so, when no one seemed to know where anything was. I distinctly remember wandering the halls with 4 other freshmen on the very first day, looking for Dan Doheny’s room.

    You mentioned Tom Hegg in one of your previous posts. I have fond memories of taking 2 years of drama classes with him, though due to the whole sports-versus-theater conflict, I never actually did any theater ar Breck. :-(

    Ooh, you might know this — is Brad Kohl still teaching math there? He and I did some grad school work together one summer, and last I heard of him, he was teaching upper school math at Breck, but we’ve kind of lost touch.

    I have started to babble, so I’ll go away now.

  18. kid_prufrock says:

    I really do agree with you, I think — the weaker form of the maxim (perhaps something like “ceteris paribus, we ought to act according to cultural norms except in the case when denying them is necessary for securing some important sort of higher good”) just seems like a combination of etiquette and civic virtue, both Good Things.

    Although I’m not clear as to what you’re saying in your final paragraph. I suspect that any disagreement we might have comes in whether or not we take the goal of undercutting existing gender-roles as the sort of higher good that justifies making an exception to the standing obligation of acting according to accepted cultural norms. I think it does turn out to justify such an exception, and I suspect that if you (or any really any other thoughtful, ethical person) thought carefully about it, you’d agree with me. For aren’t there lots of people who really do suffer “real unhappiness … generated by existing gender classifications by people at large”, and shouldn’t any temporary discomfort that the rest of us might feel in the face of unusual gender classifications be trumped by our obligation — as members of a liberal democracy — to preserve free personal expression for as many of us as possible?

  19. Nicolas Ward says:

    Mr. Kohl started my junior year, I think, to replace Mr. Yonker. It may have been earlier; I didn’t have him for a class, as I was already taking calculus, and he was teaching the froshling classes. I knew him somewhat through Math League.

    Mr. Doheny has since left… I think he may have been fired, or in Breck terms “not had his contract renewed”.

    Hegg == Awesome. No question ’bout that. I quit cross-country to do the fall plays…

  20. sammka says:

    I’m beginning to think we have diametrically opposed value systems down to a pretty fundamental, a priori level. Which is interesting.

    That said, while I value squishing, stretching, and bending all sorts of norms as an end in itself, society probably wouldn’t function if everyone shared my values. Maybe it’s all a matter of balancing-out.

Nurd Up!