#Genderweek – A 21st Century Boy

asbcCm1398849261What is it like, what does it mean, to be a man in the 21st Century?

A lot of what is bandied about in discussion of gender is anecdote, which I find horribly frustrating since anecdotes are necessarily subjective and are practically useless for determining the actual truth of anything. However, I’ll annoy myself for once by giving my subjective experience and opinion on my life, growing up from 1975 to today and what it’s been like for me.

A little background then.

I am British, of normal gender expression, white, male and heterosexual. To many people that would make me the enemy.

I am, however, also a house husband, involved in a creative profession for my work, am out-earned by my wife and, until I got ill, took care of most of the looking after the house, making meals and all the rest. I want kids – apparently a rare things in a man.

Pretty much from the get-go, being a boy of nerdy and cerebral interests, I was bullied on the basis of being too feminine, not being manly enough, not liking football and other sports and – at a younger age – having a Betty Boop kiss curl. Liking some popular things like Star Wars etc wasn’t enough to compensate for all that really and it all only gets worse once puberty sets in. That’s when you have to more aggressively defend your sexuality, not necessarily because you hate or dislike gay people, but more to assert and advertise your own heterosexuality. The pressure on guys does come from other guys, but also, hugely, from the girls you’re seeking in your first, clumsy, faltering steps to get the attention of.

It’s weird, today, to think that nerdish pasttimes are considered a boys club, given the amount of shit you absorb over the years telling you how unmanly it is to like to read, draw, geek out over science fiction etc – again, much of it from women as well – but that also explains the defensiveness of the geek community. It has been a masculine safe-haven for the unmasculine male for a very long time. Safe from having to perform for men or women or endure judgement, bullying or shaming. This is less true today than it was, but it is a part of the culture and I wish more people who elbow their way in and try to change the community instead of add to it would give the same consideration to that, that they do to their own spaces.

Into adulthood and you’re a bit more secure and confident in your sexuality but you still have to be performative in it. Especially if you’re not a manly man and double-especially if the only people to really hit on you in clubs and bars are gay men. It is wearing and constantly reassessing what level of flirting is appropriate and acceptable is a minefield. The world, in many ways, seems out to get you. Some of these seem petty, but amount to the ‘microaggressions’ some feminists talk about, others are more serious.

  • Women unjustifiably acting terrified of you when you happen to be walking the same way or waiting behind them to use the ATM.
  • Having to stand on a train or bus rather than sit next to a woman who is, again, unjustifiably terrified of you.
  • Risking being ‘outed’ on social media for sitting in a comfortable way on public transport.
  • Being unable to share off-colour jokes with friends.
  • Having ones hobbies and other spaces invaded, unilaterally, and forced to change.
  • Never being allowed to strike back physically or verbally when such comes from a woman.
  • Being subjected to enormous scrutiny when applying for certain jobs, far more than women in the same fields.
  • Little to no educational assistance despite plenty being available for women – even though they’re already advantaged there.
  • Lower priority access to medical care.
  • Being told off for bringing flowers as a token of affection as that’s sexist somehow.
  • The same for opening doors.
  • Being held accountable for the presumed actions of indirect ancestors hundreds of years ago in a perverse version of original sin.
  • Insults and accusations merely for being skeptical of feminist or gender oriented claims or pointing out flaws in methodology.
  • Media representations of men growing progressively more insulting and terrible in favour of women, and this going unchallenged or remarked.
  • Concern over men’s rights and issues being summarily dismissed with hypocritical fervour.
  • The ludicrous idea of ‘patriarchy’ as an all-pervasive, male conspiracy.
  • Offence culture and censorship.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been inherently advantaged, as a man. The ongoing pressures to conform to certain gender norms and the judgements for not doing so are on me as much from women as from men, even though I’m married. I am interested in gender relations issues, yet I can’t comment or question without insults, dismissal and comments about my appearance. Any disagreement is not tolerated. I’ve lost job opportunities due to being male and feel that I have to apologise for simply walking down the street. Judgement and wariness is now so ingrained I barely feel I can look at a woman – because apparently objectification rays shoot out of my eyes as though I were a sexist version of Cyclops.

As a man it feels as though one must constantly apologise for taking up space, for being attracted to women, for daring to look, for enjoying pornography or making crude jokes. Women seem to demand access to male spaces while denying access to female spaces – using the same justifications in both instances. There seems to be endless legislation to advance, protect and extend women’s rights but not for men. A moral panic over a non-existent rape culture infects society and especially academia, leading to the erosion of men’s right to a fair hearing and the enforced participation in awareness courses of dubious providence. There is a very real threat that a man’s right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence in sexual conduct legal cases will be eroded or even overturned – this already being the case in many academic tribunals. As someone into ‘kink’ there’s a very real threat my sexuality will be criminalised at a time when alternative sexualities are otherwise being embraced, and this despite consent being baked in at every level to the BDSM scene,

What is the role of a man when ‘men’s work’ is less available, when women are told they can do everything a man can and men are told they are worse than useless or everything that’s wrong with society? What is the role of a man when taking on traditionally feminine roles – such as child care – earn him the scorn of men and the indifference, suspicion and disapproval of women? Why are we still expected to sacrifice everything for women and children when we no longer receive the commensurate rewards for doing so? Why are so many things a choice for women but a duty for men and why is this seen as the ever nebulous ‘privilege’?

To be a man today is to be blamed for everything, past and present. To be a man today is to endure endless insults without the capability to push back. Interest in these issues is brushed off – provided you don’t agree with the slightest thing – and the only acceptable position seems to be obsequious self-loathing for the crime of having a penis.

Men’s Right’s Activists, like feminists, have some good points but, like feminists, seem consumed by bitterness and ideology.

So what is there to do? Where is the place in this world for a) a heterosexual, conventionally gender identifying person who doesn’t conform to the roles and b) someone interested in gender issues who isn’t a feminist, or an MRA but is a skeptical enquirer?

I don’t know.

I think that ‘I don’t know’ is the position a huge number of other modern men are in and the lack of a male identity while simultaneously being constantly hated simply for being male has certainly contributed to my depression and anxiety.

I don’t know what the answer is either. So many of us are, quite simply, adrift.

 

#Genderweek – What is Gender?

R7J4qR1398783935(This was meant to go up yesterday)

Feminist Times is having a Gender Week event, with the hashtag #genderweek but predictably the only gender they seem to really be interested in is women. Gender issues, however, affect both genders, male and female, in various ways so I felt it important to have an alternative, reasonable voice speaking from a men’s perspective.

So then, if we’re talking about gender, what even is gender?

And please, read the whole damn thing through before commenting or being outraged.

I prefer hard science and tend not to like parochial neologisms which only confuse people when they interact with the ‘real world’ so I take a harder, scientific and medical view of these kinds of matters. That means I take the scientific, biological and medical definition of gender. That is, the gender binary (male, female) that you fall into given your chromosomes and the resulting gametes, morphology etc.

Within those parochial gender studies groups and related fields, there’s a concerted attempt to redefine the term gender to mean gender identity and sex to mean biological gender, but I prefer to use qualifiers as I think it retains the proper meaning and makes things more clear, rather than less.

Some believe gender identity is entirely a social construct (male and female associated behaviours being spun out of convention and tradition rather than anything innate).

Some believe gender identity is more innate, stemming from biology and associated brain structures, hormone levels, sexual dimorphism and so on.

Personally I reject both extremes and think it’s somewhere in the middle, at least for the bulge in the bell curve. It seems ridiculous to me to think that human beings are somehow the only binary-gendered species on Earth where behaviour etc is not as divergent as our bodies. Social roles and expectations also play a role that should not be ignored but we seem built and pre-programmed with tendencies that transcend culture, something that suggests a biological basis.

Where this goes tits-up is when you get to transsexuals and intersex conditions. While neither of these are of any relevance to the debate when talking about normal gender expression (normal in the sense of majority, commonality etc) these are the far ends of the bell curve and where we start having problems.

Biologically intersex conditions are still either male or female (look them up) but their bodies etc may grow more female or more male and this may be at odds with their ‘on board software’ or their chromosomes. It’s a case-by-case basis and very hard to know what’s best for the child at a young age.

Transsexuals are a bigger problem and the source – apparently – of a great deal of conflict within feminism, with a wing of radical feminism insisting that transsexuals are not real women/men and in reverse, transsexuals claiming that they are. I can see aspects of both sides that make sense, but the venom involved doesn’t seem to make sense at all. Why would anyone turn away allies?

Now, I don’t really know how to characterise gender dysphoria and with friends who are trans or who are on their road to transition I’d rather not upset them, but I think it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. As a sufferer from mental illness (depression) I acknowledge that mental issues are real and that it’s not necessarily ‘all in your head’ and can be linked with many other things. If I could undergo an operation to cure my depression I would. People with gender dysphoria have the option to have surgery and hormone treatments to better fit their body to their internal image of self. The question is then, whether this is pathological (as in anorexia, cosmetic surgery addiction etc) or not and again, that seems to me to be a case-by case thing.

The fact, however, remains that you cannot change your biology. No matter what operations you have, what hormones you take, what clothes you wear or mannerisms you adopt, you will always still be your biological gender. At least until we develop Culture level technology allowing for a true and absolute gender transition.

Therein, I think, lies the rub between trans groups and trans-excluding feminists. Trans people accept the concept of gender identity in that they adopt one and they do so in a performative and transformative way. So being female is something that can be ‘adopted’, despite not sharing formative female experiences and biology. On the other side trans people consider themselves to be and live as their new gender.

For my part, I would say you can’t change your actual gender but that your chosen gender identity should still be respected. I would also say that men, women or anything in between shouldn’t be excluded from participating in feminism (or men’s rights for that matter, or anything else). It makes no sense to me that a movement would set out to alienate its allies or that movements purporting to be for inclusion and rights would exclude people who want to join the fight.

There are those who want to abolish gender as a concept, but I cannot see that as useful or helpful so long as most people seem to get on fine within those roles and expectations. Acceptance and understanding doesn’t necessitate eliminating something most people are happy with. I don’t think you could even if you tried anyway because, right at the very root of it all, the beginning spark of gender role is biological gender.

It’s just not the be all and end all.

Is Religion a Mental Illness?

You’re coming at this from a good place Cristina, but I have to disagree with you; and I say that as someone with a mental illness (depression).

Religion absolutely is a mental illness. Specifically I would say it’s a delusional disorder, which I would define (as a syncretic definition taken from several medical and psychological dictionaries) thusly:

A fixed false belief held without and/or against evidence.

There’s objections to this, some of which you have mentioned yourself, others of which I hear quite often.

1. Religion is Excluded from the Definition

It is true that many of the official definitions of religion specifically exclude religious or cultural beliefs that are widespread. The alternative term ‘relusion’ has been suggested, but this wouldn’t include ideological or political indoctrination in places like North Korea, so I don’t think that’s a solution. Excluding religion is such an egregious case of special pleading that I don’t really know why anyone would do so, other than a residual unease at criticising religion.

Yes, a lot of people are religious but when people fall sick we don’t change the definition of healthy, even when it’s a virulent pandemic. Do the beliefs fit the definition? Yes? Then that person is mentally ill/bonkers/insane. Simple.

2. It’s a Choice

Is it? I don’t know that I chose to be an atheist, it was the inevitable conclusion given logic, reason and evidence. Choosing to ignore reality for a comforting myth is a form of mental illness of its own (Freudian denial), is it not? Do kids have a choice? No. Do adults? Sometimes. However we acknowledge that it is possible to give people other forms of mental illness. We can torture people to break their minds, leave people with PTSD and anxiety and otherwise screw them up and leave them mentally harmed without their consent so why should religious indoctrination be any different? With mental illness we have some choice. We can take the meds, do the mental exercises, take up CBT, undergo therapy all to minimise or even cure our mental issues or at least learn to deal with them. So there’s an element of choice there too. Doesn’t invalidate that they’re still mental illnesses.

3. That it’s Insulting

In the words of the prophet:

Yeah?

And?

So?

What?

Is it accurate? Yes it is. That’s all that really matters. I’ve tried to make this point to people who use the term ‘cisgender’ whilst apply their own subjective standard to other correct terms and trying to get people to stop using them, but it doesn’t seem to ever sink in.

If your doctor tells you that you have cancer, he’s not insulting you. If someone with sufficient knowledge tells you that you have depression or are delusional, it’s not necessarily an insult either. It’s a diagnosis.

4. It Minimises the Seriousness of Mental Illness

Does it? I think it brings home the seriousness of it as regards religion. While mental health issues still aren’t taken as seriously as, perhaps, they should things have improved a lot in recent years. People have a better (but dysfunctional) understanding of what it means to be mentally ill and how debilitating it can be. Pointing out that religion is a mental illness helps, in my opinion, lend weight to our criticism of it.

There is one big, important, terrifying difference between religion and other mental illnesses though.

Religion is communicable.

Spree Preach?

free_speech

This XKCD cartoon has been doing the rounds with various people agreeing vociferously with it. I’ve written quite a bit about the rise of private censorship before and yet we’re still having this argument and people are being extremely slow to wake up to the changing nature of communication and creativity in the modern world.

This very old fashioned and tightly defined idea of what censorship is, is no longer really useful. The government, despite all the (legitimate) worries about surveillance culture, is not really the main concern for anyone in the modern arena. What is the concern and what has the greatest impact is private censorship in the form of corporations and activist groups (social media being to reasoned discussion what the 24 hour news cycle is to informative current affairs).

As is pretty much usual with capitalism, power and wealth has accumulated in a handful of truly influential groups. Examples would include Google, Paypal, eBay, Facebook and Amazon. These companies have a hugely disproportionate effect on people’s ability to freely express themselves. Google is no longer a truly neutral search engine and on its other products content is filtered and removed. Ebay restricts the sale of legal materials on a ‘moral’ basis. Paypal has repeatedly tried to restrict payments for certain, legal, materials and has confiscated or delayed funds raised by crowdfunding. Facebook’s surveillance is far creepier and intrusive than any other and again, even legal material is censored and banished, even if privately shared or promoted. Amazon has de-listed certain titles, its crowdfunding arm has also cancelled and withdrawn perfectly legal projects.

Are there other channels? Yes. Are they as successful, as broadly available? No. Not by orders of magnitude. To any practical extent many of these channels – perhaps most especially PayPal – are the only game in town.

When it comes to activist groups, especially those calling themselves ‘progressive’, social media shrieking draws the attention of mainstream media desperately trying to remain relevant and lends power and voice to tone-deaf controversies such as Suey Park’s ‘#cancelcolbert’ or pointless campaigns such as No More Page 3. Worse is when these kinds of campaigns are base on lies, such as Gail Dines anti-pornography activities or those of the various anti sex work organisations, lies that drown out, censor and marginalise the voices of those genuinely in the know and involved in these things.

There is precedent for guaranteeing the rights of people in a private context.

We have the right, for example, not to be discriminated against by a business for our sexuality, gender, race or religion. Something that businesses used to be free to do. While there are some backward steps –  such as people within businesses being given permission in some countries and states to refuse services based on religious objections (contraception provision etc) but overall there has been progress in guaranteeing basic rights in the private as well as the public sphere and free expression should be included in that, in my opinion.

That isn’t to say anyone should be forced to see anything they don’t want to – though this attitude is creating dangerous echo chambers – just that those providing services should not be able to censor and control in contravention of one of the basic and most universal of human rights (enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights).

By way of example, say you host internet fora as a company. The individual fora should be able to enforce their own rules and standards for who can use them and what’s acceptable behaviour, but in order to preserve free expression communications companies, such as hosts, should be beholden to host legal material. When it comes to payment companies the idea that they can steal people’s money or block payments for legitimate, legal purposes also needs to be challenged. How can conservative groups that claim to be in support of a free market also support the idea that a person can’t spend their own money on whatever legal goods they please?

This outdated view of what constitutes censorship leaves the door open for huge amounts of injustice from the silencing of dissent in important social debates to the denial of services and the constriction of a free internet to an end to online anonymity and the opportunities for free expression it presents.

Think twice before you smugly, and erroneously, say ‘censorship is just a government thing’ and consider what – exactly – you’re excusing.

 

 

Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

White people. Never the victims of racism.

White people. Never the victims of racism.

Welsh marble trunk. Ink’s irascible tumble wanker moose telegraph ant thug wobble star antelope undulate orc water toucan Muppet salt tortoise wench carbolic cardboard. Introvert web dick bumblebee archer oomph whist wind monkey, tingle whiff horseradish mangled constable.

Did that make any sense to you? Of course not. Here’s what it meant though, in my head. I substituted a different word with a different meaning for each word used:

Words mean things. It’s important that words mean things and that we share an understanding of what they mean so that we can communicate. If we don’t broadly agree on what words mean, then we can’t have a meaningful conversation. This has become a source of infuriating annoyance when trying to hold any sort of meaningful discussion with the Antisocial Injustice Warriors of Twitter and Tumblr.

You see, they have their own meanings of words that bear little or no resemblance to what they actually mean. We’re familiar with this problem when it comes to the term ‘theory’ due to tangles with creationist who use the colloquial meaning whereas we mean the scientific meaning. Still the scientific meaning is sufficiently well known and established that it is a specialised meaning of the word and one acknowledged by dictionaries, encyclopaedias and can be identified by context or by prefixing the word with ‘scientific’.

This is not the case with social justice terminology which is parochial and seemingly an exercise in willful abuse of language, engaging in a fallacy of redefinition.

Examples, just from today, would be redefinitions of racism and sexism (and *ism in general), privilege, patriarchy and – a new one on me – ‘majority’.

*ism

Pick a dictionary, any dictionary and you will find a definition of racism, sexism, ageism etc along these sorts of lines:

Prejudice on the basis of race/sex/age.

Pretty straightforward and this is what the vast and overwhelming majority of people understand an *ism to mean, an irrational prejudice towards a type or group of people.

Not your Social Justice Warrior.

Within gender and race studies *ism has been redefined to mean prejudice plus power. This is clearly absurd once you give the problem a moment’s thought because racism is in great extent found within a powerless white underclass of under and unemployed people who have no institutional power and, in fact, feel threatened, slighted and disempowered by what they see as preferential treatment being given to other races.

Similarly it’s ridiculous to excuse the racism of the Nation of Islam and their crazy racial beliefs or that of the New Black Panther Party (criticised by members of of the original Black Panthers for their racism) on the grounds that they’re black and therefore, somehow ‘can’t be racist’. More recently the racist bile flung around by Suey Park or on the twitter hashtag #creepywhiteguys provides glaring examples of ironic racism and sexism on the part of people who claim to be fighting against it.

We already have a term for the powerful acting on their racism, and that’s ‘institutional racism’. It is utterly unnecessary to redefine ‘racism’ itself, especially when so doing is used to excuse the vile racism flung around by many people who just happen to be members of racial minorities.

The same applies to all these other forms of *ism as well.

Privilege

The actual meaning of privilege that you’ll find in dictionaries and encyclopaedias will be something along these lines:

A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

Let’s pull out a few of the sections of that to emphasise them: Special, advantage, ‘only to a particular person or group’.

What we have in society is a baseline level of treatment that we expect when it comes to our status as a citizen of that country. You could easily rephrase that as rights. As a British citizen I am entitled to various things such as access to the NHS – free at the point of use, access to a social safety net, the right to a fair trial etc, etc.

Some people have privilege, which puts them above the basic line, some people are underprivileged but at no point can that baseline be considered privileged.

If you don’t make a great deal of money you might be underprivileged. If you make a great deal of money you might be privileged. This can be both direct in terms of social status accorded to the rich, or indirect in terms of what that wealth can get you (better lawyers, bribes, entry to certain schools etc).

Everyone has areas in which they are advantaged and disadvantaged to a certain degree, but this is not necessarily privilege.

As the term is used ‘check your privilege’ or ‘you’re a white male’ this term is used to poison the well and as an ad hominem in order to shut up dissent. It has no place in a discussion where the arguments, not who is making them, are important. Ironically (and there’s a LOT of irony in these discussion) the person using the term may well be trying to establish themselves as an authority by their self-identified minority status and thus the privilege of being the only ones allowed to speak to it.

Patriarchy

What is a patriarchy? According to some we live in one, but when you look to the definition you’ll find something like:

A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.

Unarguably there are and have been patriarchies but do we, here, in the modern western democracies live in one? I’d say not. Men do not hold all the power. Women are not excluded, they can vote, hold office, make laws and can participate at every level of government and business. That they don’t necessarily do so is another issue that’s hard to disentangle from a huge bunch of other things, so beyond the scope of this.

As such, patriarchy technically retains meaning but where we run into problems is when the term is used.

Does something hurt women? Patriarchy.

Does something hurt men? Somehow, also patriarchy.

Does something hurt both men and women? Again, somehow patriarchy.

In the hands of Social Justice Warriors the word has become meaningless. Society does not favour men in a huge number of regards from military service to medicine, welfare, sentencing and – most contentiously and obviously – family courts and reproductive rights. Yet even where women are favoured by the system this is somehow patriarchy as well. Women win most custody cases? Must be because society only sees women as mothers, patriarchy. Men are sent out by their millions to die in wars? This is somehow a privilege and women being insulated from that, spared the mass murder of industrial warfare is patriarchy, as is men claiming the glorious right to be ground to paste in some Flanders field.

It’s meaningless in the mouths of people who will bend anything to fit it just as conspiracy theorists will bend any and all information to fit their pre-existing paranoia.

Majority

This was a new one on me. Majority as far as I’m concerned, and the dictionaries and encyclopaedias agree with me, means:

The greater number or part of something.

If I eat the majority of the cake, my wife has good reason to be pissed off. If whites are the majority racial demographic in the UK, that means there’s more of them than every other racial designation.

Apparently not.

Now, if a group is a minority but holds the majority of positions of power, they’re not a minority with power, but a ‘social majority’.

So the apartheid governments of South Africa weren’t a powerful minority, they were transformed by linguistic gymnastics into an oppressive majority (social majority). Of course, they were a majority of the government while being a minority and minorities with genuine advantages are able to dominate majorities who lack them. British Imperialism was – in part – based on the fact that small, well trained groups of soldiers with advanced weapons could hold large swathes of less advanced territory (especially backed by trade and collusion with local powers).

To redefine majority to mean minority just ends up confusing the matter and seems to be an ideological attempt to reframe domination by minorities into the preferred narrative of majority domination of minorities.

***

Such misuses of language are, to use another abused word ‘problematic’ and get in the way, repeatedly, of clear communication and the advancement of the, supposed, aims of Social Justice Warriors.

As ever, I’m open to informed and respectful discussion on this and related topics, but not if you’re going to refuse to provide evidence to back you up on grounds of ontology and epistemology and that logic, reason, evidence and the scientific method are somehow biased and sexist.

Who Adores the Whores?

thumbI do.

Much like strippers and adult entertainment workers, off the clock these kinds of people are some of the most real, honest and good people it has ever been my good fortune to meet. As a libertine, egalitarian and humanist I see no problem with what any of these people do for money and in many cases admire them for it.

I listen to them when they talk to me, many of them I would count as friends, accomplices and co-workers. Some are no longer sex workers, some are, some through circumstance, some through explicit choice that this is what they love to do.

Am I to disbelieve the former stripper who laments the loss of the money and the camaraderie with the other girls, now raising her three kids on a shoestring? No. I wish she felt she could go back to it and I wish her community didn’t hate her for what she did years ago.

Am I to look down on or regard as disempowered the ladies who make their money from webcam shows and photosets because of mental or physical illness that limits their options? They’re amongst the bravest, toughest, proudest people I know. They could subsist on benefits and charity – barely – or they could take care of themselves doing something like this, that they often enjoy.

Am I to believe the prostitutes, dominatrices, escorts and others are all coerced or forced? Even when there’s no pimps? Even when there’s other things they could do, being brilliant, intelligent and tough women?’

Am I to believe the former male escort who confided in me that the women who wanted sex – and there were many – were not the kind you might expect but rather the wealthy women who had sacrificed family, relationships, marriages for career?

No, obviously not. This is anecdotal of course, my experience, their experience, but there’s statistics to support them, and principles to hold to.

There are many jobs that many of us would consider shitty, awful jobs. Cleaning toilets or road-sweeping at 3am being a couple of examples. Yet there’s people who swallow their pride and do them for the money they need to live, or the money to make life worth living and we do not look down on them. Many of them end up taking pride in what they do as well, refusing to be looked down on.

There are many jobs that people are trafficked into doing. Winkle picking, agricultural labour, meat packing, casual labour, garden work, scrap collecting for a pittance. We do not shame them, nor do we regard those who do the work properly’ as being worthy only of our contempt or pity.

There are many jobs that people are forced into doing. What else is workfare or prison slavery but free or nearly free labour mandated by the state? A modern plantation culture for the poor and the disenfranchised, the defenceless? Where are the police, smashing down the doors to ASDA or WalMart to arrest the customers and carry off the employees to ‘safe’ accommodation?

Why do we treat sex work, pornography, stripping any differently to the way we do any other job? Is there any rational reason why we should do so?

No, there is not, save the special status and fear of sex that much of society seems to have. Seven veils of moral panic, thinly disguising the prurient interest of the enviously disgusted, terrified of their own sexuality.

Much of this seems to come from modern feminism, the judgemental eyes of women who want choice, but only the choices they approve of. There’s a continuum of this feminist-led or abetted neo-puritanism running through, seemingly everything. From Mary Honeyball’s dishonest and destructive advocacy of the Norwegian Model for sex work, to Gail Dines ludicrous and misguided attacks on pornography. From the ‘extreme porn’ laws to the opt-out internet filter. From spurious prosecutions of internet trolls to rowdy and sometimes violent protests of men’s issues talks. From ‘trigger warnings’ in academia to the undermining of presumed innocence in cases of alleged sex crime. From ‘No More Page Three’ to ‘Lose the Lads Mags’.

There seems to be an attempt to police sexuality, male sexuality, commercial sexuality, in all its forms from games (Sarkeesian) to SF&F (SFWA) to convention and conference policies overreaching their bounds (Ada Initiative, Geekfeminism), to conflating sex work with trafficking  and a new slave trade. There’s obstacles to payments, to crowdfunding, to sales, not – seemingly – on any matter of actual need or principle but rather because it’s a vulnerable community to gouge for extra cash and to confiscate funds from. Nor does it even have to be directly related to anything ‘blue’, simply having worked as a sex worker or being one raising funds for something else can be enough to see their money disappear, perhaps never to be recovered.

There’s some peculiar, unholy alliance between the traditional forces of political and social conservatism and the most active, media-present forms of modern feminism. It’s an alliance that seems to make no sense but while the reasons are different the goals are the same. This is the feminism of Tumblr, of Criado-Perez of Watson, the kind that can legitimately be called ‘shrill’ and emotional. Short on facts, long on lies, propaganda and emotional manipulation. Most distressingly, it is a form of feminist that cannot tolerate dissent, even from other women, discounting their lived experiences  which are otherwise considered so important.

The price for the women to speak up is to risk being identified, outed and shamed. It is to invite huge amounts of invective, not of the pointless, trolling kind but from journalists, politicians and the general public frothing as they digest the latest lies.

For men, and which I can speak more directly about, it’s assumptions of misogyny, of desperation, of being a pimp or John rather than simply someone taking a side an an argument. If any of that sticks, somehow your opinion is not valid. It’s not as though sex workers are offering discounts for men who speak up on their behalf. It’s just the right thing to do, the best thing for all concerned.

Prohibition simply makes things worse.

 

The Rape Question

Skewers many of the problems I see with modern feminist argumentation and its abuse of stats and moral panic.

The Honest Courtesan

I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire.   –  Robin Morgan

At one time it was a subject rarely spoken of in public; now it sometimes seems that some people talk of little else.  Since the 1970s rape has become one of the most politicized issues of our culture, despite sex being arguably the least appropriate topic for politics imaginable.  The politicization of what could be considered the most personal of crimes began in 1970 with the publication of Carol Hanisch’s second-wave feminist manifesto “The Personal is Political”; as I wrote in my essay “Politicizing the Personal”,

The only problem with [the essay] is, it’s a load of crap; usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open…

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