The Left and Sex, From ‘Free Love’ to ‘Love Free’

Hippie_Love-4562‘SJW’ has become a cartoonish stereotype. ‘Regressive Left’ is dying on the vine as a term, thanks to its overuse in certain quarters and the absolute refusal of much of what – at least – calls itself the left to pause for even a moment of self-reflection. Still, these terms – even if used in scare quotes – retain utility, even if they switch some people off from what you’re saying the moment they come up. They retain usefulness because they describe a genuine phenomenon, a recognisable stereotype, a particular group of people.

It can be hard to explain to people the problem, the feeling of absolute betrayal that many ‘old school’ lefties harbour towards this new group, Lector-like dressed up in our severed faces. Ironically they call themselves progressive, and that’s why ‘Regressive Left’ is accurate – and stings them.

There’s a particular case-in-point that I think serves as a particularly graspable instance of their behaviour and distorted thought processes. One that I think may help people to get a grasp on what the ‘Regressive Left’ really is, why it’s regressive, and why it’s a betrayal of the traditions and values of the left.

That case-in-point is sex.

The modern ‘Regressive Left’ has an attitude towards sex and sexuality more often found in the evangelical right in times past and has even allied with the repressive and authoritarian right in their mutual goal of mandating and controlling people’s sexuality.

Anti-porn campaigners take tea with Conservative Party leaders and help shape internet censorship legislation and ‘porn passes’. Something that evidence suggests will only profit a handful of porn companies and may make sexual harassment and even rape more common, not less.

SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) inflate bogus stories about sex trafficking and encourage the adoption of the Nordic Model (criminalising clients) as a way of tackling sex work. This, like anti-drug legislation against the advice and erudite entreaty of experts, including actual sex workers who choose that way of life and all but beg for decriminalisation.

A Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, can – without a hint of self-awareness – simultaneously hail the Trump balloon (rightly) as a symbol of British commitment to free expression while banning pictures of a woman in a bikini from the London Underground. This while left, and right are, again, united in their determination to censor and control social media and to criminalise all manner of, harmless, online behaviour.

We have radical feminists trying to prevent trans participation in Pride, to the point of laying down in the road in protest and delaying the march. At the same time, we have others trying to control and mandate speech, neither camp being the kind of people who place personal liberty and choice at the top of their agenda.

In the world of kink, something I take no small amount of interest in, there are feminists trying to claim that BDSM is inherently misogynistic and patriarchal. This seems peculiar because BDSM includes femdom (something that some give a pass) and has explicit consent, something feminists often push, built-in, voluntarily. BDSM has been becoming ever more popular as unhappy housewives try to put their 50 Shades fantasies into practice and vanilla men, feeling unable to be masculine outside the kink scene, seek someplace they can be themselves.

That’s right. Conventional, entirely vanilla masculinity now – pretty much – qualifies as a fetish.

It didn’t used to be like this. The left used to be synonymous with libertine philosophy and allowing people to let their ‘freak flag fly’. It is for this reason that the left has long been seen as the ally of the LGBT(&c) community and why the liberal left has often been decried as ‘degenerate’ by the hard right. Now the hard left has their own term they give to excuse their censorship and authoritarianism; ‘Problematic’.

It was the left that brought about the NHS, greatly helping women throughout the UK with their sexual health. It was left wing campaigners that helped push the Conservative Government of 1961 to offer the contraceptive pill on the NHS, and it was Wilson’s Labour Government that legalised abortion in 1967. It was also a Labour Government that followed through with the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The sexual revolution, the idea of giving people choices and rights over what sex they had and with who, was firmly an ideal of the left, and one that won the arguments with the right. Sexual liberation was also women’s liberation, an end to dorms and chaperones and escorts, freedom from the threat of pregnancy and the tyranny of biology – a necessity to the full adoption of other rights and full equality. It was the left that understood and articulated that what people got up to, consensually, between one another was nobody’s business but theirs (so long as nobody got permanently hurt).

Now? Well, we’ve already been over it. Social conservatism, SWERF and TERF, and attitudes that wouldn’t be out of place in Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League. The way the left has become censorious and authoritarian has begun sticking its nose into peoples’ bedrooms the way the Christian Right used to is just one example of their betrayal of left-wing values. It’s just the one, I think, it might be most accessible for people to see.

Sometimes, to progress, you actually have to double-back.

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The Kristi Winters Challenge!

Is Feminism Still Needed in The West?

No, because here at least its supposed goals have been achieved.

If you said ‘no’, please answer the following questions.
1. List all the nations you define as constituting ‘the west’.

The West has different definitions depending on context. So this is a deliberately contentious issue and attempt to muddy the waters by taking an informal set of argumentation and to try and turn it into a formal one. Given that one of the definitions of ‘the West’ is egalitarian, industrialised democracies with gender equality and that that definition would fulfil the criteria and render the rest of the discussion pointless, it seems a slightly unfair – and tautological – one to use.

Let’s use the following then.

The EU, North America, The Scandiwegian nations, Australia & New Zealand. You could expand this to include some South American states and some states in the Far East, but this is a middling ground that makes a reasonable amount of sense.

2. Identify the metrics you are using to to determine women’s equality and sources.

Can women participate in the political process? (Vote and hold office).
Is there anti-discrimination legislation in effect?

3. For each nation write the day women achieved equality on each metric, citing your sources.

This is a lot of countries to go through and is intended to be a tedious barrier. So I’ll meet you halfway.
Here’s the list of full suffrage dates: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage
In most cases right to vote also meant right to stand for office, women were electable before universal suffrage in many nations though so it’s an imperfect guide but I’m not inclined to go to that much effort on what’s a dishonest question.

Here’s a list of anti-discrimination legislation:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_acts

With these three things in place (vote, hold office, can’t be discriminated against for merely being women, equal pay for equal work by law, etc) full equality of opportunity and representation is achieved. What you do with it is, of course, up to the individual.

If women have achieved equality in the west this should be
a) Easy and
b) Everyone should have the same answers.

It was, but expecting everyone to have the same answers when concepts of ‘the west’ and ‘equality’ vary is ludicrous.

Regressive Left: Laurie Penny on Cologne

Laurie Penny wrote an article in the New Statesman which exemplifies many of the stark issues with the Regressive Left, particularly with regard to Cologne and the broader rape crisis across many European countries, made worse by what appear to be deliberate, politically motivated cover-ups and fear of PC backlash for investigating and prosecuting racial minorities.

I am absolutely bloody furious about the cover-ups, the moral and ethical cowardice of our nations in relation to these issues, and the fact that the febrile atmosphere the SJW cult has created has made it so hard to go after criminals in ‘protected’ groups. That probably comes across in this article.

Her article, titled “After Cologne, we Can’t let the Bigots Steal Feminism” is not only years too late to prevent that happening – the worst bigots I’ve ever encountered have been feminists and SJWs – but is precisely the kind of thing that is feeding the problems behind responses to Cologne (and other less famous incidents) and Rotherham, as well as demonstrating horrific levels of hypocrisy. It’s telling that even relatively ‘moderate’ (or at least less boat-rocking inclined) outlets like the Rubin Report and The David Packman Show have picked up on Penny’s comments – amongst others – and not just easily dismissed right wing or ‘manosphere’ sources.

Why can’t we always take sexual assault as seriously as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators?

This seems a peculiar question to ask, but you have to put it in context. Over the last few years there have been many flimsy accusations, several high profile false accusations and numerous dubious, or at least questionable, changes to various university policies and legal standards. With concepts like ‘stare rape’ being seriously bandied about and ‘manspreading’ being seriously warned against the situation iss the inverse, but no less laughable, than the Republican ‘real rape’ nonsense of a few years ago – indeed almost making that seem like a legitimate question.

In comparison to all that, the attacks in Cologne are what appears to have been a coordinated set of attacks on hundreds of women, not only sexual assault and rape, but theft and good old regular violence as well. Furthermore similar attacks seem to have been reported across Germany and other countries and similar stories of cover-ups – for fear of fuelling racism and right wing parties – have come out.

So why is this taken seriously? Because it’s actually serious and because it is so serious and undeniable it has brought up a lot of problems and revealed issues around the fears of racism accusations or feeding the right wing, which overrode the duty of care governments and police have to the people. There’s even reports of victims not wanting to come forward or report attacks because they were similarly afraid or didn’t want to feed the narrative.

The end result? The stories broke anyway and the far right has made far more hay of it than the otherwise might have because of the cover ups and because in many cases they’re still the ones admitting there is a problem and offering (bad) solutions

In a perverse sort of way, it’s progress. After months of dog-whistle xenophobia, European authorities have finally started to treat migrants as they would treat any other citizen. They have achieved this by choosing not to make a fuss when migrants are accused of raping and assaulting women.

Well, no. That’s not progress. Rather than being treated like anyone else these presumed migrants, immigrants and refugees – sharing a cultural attitude and religion but not necessarily much else – have been extended the benefits of gunshy legal authorities, cover-ups and protections – even media reticence – that stand in stark contrast to, for example, the overzealous willingness to accept and go after those implicated in the Rolling Stone/UVA scandal or the attacks on unconvicted, alleged offender James Deen. With reports and prosecutions up and sex offences down, along with the public pillorying of anyone even accused of rape it’s very hard to characterise Western societies as ‘rape cultures’, especially in contrast to the cultures implicated in these events.

The police and the press were initially slow to react, and the Mayor of Cologne reacted to eventual protests by suggesting that women should adopt a code of conduct in public and keep an ‘arm’s length’ distance between themselves and strange men. 

It should be noted that this was the progressive mayor of Cologne, the one stabbed for being so welcoming to refugees prior. It should also be noted that this kind of hypocritical apologism is not limited to them. Numerous supposedly progressive newspaper and magazines have engaged in similar behaviour, excusing the behaviour of the attackers. It seems ‘cultural differences’ is the acceptable version of ‘she was wearing a short skirt’.

It is the first time in recent history that the right-wing press has not joined in the condemnation of these wanton strumpets who dare to think they might be able to have a good time without worrying what ‘invitation’ they’re sending to men. Instead, the right wing blames… liberals. Who apparently caused all this by daring to suggest that refugees should be able to come to Europe in safety. 

It’s not just the right wing raising concerns. The liberal left, the genuine liberal left, has been raising concerns about these issues as well for just as long – if not longer – than the right has. Anyone genuinely progressive voice that has spoken up with concerns over cultural clashes, Islamic beliefs and their consequences, has been shouted down as, ridiculously, an ‘Islamophobe’ or even more ridiculously as ‘racist’.

The right wing is, to an extent, correct to blame the Regressive Left (or however you want to term them) as they have made reasonable, measured discussion on these topics impossible. One need only review the encounter between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show to see this in action. Calm, measured, evidenced, rational discussion met with wild and spurious accusations that subvert and prevent a decent debate being had.

It isn’t that what caused this was suggesting that refugees should be able to come to Europe, it’s that this febrile and ‘J’accuse!’ way of going about the debate has led to fear and unease, even bringing up reasonable concerns and issues is to invite reputational damage and ‘greenwalding’ that can be impossible to put to rest.

It’d be great if we could take rape, sexual assault and structural misogyny as seriously every day as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators.The attacks in Cologne were horrific. The responses – both by officials and by the armies of Islamophobes and xenophobes who have jumped at the chance to condemn Muslim and migrant men as savages – have also been horrific. Cologne has already seen violent protests by the far-right anti-migrant organisation Pegida, a group not previously noted for its dedication to progressive feminism.

It’s absurd to pretend our societies in the West don’t don’t these seriously. Indeed the contrast in feminist reactions to these attacks and their day-to-day screeds and sermons couldn’t be more stark. Faced with a genuine case of an actual patriarchy and rape culture, an actual case of a culture with structural misogyny – that actually exists – the cowardice of the previously strident feminist lobby has been breathtaking.

What word would you use other than ‘savage’ to describe what has occurred and why are there not slutwalks, op-eds decrying the attacks, redoubled efforts to bring feminism to Islamic cultures (where it’s actually needed) and so on? Why instead are we seeing these screeds trying to shout down the people and groups – not all far right by any means – who are condemning what happened and are demanding solutions are simply being decried, wholesale as racist.

The far right is cleaning up, because they’re listening and offering those (terrible and broadbrush) solutions, while the Regressive Left, such as Ms Penny, seem far more concerned with making excuses and refusing to offer solutions or to wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the attacks.

This is what worries me. Because we cannot have this conversation and because elements of the Regressive Left are more fixated on preserving their narrative and ‘being right’ than admitting reality or doing what is right, the right wing are then free to dominate the discussion and to pass off their conspiracy theories and racist nonsense as truth, relatively unchallenged because other sources have lost trust.

It’s a miracle! Finally, the right wing cares about rape culture! Finally, all over the world, from Fox News to 4chan, a great conversion has taken place and men who previously spent their time shaming, stalking and harassing women are suddenly concerned about our rights! And all it took was a good excuse to bash migrants and Muslims and tell feminists they don’t know what’s good for them. 

This is a classic misdiagnosis. People have always been concerned by rape culture, where it actually exists, not where it does not. The accusation has not been taken seriously as it applies to Western culture because it’s patently ridiculous. Accusations of stalking, harassment etc have been gendered when they’re not, and have been wildly overblown. That’s the objection, not that these things aren’t bad – the outrage at Cologne etc is real – but that these issues are being trivialised and conflated with ‘trivial bullshit’ and hyperbole.

Personally, I just love it when random men on the internet tell me what my feminism should like, because gosh, you know, this whole resisting oppression thing is really hard sometimes and it’s great to have people who know what they’re talking about take over for me so I can get on with the ironing. These people have repeatedly demanded that I ‘condemn’ the attacks in Cologne, which is a lazy way of implying that somebody doesn’t really care about an issue.

And this article is a strenuous way of demonstrating you care less about this issue than a few mean words over Twitter that can’t possibly hurt you, but which somehow demand meetings at the UN while Saudi Arabia gets to sit on the Human Rights Council. You can’t simultaneously try to claim Feminism is Egalitarianism, and that it’s good for men too, while denying men the right to speak and argue. Anyone can read a definition, observe actions and notice a disparity between the two. Criticism is how ideas are tested and hardened.

So let me be clear: sexual violence is never, ever acceptable. Not for cultural reasons. Not for religious reasons. Not because the perpetrators are really angry and disenfranchised. There can be no quarter for systemic misogyny. And if we’re serious about that, there’s not a country or culture on earth that won’t have to take a long, hard look at itself.

Which sounds great, until the last sentence. If you want to try and remotely equate genuine patriarchal and abusive structures in the Middle East with possibly having less seat room or blocking a troll, then you’re out of your mind. Also while you might – finally – have come around to saying that, others in the Guardian, Independent and elsewhere have made myriad excuses and your first instinct was to condemn anyone who was concerned or who pointed – rightly – to cultural issues as a racist. That has to change and trying to water down what happened with disingenuous comparisons won’t get you off the hook.

The sensible thing to do in response to the Cologne attacks would be to call, as many German feminists are doing, for a far more rigorous attitude to rape and sexual assault across Europe. Instead, the solution on the table seems to be to clamp down on migration.

We already have rape laws and a rigorous attitude towards it. In social terms possibly too rigorous since a mere accusation means ruination, a fact which should perhaps lead us to consider anonymity for the accused in such cases. What would be sensible would be to simply hold these groups to the same standard, rather than granting them special status – perhaps with deportation and barring from entry as an additional threat to motivate them.

If there ever was a case where ‘Teach men not to rape’ wasn’t a purely insulting load of old nonsense, it might be in the case of immigration from Middle Eastern and North African cultures coming to much more permissive European and Nordic/Scandinavian cultures. Indeed these are already happening in Norway.

Instead of dealing with the actual problem, people like Ms Penny seem to react to perfectly valid concerns about immigration from particular cultures by bemoaning it as racism, only to turn around and blame all men, nearly 50% of the global population, as being the problem. If bemoaning a particular culture is bigotry, then how much worse is bigotry on an even broader basis?

I actually can’t believe I’m having to explain this right now. I thought we covered this in kindergarten. Those of us who have moved beyond that level can, if we really try hard, understand that it’s not either ‘sexism is exclusively practised by Muslim men’ and ‘sexism is exactly the same everywhere.’ This is what we call a ‘false dichotomy’ when we get to big-kid school. 

Here’s the actual difference.

Our nations in the west are liberal democracies in which egalitarian law and permissive social attitudes have been in place for over half a century. Our genuine sexists are limited in scope and power, despite being imagined to be everywhere. We have full legal equality of the sexes – indeed a cogent argument can be made to say the pendulum has swung the other way in the battle of the sexes. On race too, we have full legal equality though issues of class/wealth often get dressed up as racial issues. When it comes to LGBT issues we still have a ways to go, but the fact that we are not stoning homosexuals to death or hurling them off buildings speaks volumes to our progress and relative pursuit of human happiness. We have broken the back of religious influence on most of our nations (a handful excepted) and we are now secular, be it explicitly or implicitly so. Despite protestations to the contrary, we are not systematically sexist, racist and homophobic as a culture.

The same cannot, broadly, be said of the cultures from which these people are arriving. They are still mired in prejudices we haven’t had at such a vicious level since before germs were discovered. Homosexuals are regularly killed across these cultures or forced to undergo gender reassignment surgery – at best. Women are not only constricted by ‘voluntary’ obedience to religious mores, but their inferiority is codified into law, implicitly or explicitly influenced by the Koran and enforced by vigilantes, the populace, religious police and/or the regular police. These are places where a girl of fourteen can be whipped to death for the crime of being raped.

There is no comparison to be made. These are genuinely male-oriented, patriarchal, theologically dominated, sexist rape cultures. Everything that Feminism claims to be against and projects onto our – not just relatively – but genuinely benign culture.

Yet there’s this paralysis in addressing it, examining it or dealing with it. We must – somehow – be as bad, culpable, we must find excuses for them it seems. It’s good that Ms Penny finally came out against it and decried the excuse-making of her fellow Regressive Left members, but these false equivalences and demands that our culture be considered just as bad will not wash.

It’s not a matter of our sexism ‘being different’, it’s like comparing morphine with homoeopathy.

The oppression of women is a global phenomenon because patriarchy is a global phenomenon. It’s embedded in the economic and social structures of almost every nation and community on earth. Sexism and misogyny, however, look different across boundaries of culture and religion, as well as across divides of race and class and between generations.

Bullshit conspiracy theory, false equivalence and delusion.

The UK, for example, enacted this.

In Saudi Arabia on the other hand (and note how government is involved in these) the situation is this.

For all that these people claim to hate ‘Islamic’ sexual violence, it seems to fascinate them. In the past three years, I’ve lost count of the white men – and it is almost always white men- who have emailed, tweeted and sent me doctored pictures sharing their graphic fantasies in which feminist harpies like me are stoned to death, fucked to death, genitally mutilated, whipped, burned and gang-raped – not by them of course. By those awful Muslims.

I condemn it, but I think I know why. They’re trying to get you to acknowledge and see what actual rape culture looks like. What an actual patriarchy looks like. That our culture is not even slightly, remotely, one scintilla as bad and that the groups you’ve been excusing and defending are everything you claim to be against, while concentrating your ire on art, commentary and mean tweets. It’s a crude, horrible way of saying “Maybe you should give a shit about this?” as well as the death of patience for being treated as though they were acting like these people.

I’ll be blunt. I think some people out there are very excited by their conception of ‘Islamic’ violence against women. It allows them to enjoy the spectacle of women being brutalised and savaged whilst convincing themselves that it’s only foreign, savage men who do these things.

If I’ve learned something valuable over the last two years it’s to try not to project my own biases and interpretations on what people are telling me from my political opposition. Most of the time they’re sincere, they just have a different ‘read’ or set of ideas about the nature of what is going on.

I put it to you that people are not excited by Islamic violence against women simply because it is brutal and horrifying and goes against our culture of equality, liberation and tolerance. They hate it when women are genuinely abused and harmed and this might also be why they treat ‘trivial bullshit’ with contempt as it devalues and undermines genuinely horrific events.

The point is that misogyny knows no colour or creed, and perhaps it’s time we did something about that. We’re used to a society where a basic level of everyday sexism, sexual violence and assault is accepted. So if you’re saying this act of violence isn’t entirely different from all of those, and if you’re saying that refugees should be treated the same as European citizens, you must be saying that everyone should get a free pass to treat women like walking meatbags, right?

Genuine, actual misogyny might not – but it is a term that has been worn gossamer thing by inappropriate overuse. However it’s certainly more common amongst particular creeds, embedded within them and that needs to be addressed. We’re not used to a society with a basic level of everyday sexism and that’s why we’re outraged by this. What people are saying is that this is not acceptable and that yes, they should be treated like European citizens, like everyone else, held accountable for their actions, prosecuted and punished. Not let off or covered for because they happen to pray to Mecca or be browner than the average Swede.

Men and boys of every faith and none must learn that they are neither entitled to women’s bodies nor owed to our energy and attention, that it is not okay, ever, to rape, to assault, to abuse and attack women, not even if your ideology says it’s okay. That goes for the men’s rights activists, the anti-feminists and fanatical right-wingers much as it does for religious bigots. 

Here’s the thing. They already know. It has taken cultural indoctrination for men to think otherwise and outside those cultures this is not a remotely widespread attitude. No MHRA I have ever met is pro-rape, no anti-feminist I have ever met is pro-rape. Not even the most fanatical right-wingers I’ve ever met – and I consider rhetorically beating up ‘white genocide’ nuts a hobby, has ever expressed any pro-rape views. This passage says much more about you Ms Penny, than anyone else.

If we want to hold up Europe as a beacon of women’s rights, that’s fantastic. Let’s make it happen.

It already is. You can’t legislate mind control or censor people’s opinions and a minority of people with the ‘wrong’ opinions, powerless and marginalised are all that’s left. So much so that more and more reasonable and moderate ideas are being attacked and nonsensical things are being rebranded as misogyny and sexism from sexy computer games to sitting with your legs apart. You’re living on another planet if you can’t acknowledge the gulf of difference at work here, but you can never seem to celebrate what we have and what we’ve achieved, only spread these masochistic fantasies to try and make us seem as bad as the worst the world has to offer. It won’t wash and you’ll only alienate people with this unreasonable outlook and outrageous demands for authoritarian control.

It’s easier to pin misogyny on cultural outsiders than it is to accept that men everywhere must do better – but any other attitude is rank hypocrisy.

It’s easier to point to actual, genuine misogyny and rape culture where it actually exists, than to manufacture it where it doesn’t.

It’s also, apparently, easier to hurl spurious accusations of racism and to avoid the real issues, than to discuss them. That’s where the far right will step in, bolstered by conspiracy theories about media censorship, and where they’ll gain purchase.

That too, will be your fault.

There is an appalling moral and ethical failing on the Regressive Left to tackle this issue and it may well be too late to be able to offer a more balanced approach, or even one brave enough to admit that a society and culture that condemns and punishes rape and sexual violence is objectively a better society and culture than one which explicitly permits and even demands it.

Instead, even trying to field this will result in accusations and distractions.

What can we do? Better screenings. Cultural education. Deportation of criminals. No more cover-ups. Open discussion and debate on the problem interpretations and effects of Islam.

Sarkeesian gets a Humanist Award? Uwotm8?

buddhist-palm

Ultimate Buddha face-palm

So Sarkeesian got a humanist award at Harvard. Fortunately it turns out this is just an independent Humanist society not properly affiliated with Harvard, but most people are going to look at the word ‘Harvard’ and think this is a prestigious award.

Why is this an issue? Because it represents ignorance, stupidity and the worst kind of grand-standing, purely for social reasons. If a Harvard society is willing to back her nonsense, there’s real problems that now go far beyond media corruption and issues. Combine this with the currently push to put her non-academic material into the common core teaching material and we have an absolute failure of critical thinking on a potentially catastrophic scale.

The society state their values are: “Reason, compassion, creativity, justice, integrity, awareness, environmentalism, feminism, equality, science, progress, and pluralism.”

1. Her pronouncements are not based on reason. They are scaremongering moral panic and speculation without much of anything in the way of academic and scientific support. Indeed many assertions are directly contradicted by proper research.

2. She showed little compassion when she used incidents of violence such as school shootings to exploit for her own purposes and publicity.

3. She can hardly be considered to be for creativity when her entire oeuvre is about censoring and constricting how other people express themselves.

4. Her – and McIntosh’s statement are frequently anti-justice, especially when they dip into things like campus rape culture etc. Justice depends on innocent until proven guilty and not mob justice or inquisitorial systems.

5. Integrity? She’s a known con artist (never liked or knew about video games) with a background of links to dodgy telemarketing, pyramid schemes and handwriting analysis. Nor has she delivered on her Kickstarter – years late – and despite a huge amount of additional investment.

6. Awareness is too nebulous to comment on. She may have raised awareness, but of problems that either do not exist or which are being wildly overstated.

7. Environmentalism? No data.

8. Feminism? Not feminism in the sense of equality certainly. Modern pseudo-feminism perhaps, in all its authoritarian and censorious glory. That doesn’t seem to be something worth celebrating though.

9. Equality? See above.

10. Science? Again, her claims are not based on scientific or academic rigour. Nor does she open her work to proper peer review, will not debate it and doesn’t even allow criticism – characterising any such examination as harassment or misogyny.

11. Progress? This kind of puritanical, censorious attitude is a great leap backwards to the 1950s. It can hardly be characterised as progress.

12. Pluralism can mean many things. However with her absolute and total fixation upon the ‘first world problems’ of white, middle class, American pseudo-feminists she can hardly be considered a pluralist.

Through Men’s Eyes (Link and mirror)

I was on Al Jazeera’s The Stream to talk about Elliot Rodger and the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

The first video is the AJ one, watch that if you can. If it’s blocked in your country I mirrored the video in the second link, though I’m not sure how long it will stay up.

I didn’t get to cover everything I prepared, so I may add to this blog later.

Things I didn’t get to cover in the panel:

The Rodger Shootings

Lest we forget, besides Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, Rodger also killed James Hong, George Chen, David Wang and Christopher Michaels-Martinez. He also killed himself, his final victim.

His ‘manifesto’ was not political, it was an autobiography as a rambling justification for his hatred. It was a narcissistic hate-bubble.

Calling what he did ‘terrorism‘ is utterly irresponsible and unforgivably inaccurate. His agenda was personal revenge. Not political change. Calling it terrorism legitimises it, fixating upon his genuine, mentally ill misogyny and calling it something broader is also irresponsible. People like to blame things, but it’s not that easy.

Rodger was not a men’s rights activist, he was not a MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) nor was he even a Pick Up Artist. He was a member of an anti-Pick Up Artist group. The manner in which people have conflated all these things and then tried to associate them with Rodger is unethical opportunism.

The bad reporting appears to have directly contributed to actual terrorist threats of violence and disruption being made against AVFMs conference.

Blaming Rodger’s actions on Men’s Issues is like blaming Valerie Solinas’ or Aileen Wuornos’ actions on feminism – which I feel would be dishonest. Unlike these two I have not seen anyone seriously raise Rodger’s actions as laudable and I doubt his manifesto will become a standard ‘masculinist’ text in the way SCUM has.

Violence

Men are the majority victims of violence. Men are far more likely to be attacked, randomly, in the street than women are – yet are less afraid. Men are 40% of the victims of domestic violence (according to Parity). Men are the majority victims of rape – if you include prison rape and ‘made to penetrate’. Men get equal abuse to women online and the peak target of online abuse and cyberbullying is the 19 year old male – according to Know the Net and Ditch the Label.

Genuine Men’s Issues

The Men’s Movement raises genuine issues, amongst them criticism of the dominant feminist narrative in media and academia and the problems it creates. Outside of that, other genuine men’s issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Work safety.
  • Medical funding.
  • The justice system.
  • University courts.
  • Alimony.
  • Child custody bias.
  • Censorship.
  • Military service & the draft.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Suicide.

My fellow panellists on Al Jazeera included Jackson Katz, Ravi Chandra, and Eduardo Garcia, they’re all worth checking out too.

I hope I’ve shown that a more reasonable approach can be more effective and that my desire for conversation and dialogue will be reciprocated by reasonable people on the other side of the divide.

A Voice for Me?

contrarian-investingI just posted this to the forum of A Voice for Men. I’ve been participating there for about a month or so to try and get a hook on and monitor the other side of the ongoing gender debate. With recent events it’s just become too toxic and the final straw was me setting off a feminist journalist who I regard as one of the good ones with the potential of coming to mutual understanding.

People are always going to doubt my sincerity and read anything I do – in games, blogging or otherwise – in the worst possible light, but it’s not going to do me any favours to be associated with that site and I don’t want to be associated with it any more, especially if it makes discussion and respect impossible.

I need to find a space that suits me and a place where these kinds of things can be discussed more civilly with fewer preconceptions. I don’t know what form that’ll take yet, maybe a separate blog for men’s issues where I can invite people to participate in and to engage in discussion with and on in a different style. Suggestions are welcome.

At the moment no matter how sincere I am in my attempts to understand where people are coming from, it just leads to hatred and nastiness and there’s little or no reciprocity. This has necessitated me blocking a whole lot of people and creating a list of them so I can keep abreast of the latest dramas.

I’m not about to apologise for who I am, because who I am is not as I am painted by some. I am passionately interested in human rights as a whole, men’s issues in particular and other issues like creeping private censorship etc. Other than continuing to be sincere in my criticisms, arguments and attempts to understand, and to argue and fight in a more low-key and tone-controlled way, I don’t know how else to proceed.

Post follows:

***

When I came here I was clear that I didn’t regard myself as an MHRA, but just as an egalitarian humanist who took an interest in men’s issues.

While AVFM remains a good source of information and a clearing house of good data and well reasoned arguments – on the surface – many of the articles and much of the polemicism is aggravating and deliberately insulting and confrontational. I’m given to understand this is Mr Elam’s intent, as a means of garnering publicity through controversy but while this can sometimes work I feel that – in the current environment especially – it is counterproductive.

So counterproductive, in fact, that when I raised the current issue with the conference threats a feminist journalist I regard as one of the better ones didn’t feel able to condemn it, due to the harassment and rhetoric they’d received via this site. While I don’t think that remotely compares with threats of violence it does underline the problem.

I regard reason and stoicism as being cornerstone male traits and they have even been described that way – negatively – in feminist works. In my opinion it’s necessary to at least try to hold the moral high ground, to be consistent and to not engage in the kind of vicious behaviour and insult slinging men often endure from the radical feminist fringe.

As such I think I need to withdraw even my limited support and participation here – such as it is – and to find my own way to proceed without the negative associations and the toxicity that comes with aspects of this forum, the style many articles are presented in and association with PuA and MGTOW communities. While I think you’re wrong to continue as you are, I respect your right to do so. I just need to find a more measured approach that works for me.

I’m not sure what that’ll be yet.

My conversation (names etc redacted) is attached below.

@Femini Any comment on these conference threats? [REDACTED]

@OurHero I’m not surprised that a site as violent and prejudiced as AVFM has received threats of violence in return, no.

@Femini Could you point me at some of the violence at AVFM? I’ll disassociate myself more if it’s true. Would you condemn this at least?

@OurHero how about the Occidental College rape bombing?
@OurHero I’ll condemn it when Men’s Rights activists come out to condemn centuries of gendered violence and months of specific harassment.

@Femini ‘Dear Muslima…’

@OurHero and I feel like your asking me to condemn this says a lot about your priorities.
@OurHero this is just one of the disgusting things they’ve written about me- [REDACTED]
@OurHero here’s another [REDACTED] complete with professional threats, ‘fuck you you lying cunt’, etc.
@OurHero I have no idea who’s threatening AVFM. I wouldn’t pursue that course of action myself. But I don’t blame people for being angry.

@Femini I am biased. I have bad past experience with the fallout from moral panics and see it again, in this.
@Femini I’ll double check in a bit (in the middle of gardening) but I didn’t see any threats of violence there yet. In the comments?
@Femini Thanks for taking the time to give the refs anyway, I’ll check them out thoroughly in a bit.

@OurHero right. So it’s all fine because they’re not threatening to come to my house and hurt me. Got it.
@OurHero my patience with this is not infinite.

@Femini Being nasty is nasty, and I wish they wouldn’t, but it’s not violence or bomb threats. When you said violence I thought, violence.

@OurHero you seem to think what AVFM say about me is excusable. If so, we have nothing more to say to each other.
@OurHero right. Your position is clear. Given that you’ve also attacked friends of mine in your post about my [REDACTED], and deliberately
@OurHero >disbelieved harassment received by me, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], I give up. I’m not going to engage with you for a while- it’s not good
@OurHero for my mental health.

@Femini And vice versa, though I was making an effort to start over. The criticisms were not intended to be attacks.
@Femini Understand the mental health thing though. Be well and get better soon. x

@OurHero ‘we were making progress’ could you be any more patronising? You have taught me nothing apart from how stubborn
@OurHero the self-pity of some corners of the MRA community can be. Don’t @ me or subtweet me again please.

@Femini I can’t leave that unanswered. ‘We’ as in both of us, as in I thought we were burying the hatchet and understanding a bit more.
@Femini I disagree with their polemical style, but that’s not unique to them and it’s not violence. Again, be well. Try again soon I hope.

Patriarchy & The Second Sex

Second_Sex-20100831At prompting from a feminist pundit of my acquaintance, who I actually like most of the time, I sat down to read The Second Sex. I was told it would support their protestations of ‘patriarchy’, an idea I don’t subscribe to – at least in the modern west – a fact which flabbergasted them. Which isn’t to say patriarchy doesn’t exist or hasn’t existed, one need only look to the Middle East to see it is very much still kicking, just that we’re in a post-patriarchal society here and that it was never that simple or one-sided anyway.

The Second Sex, by Simone de Beavoir is considered a foundational Second Wave feminist tome. The Second Wave of feminism marks the beginning of the transition between the equity feminism of the first wave (concerned entirely with legal equality such as suffrage) and into gender equality – moving beyond the societal and legal sphere into other areas.

It’s the move from equal rights for women to rights for women – a subtle but important distinction.

I read it, a lengthy analysis and commentary follows.

TL;DR: It did nothing to demonstrate the existence of a modern, western patriarchy to me and is of interest only as an historical document, though the 1950s writing means a lot of the science is just plain wrong and it’s almost as hard to read as Shakespeare until you can mentally shift gears. It’s essentially a polemic, a very long and partisan anecdote.

Facts & Myths

The Second Sex operates through an existing, feminist lens. It wears its presuppositions on its sleeve and never really challenges them. They are simply taken as true. This biases the whole piece and without a male perspective on the same issues it exists in unchallenged isolation. Many of these concepts and ideas I do not think would stand up, were a man asked his opinion on them.

By way of example, Beauvoir confidently asserts that a man ‘never thinks of himself as a man’ and that related to this is the use of the masculine pronoun as the default, indicating normalcy and the othering of the female. Ask any man and, unless he’s being economical with the truth, he will tell you that he is often preoccupied with his masculinity.

Masculinity is as much of a performance as femininity, it must be asserted, protected and expressed in order to retain respect of ones peers and to advertise your sexuality. Stepping outside those norms is punishable – unless you have a firm foundation or inalienable maleness – by withdrawal of female interest and scathing male contempt.

As to the masculine pronoun, I don’t know the history when it comes to French, but I can speak to English. ‘Man’ used to mean human and sex was differentiated by prefix. ‘Wer’ for man, ‘Wyf’ for woman. So you would have ‘Werman’ and ‘Wyfman’. Over time the male pronoun withered away and we were left with the etymologically gender neutral ‘man’ while women retained a privileged position of having an identifier. We can only know the subject is a man through individual description or context, he can know the subject is female immediately.

Beauvoir makes some unflattering comparisons with racism and, later in the book, her views on lesbians and racial matters seem similarly problematic to modern eyes. This presents us with something of a problem. If we accept that her views on race and sex (‘Arab troglodytes’ and ‘masculine women’) are the product of her time and context, then we must do the same for her historical references to gender roles. In all three cases, race, sexuality and gender, we’ve moved on and so her work is only really of interest in an historical context.

Beauvoir also attaches the gender struggles to the left/right divide, associating feminist progress with the left and traditional, anti-woman views with the right. Needless to say I reject this, at least as relates to NuFem. My objections to modern feminism stem from a left-anarchist viewpoint, not the right wing. Equally a lot of NuFem seems authoritarian, censorious and concerned with creating and supporting new hierarchical and privileged powers, goals which are the antithesis of both socialism and liberalism.

Needless to say socialist egalitarianism did play a huge roll in securing equal rights but somewhere along the line something changed. It is true to say that many of those against feminism are also on the right and coming at it from a right wing perspective but the commonality between their objections and mine is in the region of personal autonomy and freedom, it’s just they’re libertarian rather than anarchistic.

It is also, I think, a valid criticism of feminism to associate it with the state (which can be left or right). A great deal is made of these right wing anti-feminists of the fact that the state props women up, disproportionately to the manner in which it does men. Men contribute more, women take more. This isn’t entirely a valid criticism since, being child bearers, women have greater recourse to public funds, public medicine etc but with women as a privileged class supported by and having their needs enforced by the state there is some truth in it.

We must not, however, be any less mistrustful of feminists’ arguments: very often their attempt to polemicize robs them of all value. If the “question of women” is so trivial, it is because masculine arrogance turned it into a “quarrel”; when people quarrel, they no longer reason well. What people have endlessly sought to prove is that woman is superior, inferior, or equal to man: created after Adam, she is obviously a secondary being, some say; on the contrary, say others, Adam was only a rough draft, and God perfected the human being when he created Eve; her brain is smaller, but relatively bigger; Christ was made man, but perhaps out of humility. Every argument has its opposite, and both are often misleading. To see clearly, one needs to get out of these ruts; these vague notions of superiority, inferiority, and equality that have distorted all discussions must be discarded in order to start anew.

A somewhat ironic quote given the content of the book, but a notion that I think has a great deal of value to it. This is no longer a discussion. Feminism has become a – pardon the expression – shrill dogma to be screamed at people, not a topic for discussion or questioning. That a book such as this, one long polemic itself, calls out the issue is amusing, but also a warning.

Nothing must be assumed. Everything must be questioned, supported and examined.

Nullius in verba.

Another example of Beauvoir’s presupposition is in apparently thinking that the issue of biological and behavioural differences between the sexes is settled, though she seems to contradict herself elsewhere. A great deal of time is spent speaking, pointlessly, about very different species and their myriad of gender expressions and reproductive strategies – none of which are really relevant to humans.

If we want to examine animals to understand humans – and there are issues in trying to examine ourselves, despite the best efforts of Desmond Morris – we would need to look to the other apes. From chimpanzees in particular, our closest genetic cousins, we can perhaps see some of the behaviours and roles that shaped our own far prehistory.

There are differences between the sexes, genetically (and hence biologically) which are also likely to manifest in behavioural differences as well as physical differences. We’re a pretty dimorphic species, especially when it comes to sexual characteristics but we also note differences in the brain. In raw terms women have more white matter and men more grey matter, but we see much more autism spectrum in boys too as opposed to girls (1.8% vs 0.2%) and much more borderline personality disorder in girls than boys (80% vs 20% of diagnosed cases).

The differences in physical capacity are obvious and undeniable, but people will try to deny them by pointing out that ability is distributed on a bell curve. This is true, but it is not only at the extremes that we see the difference. The average man is stronger than the average woman. The average woman has greater endurance than the average man.

When it comes to capabilities that aren’t raw and physical things get muddier. IQ experiments and others for interpersonal skills and so forth are too controversial for many to pursue, though it seems likely that our capacities in intelligence at least are equal, but different. Neuroplasticity is the latest way to try and discredit biological truths when it comes to the brain and nervous system, but it cannot account for the changes since birth.

Behavioural differences are even harder to prove and even more controversial with few even daring to try.

While it is true that bad science has been twisted to support gender stereotypes in the past, just as it has race, the best way to refute these issues is with more, better and well evidenced science. The hostility to concepts such as evolutionary psychology are not based on good scientific objections, but on there being a desire for science not to find innate behavioural differences. That’s just as bad as abusing science trying to prove that there are.

Ideology should never be allowed to interfere with science, and yet we’ve recently seen ‘feminist biology’ emerge rooted in ideological objections to how biology has been presumed to study in the past. If you want historical lessons on how bad an idea this is, check out Lysenkoism.

There are certain biological truths implicit in our genders. Beauvoir both recognises and rejects this throughout the work, which makes it more than a little confusing as to what her stance actually is.

It is a currently inescapable truth that women carry babies. This has certain knock on social and physical effects which Beauvoir covers adequately and which I don’t feel need re-stating. The part she misses is that female vulnerability and status as child-bearers goes hand in hand with male disposability. A man is expected to sacrifice himself to protect women and there are sound evolutionary reasons as to why this would be so. From a certain perspective that also puts women in the privileged position of being the ones who are sacrificed for and while the ‘savannah ape’ we like to imagine might have done that by providing a cave bear with lunch, in other times the sacrifice has been made in terms of labour, resources and even legal punishment.

There are big sections on Freudian psychology and on Historical Materialism, both of which are largely out of favour and considered wrong or at least outdated, so there’s not a lot of meat here for the modern reader unless – again – they’re interested in the history of feminism and the socio-economic and political context in which it existed in the 1940s and 1950s.

An economic examination, supply, demand and labour, may still be useful however and it is certainly a favourite amongst the libertarian objectors I know. Men have the demand for sex and children, women have the supply. Historically men have traded labour not exactly in exchange for these things, but to prove his worth and his capacity to care for the woman. In Marxist terms you could consider men then – at least historically – to be the proletariat and women to be a sort of ‘gender bourgeoisie’ living off the labour of others. This is, of course, simplistic and the division of labour was and is not exactly down gender lines but we can see vestiges of this in the expectations of gifts, paying for dinner etc and the way in which the home-making partner (still predominantly women) controls the joint finances.

Historically, as Beauvoir admits, male dominance was down to raw physicality. Males were the better hunters, the better fighters and eventually the better manual workers and farmers, simply because of greater muscle strength and size. Systems emergent from that favoured men in certain ways and women in others. Rather than a patriarchy per se you might describe such emergent organisation as paternalistic. Back then this might have held some water but in the modern technological age such excuses do not stand up to scrutiny as raw power is no longer related to societal or economic power. This paternalism, incidentally, is often the excuse offered within Sharia Islam for its treatment of women – protecting and treasuring them.

“Later, more value was attached to children. But in any case, to give birth and to breast-feed are not activities but natural functions; they do not involve a project, which is why the woman finds no motive there to claim a higher meaning for her existence; she passively submits to her biological destiny.”

I do not know that this remains true in a post-industrial and post-pill world. The great liberators of women have been advances in medicine, industrialisation and contraception. Birth is no longer as dangerous, work is available (almost) despite physicality and reproduction is now under our control. As such it is a choice, not a destiny and to give birth and care for a child are, now, chosen activities.

“Little by little, man mediated his experience, and in his representations, as in his practical existence, the male principle triumphed. Spirit prevailed over Life, transcendence over immanence, technology over magic, and reason over superstition.” – It is these victories that have enabled female emancipation.

This theme occurred earlier in the work as well, the association of these qualities with ‘maleness’. I’m not sure I agree with the first two, in my experience women are more spiritual, on average, in both meanings presented here. Technology over magic and reason over superstition I have had described to me as ‘bad’ and even ‘phallocentric’ by a certain type of feminist and yet I find that confusing. Reason and technology are available to anyone and how can understanding reality and applying that understanding be bad? If these are male qualities yet they have enabled female emancipation, then where precisely is the problem?

Why is man being described as an oppressor in these instances if his actions and victories have liberated women? Oppressor/protector depends on your paradigmal lens and – funnily enough – reason is the only way to try and see without that distortion. It is the same with supposed male privilege which, from a different point of view, can be seen not as privilege but as duty, imposition, or connected with those things.

“It is natural for them to give woman a subordinate situation; one might imagine, however, that they would consider her with the same benevolence as children and animals. But no. Afraid of woman, legislators organize her oppression.”

When this was the case, no argument. However, in this day and age legislation has defined us equally and given women more rights, privileges and concerns than men in many arenas. Are we, then, to consider men as an oppressed class? If we admit that oppression must be enacted through governmental force than how can women – any longer – be oppressed?

Women did used to be paid lower wages and it’s interesting to compare this, and the reaction, to modern concerns about immigration – especially coming on the back of UKIP doing well in the local elections. When women entered the workforce in larger numbers, they already had access to money – their husband’s – so the wages were not so important to them. They were willing, for a long time, to work for less than the going rate. This had a depressing effect on wages for men as well and, to their mind, threatened their jobs. Exactly the same complaints we see today about migrant workers, fear dressed up as racism just as fear was once dressed up as sexism.

Beauvoir often makes assertions about mens’ motivations and thoughts in a way that doesn’t seem, to me, to be justified and rather seems like speculation or dubious psychoanalysis. She ascribes huge meaning to silly things like boys being able to pee standing up, for example, a supposed empowerment that men have that made me laugh out loud but which was treated with great seriousness.

Another example is in thinking that in showing off his wife or girlfriend, revelling in and being validated by her affection, he is making a dominance display. She thinks a man ‘claims’ or ‘wins’ or ‘takes’ a woman rather than persuading, convincing and wooing and doesn’t recognise that it is her choice of him that gives him validation.

“Clearly man wants woman’s enslavement when fantasizing himself as a benefactor, liberator, or redeemer; if Sleeping Beauty is to be awakened, she must be sleeping; to have a captive princess, there must be ogres and dragons. And the greater man’s taste for difficult undertakings, the greater his pleasure in granting woman independence. Conquering is more fascinating than rescuing or giving. The average Western male’s ideal is a woman who freely submits to his domination, who does not accept his ideas without some discussion, but who yields to his reasoning, who intelligently resists but yields in the end.”

Why not yearn to be a hero? If you are liberating, helping or redeeming you are acting as an aid and supporter, trying to prove your worth. It’s not about the woman’s helplessness but her power as the gatekeeper to affection and self worth. The hero proves himself through his deeds in a manner more semantically rich, but no less demonstrative or deep than stags locking horns in front of a doe.

She says it herself, a man might want someone who submits – freely. Who accepts his arguments – because they’re sound. These, also, are about proving himself worthy.

I’ve never had much time for literary analysis, but the book contains a lot of it. It’s subjective analysis and I don’t especially want to spend time on it. I see it as being almost as pointless as the in depth analysis of pop culture today. The curtains were fucking blue.

Lived Experience

Oh, how I hate that phrase, along with ‘the personal is political’. I much prefer ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’ which, while considered rude, is really all you need to say when someone presents a story about their subjective personal experience as inalienable fact.

This renders much of this second half of the book irrelevant, as it is entirely subjective and personal though, again, it may be of some historical interest.

“Women of today are overthrowing the myth of femininity; they are beginning to affirm their independence concretely; but their success in living their human condition completely does not come easily. As they are brought up by women, in the heart of a feminine world, their normal destiny is marriage, which still subordinates them to man from a practical point of view; virile prestige is far from being eradicated: it still stands on solid economic and social bases.”

If the bases are solid then this is not prejudice or sexism but an emergent quality of social and economic interaction. Femininity, femaleness, does not seem to me to be a myth any more or less than maleness is. Our definitions and gender-suits (see fiction suit concept from Grant Morrison) may be too tight and too restrictive but I don’t think we can entirely eliminate innate, widespread qualities from our analysis.

Lest we forget, marriage is also the destiny of man.

Beauvoir also talks about the different experiences of childhood with girls being coddled for longer and boys being forced at a younger age to learn self reliance and stoicism. She presents this as an argument for patriarchy while I would hold it as an argument against. If this harms boys, as seems to be the argument, then it can hardly be patriarchal. Furthermore there are positives to having complimentary gender roles and a little stoicism can be a good thing, just as more developed empathy.

Menstruation is presented as traumatic, and doubtless it is, but boys suffer their own humiliations that stem from bodily changes from voices squeaking mid sentence to penis growth, mystery erections, wet dreams and learning to control and ignore a powerful sex drive. Puberty is not easy for either gender in any way.

“True, puberty transforms the girl’s body. It is more fragile than before; female organs are vulnerable, their functioning delicate; strange and uncomfortable, breasts are a burden; they remind her of their presence during strenuous exercise, they quiver, they ache. From here on, woman’s muscle force, endurance, and suppleness are inferior to man’s. Hormonal imbalances create nervous and vasomotor instability. Menstrual periods are painful: headaches, stiffness, and abdominal cramps make normal activities painful and even impossible; added to these discomforts are psychic problems; nervous and irritable, the woman frequently undergoes a state of semi-alienation each month; central control of the nervous and sympathetic systems is no longer assured; circulation problems and some autointoxications turn the body into a screen between the woman and the world, a burning fog that weighs on her, stifling her and separating her: experienced through this suffering and passive flesh, the entire universe is a burden too heavy to bear. Oppressed and submerged, she becomes a stranger to herself because she is a stranger to the rest of the world. Syntheses disintegrate, instants are no longer connected, others are recognized but only abstractly; and if reasoning and logic do remain intact, as in melancholic delirium, they are subordinated to passions that surge out of organic disorder.”

This is a boggling thing to read in a feminist book since these are the kinds of justifications misogynists give as to why women are ‘inferior’. Male hormones are no picnic either and they are unrelenting in their assault, constantly requiring control and will. This whole passage seems counterproductive if the aim is for equality and it presents the experience in a way that denigrates and belittles women in far stronger terms than I would ever care to do.

“The woman is penetrated and impregnated through the vagina; it becomes an erotic center uniquely through the intervention of the male, and this always constitutes a kind of rape.”

I wonder, perhaps, if this is the genesis of the ‘all sex is rape’ meme. It seems obvious, to me, that in context this is a metaphor – one reused later in the book – but some seem to have taken it to heart. In context the word ‘rape’ here seems to mean in the sense of plunder and despoil, trying to describe the first act of sex as traumatic rather than as literal rape. Somewhat ironic given the use of this meaning in computer games and online discourse, meeting with stern feminist disapproval.

“Nothing forbids the male to act the master, to take inferior creatures: ancillary loves have always been tolerated, whereas the bourgeois woman who gives herself to a chauffeur or a gardener is socially degraded.”

I don’t know that this is true any more, at least not to the extent in that time. If anything it feels more that condemnation of straying men has increased and women’s ability to play the field has increased. NuFem is a force I see as archly conservative and censorious and anti (male) sex. A great deal of slut-shaming seems to come from some quarters of NuFem especially with relation to pornography and sex work (though I recognise that this is not universal). Even men who don’t cheat, men who use pornography for example, are subject to shaming which becomes more ridiculous as adult content becomes ever more ubiquitous and common a field of experience.

“Man commits a grave error when he attempts to impose his own rhythm on his partner and when he is determined to give her an orgasm: often he only manages to destroy the form of pleasure she was experiencing in her own way.”

That men care about their partner’s pleasure is surely a victory for feminism? The pressure on men to perform is now immense. If he can’t make his partner multiple orgasm he has failed as a lover and I am not entirely sure the women I know would agree that striving to make them cum is a bad thing.

“Marriage has always been presented in radically different ways for men and for women. The two sexes are necessary for each other, but this necessity has never fostered reciprocity; women have never constituted a caste establishing exchanges and contracts on an equal footing with men. Man is a socially autonomous and complete individual; he is regarded above all as a producer, and his existence is justified by the work he provides for the group; we have already seen the reasons why the reproductive and domestic role to which woman is confined has not guaranteed her an equal dignity.”

There is a failure here to see that this role is also an imposition upon the man and demanding a sacrifice from him. His productive capacity traditionally went to looking after his wife and family. His worth was only what he could provide. Her worth was more intrinsic, a woman valued simply by being a woman and she would live on the sweat of his brow. House work was, of course, work but compared to – say – coal mining or fishing, not the deadliest of occupations. None of this remains true and men and woman are no longer equal partners going into these marriages.

Women no longer need men. At least not directly.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. Men still need women, or at least want them.

Conclusion

While an interesting – if difficult – read, this book has not served to convince me of the existence of a modern, western patriarchy. Some of the points made in the book were surprising but it is really only of historical interest. It makes no real case for itself, no real argument, rather it is a series of anecdotes cobbled together into a polemic.

Much of it is outdated, it lacks ‘peer review’ from a male standpoint, it makes a lot of bald assumptions and rests on too many presuppositions. Despite all these flaws it is somehow regarded as a very important piece on feminist philosophy and the advent of second wave feminism. That such a foundational document is nothing more than anecdote, speculation and cod psychology I find deeply concerning.

Sorry, it didn’t have the desired effect.