Sex is Oppressive; To Men

imagesCAYKT4J6This is an exercise in satire and gender-bollocks in the form of ‘frog boiling’ by slow degrees of seemingly relatively sane propositions, building to an irrational whole. I was curious how easy it might be to make a lunatic case using the kind of nonsense I have run into reading blogs and papers on Gender Studies issues and this is the result. References are intentionally as poor or comedic as I have run across in serious works and while there’s some truths or half-truths presented here, it’s intended as an exercise in bullshitting.

Introduction

Trigger Warning: This paper is concerned with heteronormative intercourse between cisgender individuals. Same-sex and trans intercourse is beyond the scope of this work.

There is a somewhat common conception that normative, heterosexual intercourse is necessarily an imposition on the woman and a matter of oppression.

Whether this comes from Dworkin’s ‘Violation is a synonym for intercourse'[1] or Lady Hillington’s ‘Lie back and think of England'[2] it seems that the two sides of the political spectrum, left and right, both agree that sex is an horrible ordeal and an unwanted imposition. While Dworkin’s words are often claimed to be misrepresented, at least some modern feminists agree with her radical statement, making this a subject worth investigating.[3]

While unwanted or duty-oriented sex may indeed be a momentary imposition oppression is defined as ‘prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority‘[4] which would require a much broader context than the mere act itself.

In this instance I argue that there is a much stronger case to be made that the act of sexual congress is an imposition and oppressive societal act upon men.

Approaching Intercourse

The oppression inherent in the pursuit and act of intercourse begins long before things might reach the bedroom. Men are expected to take all the risks and to make all the outlay.

Men are still expected to make the first move in approaching a potential partner[5].

Even in long term relationships men are expected to initiate the sex act[6].

The requirement for men to perform well (bring their partner to orgasm) and its precedence over other laudable qualities as a mate is a broadly accepted societal ‘meme’ or ‘trope’, even celebrated in pop culture[7].

The emotional risk at each step falls primarily upon the man. Incidental factors such as the cost of dates etc falling primarily upon the man[8] are also there. With that risk comes the possibility of emotional harm, loss of status, mockery and pain on par with physical harm[9].

It is not a stretch to consider this cruel, prolonged (lifelong) and an exercising of authority, as affirmative consent always lays with the woman, backed up by the power of the state[10].

The Act Itself

Should the man approach a potential partner successfully and initiate intercourse without rejection, his ordeal is not over because his pleasure and needs are almost entirely incidental to to act of physical love.

Male pleasure is devalued during intercourse via a combination of physical, social and relational impositions.

Physically, it typically takes a man 5-7 minutes to come to orgasm (intravaginally) while a woman generally takes at least 20 minutes of stimulation to achieve orgasm.[11][12]. Men have a refractory period of at least 15 minutes while women do not have a refractory period at all[13].

If sex were to be described as a game, then the ‘win state’ is the female orgasm and, for the majority of the period of intercourse the male orgasm would be considered a ‘fail state’ as it would bring an end to the act, and without having achieved the ‘win state’. After the female partner has achieved orgasm, the male orgasm – male pleasure – is virtually incidental and of much lesser value or concern.

The goal is almost never the male orgasm and this is reflected in media depictions which linger upon the cries and wild physical motions of a woman in the throes of ecstasy but which barely depict men’s pleasure, let alone ejaculation.

Even in pornography, a supposed misogynistic haven, whether acted or not the actors – and thus via transference the viewer – establish their virility and sexual worth by bringing their partners to (fake or genuine) orgasm.

This is even true at the more extreme end, of male-dominant BDSM and rough sex works which, though they would seem to be fixated upon male dominance and pleasure offers the same orgasmic female cues as mainstream erotic cinema and offers disclaimers in which the female performers assure the viewer (and presumably critics) that they enjoy what they’re doing wholeheartedly – returning the narrative to their pleasure and denying the viewer even the fantasy of being given primacy in the sex act[14].

Consequences

However safe one tries to be, sex can have consequences. The most consequential of these possible consequences is, of course, pregnancy and here again the oppressive tendency against men continues.

In the case of unexpected or unwanted pregnancy women have plenty of reproductive rights and options, across the western world. These run from abortions to adoptions to safe-haven abandonment laws[15].

In stark contrast men have absolutely no reproductive rights, whatsoever. They are held accountable for any offspring resulting from intercourse regardless of their wishes and even, in some cases, when their own sexual consent has been violated[16].

 

Conclusion

From initiation to conclusion and consequences, sex is an oppressive act against men. They are expected to expose themselves to rejection, dejection, loss of status, loss of partner, pain and harm in pursuing it. The cost of pursuit primarily falls upon them. During sex the man’s pleasure and comfort is deprecated in comparison to that of the woman – whose pleasure is paramount and not incidental. Should the sex result in an unwanted child the man has zero recourse and can be forced into indentured servitude in service of his sex partner and their child until the child achieves maturity. At every stage this is enforced by both social convention and the state and, given the innate physical nature of sexual performance differences between the genders it is hard not to see this oppression as gendered.

[1] Intercourse: A. Dworkin
[2] http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/close-your-eyes-and-think-of-england.html
[3] https://witchwind.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/piv-is-always-rape-ok/
[4] Oxford English Dictionary (online version)
[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-how-and-why-sex-differences/201104/why-dont-women-ask-men-out-first-dates
[6] http://www.today.com/health/ivillage-2013-married-sex-survey-results-1D80245229
[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUYaosyR4bE
[8] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2562054/Chivalry-not-dead-Most-men-pay-date-women-secretly-happy-do.html
[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/guy-winch-phd/this-is-your-brain-on-rej_b_3749885.html?utm_hp_ref=science
[10] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/education/edlife/affirmative-consent-are-students-really-asking.html
[11] Waldinger, M.D.; Quinn, P.; Dilleen, M.; Mundayat, R.; Schweitzer, D.H.; Boolell, M. (2005). “A Multinational Population Survey of Intravaginal Ejaculation Latency Time”. Journal of Sexual Medicine.
[12] http://www.webmd.boots.com/sex-relationships/guide/what-happens-to-body-during-sex
[13] “The Sexual Response Cycle”. University of California, Santa Barbara.
[14] http://www.sexandsubmission.com/site/?c=1
[15] http://worldabortionlaws.com/
[16] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/05/nick-olivas-alleged-rape-victim-_n_5773532.html

A New Culture of Misogyny?

Misandry-report

Sinfest. Used to be funny. This one’s just ironic.

My original piece on the BBC TV documentary ‘Blurred Lines’ was intended as a counter to the show, which was incredibly biased and one sided with only two, half-hearted opposing views being presented. This article is intended to be a more balanced examination of some of the issues presented in the show.

The central issue presented by the show is to claim that we’re in a new era of misogyny and sexism, made worse by the media, culture and – in particular – the internet.

To determine whether this is true or not, we first need to understand what is meant by ‘misogyny’ and ‘sexism’.

What is Misogyny?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as:
Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Feminism has its own definition – or definitions – of misogyny as it does with other terms. There doesn’t seem to be any particular, overall agreement on the term but it does seem to go beyond the commonly understood meaning from the OED.

Commonly referenced in online debates and arguments the Finally Feminism 101 blog describes misogyny more broadly as:

Misogyny is a… more personal and emotional prejudice, resulting in contempt, scorn and dismissiveness towards women who step outside the bounds sexism lays down as appropriate. Misogynistic anger openly displayed against women who challenge their sexist preconceptions is part of an intimidatory silencing tactics arsenal, and of course the perpetrators don’t display those tactics against women who stay within the notional boundaries – approval is the reward for behaving appropriately.

What is Sexism?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sexism as:

Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Again, feminism has its own definition. Unlike misogyny’s feminist definition, the sexism definition is fairly consistent and is also found in arenas like racial discrimination. Within feminism, sexism is defined as:

Sexism is both discrimination based on gender and the attitudes, stereotypes, and the cultural elements that promote this discrimination. Given the historical and continued imbalance of power, where men as a class are privileged over women as a class (see male privilege), an important, but often overlooked, part of the term is that sexism is prejudice plus power. Thus feminists reject the notion that women can be sexist towards men because women lack the institutional power that men have.

This definition has come in for considerable criticism as it excludes sexism from women towards men, and has been used to excuse prejudice and bigotry towards men, but in this context that’s not especially relevant.

How can we examine this claim?

How can we hope to quantify something as subjective as misogyny or sexism? It’s a very challenging question to try and answer but we can make a few safe assumptions that might allow us to examine, at least, the truth of the claim that things are getting worse and – if they are – where the blame might possibly lie.

If misogyny has gotten worse, if sexism has gotten worse, we might well expect indicators stemming from that spread in various measures of gender equality, sex crime and similar concerns. We do have statistics on these factors that we can examine and, while methodologies have changed over time, some have remained the same for long periods of time.

So, are things Worse?

By any objective measure the situation for women has not gotten worse.

  • The World Economic Forum lists the United Kingdom as being 18th out of 136 countries in terms of gender equality, improving from a score of 0.7365 in 2006 to 0.7440 in 2013.
  • According to the British Crime Survey (chapter 4 Intimate personal violence and domestic abuse) sexual assault (against women) has dropped by around 1% since 2005 and domestic violence and stalking (against women) has dropped by 2.5% since 2005.
  • This is part of a longer term trend which has been noted across western countries, showing that sex crimes have nosedived since the 1990s. (The correlation of this to access to online pornography is well covered in Freakonomics and A Billion Wicked Thoughts).

Figure_1._Rape_and_sexual_assault_victimization_rates_among_females,_1995–2010

Conclusion

Whatever the case when it comes to the subjective experience of misogyny and sexism, the statistics simply don’t support a conclusion that things are getting worse for women. It would be my suspicion that rather than things getting worse we are seeing a higher degree of sensitivity and an ongoing clash of gender influenced behaviour and expectations as we adjust to a wired-up world.

A Fundamental Problem

The assumption of misogyny on the part of trolls, smack-talking online game players, singing sports teams and off-colour comedians is not a safe assumption. Expression is not, necessarily, an indicator of true values.

You can think of much of this, but especially the trolling and smack talking, as being akin to acting. The Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz, played Hitler, but nobody would make the immediate presumption that he was a Nazi simply because he played the part.

When it comes to trolls and smack-talking in online games the motivation is similar. In both instances the person is trying to get a rise. Amongst trolls the reaction and distress is what they are after while in online games they are seeking to make their opponent upset in order to gain advantage or to cause them to quit.

This has been known for some time and it isn’t to say that trolling isn’t problematic but, rather that thinking a troll is genuinely misogynistic or sexist and to take it seriously on that basis is to misdiagnose the problem. Trolls are, often, sadistic, psychopathic or sociopathic but that is no indicator of any views whatsoever.

We’ve had all this straight from the horse’s mouth before. Trolls are perfectly willing to explain why they do what they do and genuinely holding misogynistic or other nasty views doesn’t seem to rate mention.

Troll/Activist Synergy

Since trolling first emerged as a recognisible phenomenon on Usenet the received wisdom has been ‘Don’t feed the trolls’. The trolls want attention, want a reaction and the bigger the reaction the better, if you deny them that reaction they go away. That has been true and it has been the only way to deal with the problem and preserve the value of internet anonymity and security.

So what has changed? Why are the Criado-Perezs, Suey Parks and Anita Sarkeesian’s of this world suddenly playing up the trolling and treating it seriously?

Criado-Perez’s profile and cause was advanced by taking the trolling seriously, it got her a great deal of attention, media appearances, sympathy and social and political capital to spend on her activism. Same for Suey Park.

Sarkeesian made $160,000 off the back of it, along with awards and becoming the go-to spokeswoman for women in gaming despite being revealed as a fraud, a thief (more than once) and being linked to exploitative junk science (handwriting analysis) and pyramid schemes. Being able to point at trolls and act as though they were serious allows her to deflect attention from these problems and to ignore the wealth of, in depth, legitimate criticism of her analysis and positions, to block comments on her videos and even to ignore people asking where she’s spent the money.

Nor has the vehement reaction to Sarkeesian been unique and nor is it gendered. Much has been made of the cheap and nasty flash game someone made where you could slap Sarkeesian around and the abuse she had gotten, but those with a memory may remember another person who attacked the gaming culture, Jack Thompson, getting virtually identical treatment.

There’s at least one study that shows men suffer as many threats and as much abuse online (or more), but it’s telling that I had huge trouble finding it due to the way in which the Google search terms are completely flooded with the singular concern over the threats made towards women online. Ditch the Label also found the bullying was equal, not directed especially at women.

Why Might Men be Resentful?

I think the above, in which I’ve striven to support my assertions and to present a more balanced view than the previous article demonstrates that what is going on is not what is being assumed by activists are two different things. If we can properly identify what is going on without the pre-existing assumptions we may be able to figure out ways to cope with or address the issues as they actually are.

Is there any legitimacy to the claims that men – or at least many men – are resentful, angry or upset?

There, I think, there are some things to be considered, but the existing feminism dominated paradigm is too fixated on the idea that men are bad and that everything is their fault. The problems men face aren’t taken seriously and these kinds of anti-male accusations end up contributing to the problem rather than helping to solve anything.

If men are feeling disaffected and besieged, it does not mean that they’re afraid or angry because their supposed privilege and power is being eroded. It can be – and I think is – down to genuine inequality, unfairness and the loss of respect and rights without a commensurate reduction in responsibilities.

What we have at the moment needs to be replaced with a genuine, properly informed dialogue that takes in both sides.

Male Slut Shaming II

fetish-bettiepage

In a comment in the previous blog on this, I got a rather long reply. Which I’ll address here as a separate topic.

While I agree that men should feel comfortable buying sex toys, etc, I find this part problematic:

“If a man likes violent pornography, rough sex or rape fantasies the expectation is different. The alarm triggers go off and it is going to be thought they’re a risk. It’s going to be thought that because they enjoy the fantasy they’re going to want to do the deed. They are not afforded the same understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy that a woman is.”

and

“You know Christian Bale isn’t Batman. Right? What’s the difference? He beats up the Joker for our gratification, Jenna Jameson takes a facial for our gratification. The entertainment doesn’t define the person.”

1.) I would question what part of a supposedly benevolent, kind, and empathetic man fantasizes about raping women – this is a direct contradiction. If a man fantasized about killing people, beating people, etc, I would feel the same way. The only way you can reconcile this contradiction is if you admit that these fantasies don’t come out of the kindness of a person’s heart; why should I see a man who wants to degrade me as laudable? Utterly illogical.

This is the very point addressed in the previous blog. Not only do critics seem unable to disentangle reality from fantasy in a way that would be  worrying in a consumer of ‘problematic’ media, but they seem to not understand that nice, wonderful people can have dark fantasies. Have you never been cut up in traffic and imagined, in your mind’s eye, pulling a trigger on the steering wheel to machinegun them James Bond style? It’s not a nice thought when you actually consider it, is it? Yes it is arguably a common fantasy.

It’s not laudable, but it’s also not something to be condemned either. It’s neutral, it’s fantasy, it isn’t real. What we do have here is a marked gender difference. While such fantasies aren’t  necessarily accepted by some women, it is a lot more acceptable for a woman to have rape fantasies than it is for a man to express the counterpart.

This seems a little, well, sexist.

If we can understand that a woman’s forced-sex fantasy is only a fantasy and doesn’t reflect a genuine desire to be attacked, then why can’t we accept and understand the same for the other sex?

Prejudice.

There are psychological studies demonstrating a link between violent porn and sexist and rape apologetic attitudes. It’s also fascinating to me how one can try to entirely obliterate the fact that fantasy is influenced by reality. For instance, women aren’t called sluts, whores, bitches, and hoes in porn because of a fantasy. Women are called these terms because these terms (that have no male equivalent with the same connotations) are applied to sexual women in day-to-day life and because we live in a still-sexist society. Nothing fantastical about it.

There are also psychological studies showing the opposite and that porn etc provides a useful and societally beneficial outlet for sexual tension and frustration. If you think there’s no equivalents to these terms, I suggest acquainting yourself better with gay porn, male prostitution and the world outside your front door. There is sexism in society, yes, but it runs both ways. You demonstrate it in your assumptions about men, about talking dirty and in your readiness to uncritically accept evidence that suits your conclusion.

A summary of some of the research showing this within the last five years or so is found here.

This seems to be a similar issue in many ways, oddly, to the abortion one. Countries with the lowest rates of abortion have easy access to it, easy access to contraception and good sex education. Yet, if you look at the US the anti-abortion crowd are against all of these things which, ironically, is pretty much guaranteed to increase the number of abortions and teen pregnancies. For them, the trouble is that it goes against their political orthodoxy, so they resist the unquestionable data.

It’s much the same with decriminalisation and legalisation/regulation of drugs.

With pornography the problem is that feminist dogma cannot accept that it can contribute to a lessening of harm, so an irrational opposition based on politically justified personal distaste rules the day.

2.) Jenna Jameson authored a book called “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star” that was quite critical of the porn industry. The difference is that Christian Bale isn’t actually beating up the joker (and hopefully people aren’t actually getting pleasure from another’s pain from a film), while that girl in a porno may or may be enjoying it for your pleasure. One thing worth mentioning is why porn has gotten increasingly more violent and degrading; facials didn’t used to be common at all. In fact, there are pornographers themselves who have gone on the record about needing to produce more shocking porn in accordance to the viewer’s taste, and yes, most of this porn is violent against women. It’s easy to say there’s nothing wrong with it, and I do believe porn portrays sexual acts that aren’t intrinsically degrading as needlessly degrading, but when many men are leaving comments along the lines of “make that bitch take it” and “cum on that fucking whore’s face” on porn videos, it makes me wonder.

And yet she worked in it for a long time, consensually, and made pots of money. As have many others. It’s their bodily and creative autonomy at stake but again, political orthodoxy apparently requires that women who make the ‘wrong’ choices (adult work, homemaking etc) must be criticised and demonised – like they didn’t already have enough.

Bale might not actually be beating up the Joker, but stunt men and fight coordinators are engaging in dangerous physical acts for our enjoyment. It’s really not so different as you have tried to unravel it to be.

I wouldn’t take comments on porn videos any more seriously than I take comments on Youtube or newspaper articles. Again, I think you’re not really understanding ‘talking dirty’. New and more exciting – or less familiar – content is  sought in any and all media. Why would porn be any exception? It also serves, rather than creates, a market per se. Facials are thought to stimulate ‘sperm competition’ and hence arousal. What you need to reconcile is that women are increasingly consuming and enjoying porn – even extreme porn – and not only in the form of 50 Shades. For a great look at this I suggest reading A Billion Wicked Thoughts, which, while already out of date explores this – amongst other themes.

You aren’t addressing any of the negative effects of the porn industry which, sorry to say, exist.

For instance:

http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/7/4/454.abstract

http://www1.umn.edu/aurora/pdf/ResearchOnPornography.pdf

You also may find this interesting:

http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Anti-Porn%20Activist/4

http://www.heyepiphora.com/2011/02/porn-degradation-and-khan-tusion/

While I don’t believe in censorship and think people should be able to do as they please, you don’t recognize intricacies and while I may agree that there’s nothing wrong with finding women attractive, porn is another issue altogether that goes far beyond that. If analyzed, it’s often a sociological study in society’s sexism, and even racism and classism, as evidenced by porn that scorns “white trash” women and utilizes negative racist stereotypes. I don’t believe porn needs to be sexist, either, and there is absolutely porn that isn’t problematic out there.

If you don’t see any issues with porn, deeper issues lie with you.

I believe the first few I’ve addressed. As to the last one, there are shitty people in any and every industry and type of work. Where I used to work my boss embezzled money, ultimately causing me and several others to lose our jobs due to the missing money. I work in publishing now and there’s some real shits who don’t just pirate, but pirate, steal art, reprint and sell books.

To further wear out a tired old phrase, the plural of anecdote is not data.

We live in an apparent age of neo-puritanism that threatens to stifle creativity, sexuality and to fuck up an entire generation or two of men by convincing them they carry around some sort of ‘original sin’ for the crime of having a penis. It’s entirely possible that some of this dominant and aggressive porn is a reaction to that, an outlet. These scare stories about pornography have been around before about comics, Dungeons & Dragons, heavy metal music and computer games. In every case there’s been no good data to support the idea that the media causes the behaviour and there’s no reason to think porn is any different.

There’s room for fantasies of all sorts, including ‘problematic’ ones. Variety is good in all things, but that’s going to include things that you don’t happen to like. If there’s no demonstrable harm, then why try to interfere in people’s sex lives? Real or fantastical? Why try to deny or interfere in women’s ability to choose a career in adult work? Why judge the consumer and try to shame him in the same way evangelicals do with homosexuals?

Where I have some agreement with you is on the racial thing. I just don’t ‘get it’, but I recognise my cultural and political biases in relation to it. The racism against blacks in American pornography is, frankly, weird to me as a Brit, but it seems to be a powerful fetish there for some reason and the black actors are doing the work willingly so despite my disquiet I have to notch that up to ‘Who am I to judge?’ as well.

Who is really the progressive here?

Skeptical About Misogyny

2010-02-28-sexist-pig

Context is everything.

This Slate article from last year by Rebecca Watson is doing the rounds again and is being treated as gospel by some people. The issues and problems raised in and by the article are relevant to various things going on at the moment in various spheres I’m involved in. Some of the tactics are reminiscent of the rhetoric around the government porn ban, similar groups of radical feminists and other disruptive influences are trying to use the same sort of arguments and tactics in nerd/geek/gaming culture and this is worrisome.

I’ve been horribly mean about Watson in the past, not because she’s a woman but because she seems to me to be a dishonest opportunist. Still, I’ll try and keep this relatively level-headed and civil to make the necessary points.

So using quotes from the article as prompts…

When I first started finding a large audience on my skepticism website, on my podcast, and on YouTube, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the occasional rape threat, sexist slur, or insult about my looks. There was something downright amusing about a creationist calling me a cunt while praying that I’d find the love of Jesus. The threats were coming from outside of my community. Outside of my safe space.

At this point in Watson’s career she was properly focussed on skepticism and atheism. These were the things she presented and these were the things that were attacked. Some of it by trolls, some of it by people who genuinely opposed her – probably from the religious and woo communities. We all get this, we skeptics, the death threats, the sexual threats, the rape threats. We get told we’re going to burn in hell forever, or that people will beat us up. Muslims threaten to behead us. It’s not like this is limited to skeptics either. Post an opinion, any opinion, on a political forum and see the abuse you get. Identify yourself as gay, bisexual, transexual, black, Asian, whatever and someone is going to use that to try and attack you. Basically, the rule is, if you say something somewhere on the internet someone is going to take loud and obnoxious issue with it. Show a weakness, someone is going to troll you.

It wasn’t until I started talking about feminism to skeptics that I realized I didn’t have a safe space.

Why would a safe space to be a skeptic and atheist necessarily be a safe space to talk about feminism? Why would someone like Watson think that skepticism wouldn’t also be extended to her ideological beliefs about gender? I wouldn’t expect a knitting circle to necessarily share my views about free expression when it comes to pornography so why would someone expect a skeptic space to be automatically welcoming and accepting to feminism? Why would Watson think that her ideological faith wouldn’t be examined by skeptics in the same way that religion, political extremism or homeopathy is?

I felt we were doing important work: making a better, more rational world and protecting people from being taken advantage of. At conventions, skeptic speakers and the audience were mostly male, but I figured that was something we could balance out with a bit of hard work and good PR.

There’s a whole bunch of factors as to why there’s a fairly big gender gap but this is at a societal level more than at a conference or group level. Still, despite that The Amazing Meeting had gotten up to a creditable 40% female attendance rate off their own backs. The first sentence is a little ironic, since that is how many of Watson’s dissenters feel about her and those like her, like Atheism+ etc. We feel we’re trying to make a better, more rational world and protect people from being exploited – by the ideas Watson et al are promoting and the scaremongering they’re engaged in. The irony is that Watson et al screwed up what had been vast improvements in gender parity, 180 degrees from what she claimed to want.

Then women started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn’t able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. 

As a skeptic, she should know that claims are not evidence. There’s no reporting of these alleged incidents, no evidence, so how can we accept them as true? If it was so bad why haven’t there been any significant reports of such since and why was there only one at one TAM and none at the following two TAMs? (Or since, IIRC). How would this compare with the general community outside conferences?

Why would you expect anyone, let alone skeptics, to take action on nothing but hearsay and rumour?

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.

Individuals are not the community, Youtube is a trolltastic pit of scum and these claims are also not substantiated. We’re supposed to simply nod our heads and agree and if you don’t, apparently you’re excusing and encouraging abuse. ‘With us or against us’ (false dilemma).

Thinking the solution was to educate the community, I started giving talks about the areas where feminism and skepticism overlap. I encouraged audiences to get involved with issues like ending FGM, fighting the anti-woman pseudoscience of the religious right, and aiding those branded as “witches” in rural African villages.

And these are, indeed, areas of overlap and things that skeptics rightly oppose but the issue for skeptics is not that these are anti-woman, but that they are bullshit. That it’s anti-woman bullshit is just a nice bonus reason to fight it. However, that doesn’t mean feminism is free of bullshit or immune to skepticism just because it shares some goals and causes.

As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor.

Oh noes.

Unsurprisingly, this met with a collective eyeroll by the majority of the atheist community as being utterly inconsequential. No-one is disputing that it may have made Watson feel uncomfortable, rather they are disputing that it was anything even approaching an actual problem. The collective response was largely ‘so what?’ and thus the ‘wars’ started. Watson etc got more entrenched and ended up showing what has been seen as their ‘true colours’ in wanting to clamp down on social interactions, ‘sanitise’ debates, not be questioned, not be asked for evidence and it all seemed rather too familiar to people who are used to arguing with the religious faithful.

It began to look very much like dogma, irrationality and faith.

Question it? You’re a misogynist. Dawkins weighed in and while I don’t agree that X being worse than Y makes Y acceptable, when Y is nothing at all the man has a point. The response? Racism ‘What do you know, you’re white?’ Sexism ‘What do you know, you’re male?’ Ageism ‘What do you know, you’re old?’ slurs, hatred and the kind of thing Watson herself has described as being terrible when it happens to her and par for the course from the faithful.

It exposed a certain wing of skepticism that was not at all skeptical towards radical feminist beliefs and had no problem being prejudiced towards the rest of ‘their’ community. Understandably, this pissed a lot of people off and the well publicised drama drew trolls like flies to a particularly delicious cowpat.

Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

Why is Watson presuming this is ‘her community’ rather than ‘sick individuals’ or trolls? She made herself a target, identified the things that would wind her up and the trolls struck. Having been attacked by trolls before she should know better. I’ve seen many of the anonymous threats etc myself, I was active at the time. They’re so obviously trolling (at least the vast majority of them) I can’t see how anyone would think otherwise. The more articulate objections have been ignored or had mud flung at them, rather than being engaged with, which also fuelled frustration. When a demand for evidence is treated as a personal attack by someone claiming to be a skeptic, something has gone very wrong.

121018_DX_Tweet.jpg.CROP.original-original

 

Whatever you think about this Tweet, it’s fairly obviously a joke (albeit in poor taste) but then the skeptic/atheist community often uses mocking, jokes and disrespect as a tool in debate and argumentation. Watson’s position equating being asked for coffee to harassment or abuse was ripe for satire, not all of it well executed.

Given that Watson’s reaction to the ‘Elevator incident’ had been so utterly disproportionate to what actually happened, maybe what followed was predictable.

The organizers of the conference, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)—the organization started by the person who first introduced me to skepticism—allowed the man to attend the conference and did nothing to reassure me. I attended anyway and never went anywhere alone. This past year I finally stopped attending TAM when the organizers blamed me and other harassed women in our community for driving women away by talking about our harassment.

To a (bad) jokey tweet that’s another overreaction and, given Watson’s history with the elevator, a certain amount of ‘She’s crying wolf’ seems perfectly understandable. Why would they bar someone over a bad joke? Since there were already mechanisms in place to deal with problems at the meeting why would they feel a need to reinforce or change them (especially since there hadn’t been any harassment reports)? Other than economic issues the only identifiable reason there might be less women from one conference to the next is the scaremongering Watson et al have engaged in. This annoyed and angered organisers because it worked against all they had been managing to do to bring more women to conference, something sabotaged – ironically – by ‘feminists’.

Other skeptical organizations have been more compassionate. Center for Inquiry (the umbrella organization for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry), American Atheists, and several humanist organizations have enacted anti-harassment policies for their conferences. But still, there are leaders in the skepticism community who refuse to accept that there is a problem, and those who play the “both sides are wrong” game, insinuating that “misogynist” is just as bad an insult as “cunt.”

I’d argue it’s worse. Admittedly I’m British and we use fucking swearing like fucking punctuation but still. One is simply an obscenity, the other is a direct attack on someone’s conduct, being and character. An unfounded accusation of misogyny (and frankly, that word gets tossed around far too liberally) is far worse than calling someone a cock or a cunt.

Anti-harassment policies are a problem because:
a) They’re unnecessary – the law of the land and a conference’s reserved right to toss people out for any reason already cover the issue.
b) They’re overreaching – anti-harassment policies have become trojan censorship policies, they’re trying to police normal, healthy, of age human behaviour and they’re trying to be extended beyond the reach of the conference itself.
c) They’re ripe for abuse, especially in the context of RadFem ideas about burden of proof and presumption of guilt.

Thunderf00t on Youtube tackles some of these issues head on.

Of course, being against these unnecessary and potentially dangerous harassment policies has been mischaracterised as being pro-harassment, something that’s now happening in tech and geek communities. One can be both against genuine acts of harassment, and against dangerously overreaching harassment policies at the same time.

Meanwhile, other skeptical women are being bullied out of the spotlight and even out of their homes. My fellow writer on Skepchick, Amy Davis Roth, moved after her home address was posted on a forum dedicated to hating feminist skeptics. In September, blogger Greta Christina wrote that “when I open my mouth to talk about anything more controversial than Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipes or Six More Atheists Who Are Totally Awesome, I can expect a barrage of hatred, abuse, humiliation, death threats, rape threats, and more.” And Jen McCreight stopped blogging and accepting speaking engagements altogether. “I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few),” she wrote. “I just can’t take it anymore.”

I’m not a participant at the Slymepit but I know people who are and it’s about far more than ‘hating on feminists’. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander and the community as a whole is ruthless with bad ideas, nonsense ideology and faith beliefs. RadFem ideas are no exception and nor should they be. Demanding they be treated with some level of extra respect is not so far removed from anti-blasphemy rules.

I’m not completely au fait with the accusations of ‘Doxing’ but there’s been plenty of that on all sides.

Trolls are going to troll and there’s little we can do about it while still maintaining a free internet. Presuming these threats and slurs are meaningful or anything more than simple trolling is disingenuous. Of course, it supports their contentions to take the trolls seriously, so they’re not actually motivated to identify incidences of trolling.

I know that this article will only rile up the sexist skeptics. I’ll hear about how I’m a slut who deserves whatever I get, about how I’m a liar who made everything up, about how I’ve overreacted, and about how I should just ignore the trolls and they’ll go away. I’ve written this article anyway, because I strongly believe that the goals of skeptics are good ones, like strengthening science education, protecting consumers, and deepening our knowledge of human psychology. Those goals will never be met if we continue to fester as a middling subculture that not only ignores social issues but is actively antagonistic toward progressive thought.

Kafkatrap. If this riles you up, you must be sexist. Oh, it couldn’t possibly be that you disagree or find things to object to. No, it must just be that you’re sexist.

Yes Rebecca, you are going to be trolled – and I’m sure you were. We all are, pretty much constantly, if we have any profile and we speak up about anything. This is not a special plight of women. It’s damn near universal on the internet. Women get it worse – in some quarters – simply because being a woman is a big red flag that ragging on you about it and using sexist insults is very likely to get a reaction.

Watson did overreact.

Yes, the best way to deal with trolls is indeed to ignore them. Take them seriously, write articles like this, you just feed them and you get more and worse.

Atheism and skepticism is concerned with atheism and skepticism. That sometimes crosses over with other goals but the more extra goals and beliefs you include the more you whittle down that community and make it less effective. It’s not ‘progressive thought’ or feminism per se that the wider skeptic community is hostile to, it’s the same things it has always been hostile to. Fallacious reasoning, poor research, lack of evidence and faith beliefs.

For some reason, some people, take that as an attack

Mirror, Mirror

Sinfestfixed

Clicky for original

I’ve been weighing the point of making a post about the SFWA fuss over on Grim’s Tales but in the meantime I had a brief exchange on Twitter which I think illustrates the problem inherent in many of these sexism discussions. The responses of the other party (anonymous and somewhat paraphrased because I bear them no ill will) were almost exact mirror images of the kinds of replies that whip feminists into a frenzy of opprobrium when men reply to them or ask questions. They also show the problem will ‘call out culture’ and how debate is stifled rather than continued in a meaningful fashion.

The exchange began with a retweet:

“Thank god there are men to explain what sexism is to me because as a women I certainly would not know anything about that”

Now, I take offence at that. I’m not saying nobody should be able to say such things or that my offence has any special power to it – nobody has any right not to be offended. What I find ‘problematic’ though is the sexism inherent in the comment. If you are claiming to be against sexism or to be complaining about it, it strikes me as being rather unhelpful if you’re sexist yourself in so doing.

The reason I find this statement problematic is that, implicit within it, is the idea that men, somehow, can’t ‘grok’ sexism or that the experience of sexism is somehow something that only women suffer. I’ll spare you the details, but I find this to be bullshit through direct and indirect experience and through statistics on aspects of both men and women’s lives.

We’re told we should call out sexism when we see it. So I did. Not to the original source – I figured they wouldn’t be open to discussion based on past experience – but to the retweeter, someone fairly new to me but within the Venn diagram of a few of my interests which made me wonder why they retweeted it.

I kept it mild, to the effect that ‘Men suffer sexism too’.

In reply I was told:

“But I doubt you have it mansplained to you.”

‘Mansplained’ is a deeply sexist term and I’m sure there’s barely a man in existence who hasn’t had something ‘womansplained’ to them. When you’re discussing these topics it usually isn’t long before someone with a semester in gender studies pops up and starts telling you all about ‘patriarchy’ or something else. ‘Mansplaining’ is the equivalent of dismissing anything a woman might say as ‘chatter’ or ‘nagging’. It would not be considered acceptable the other way around and frankly I don’t see the problem in trying to understand and explain something in any case or to offer another point of view. It is through exchanges we get to truth.

I explained, as well as one can in a tweet, that this was a sexist term and that even worse, sexism against men is dismissed, explained, excused or even claimed not to exist.

“I hope I’m misinterpreting your intention, because it read as a dismissal of the OP as minor compared to UR suffering under sexism.

Which wasn’t what I said at all. That men can suffer sexism in no way diminishes the fact that women can suffer too. That someone has something worse doesn’t mean the other person isn’t also suffering. Dawkins was – rightly – called out on his ‘Dear  Muslima‘ comment to Rebecca Watson (though I must qualify that by saying I don’t think Watson had anything worthwhile to complain about) on this basis but it seems that isn’t the case the other way around, for some reason.

I pointed out that there is often outright hostility and open-mouthed disbelief when men treat any accusation of sexism, no matter how thin, with skepticism and asked how they would feel if the situation were reversed.

That wasn’t replied to. Though I got this:

“Interesting choice of things to be offended by. Your claim of victimhood is duly noted.”

Oddly enough, calling female sexism caller-outers professional victims is not even remotely tolerated or accepted, even if there’s past form.

Then I was accused of doing exactly what the OP was posting about:

“You have schooled me on what real sexism is, since I apparently don’t understand. Strangely enough, exactly what the OP was about.”

Of course, I did nothing of the sort. I assumed we both knew what sexism was and I called out the sexism I saw in the OP and the later replies. I hoped – rather than expected – to have my concerns treated with the same degree of respect as an accusation of sexism from a woman would be taken. It was not.

Now, I bear this person no ill will and unlike many I don’t think they’re being dishonest. I just think the attempt to have any debate at all on these issues is poisoned beyond virtually all hope of resolution. Discussion is, essentially, not permitted and neither MRAs nor feminists seem willing to accept that the other side may have any valid points whatsoever. As a guy stuck in the middle I seem to get it from both sides (though worse from the feminist side because I have a penis) and view the whole thing as exasperating.

In the wake of the SFWA nonsense this struck a particular nerve and I think it helps illustrate that both sides engage in similar, damn near identical, dismissal of each other.

The difference between racism and sexism is…?

Subway_Mugger

Read these and then guess which one is the unchanged – and acceptable one.

My black, adopted son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another guy, white, came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind him at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – he turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that he speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a black guy, walking behind him. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to him to assuage his fear because he might get even more spooked.

He is finishing up a semester in Race Studies – he is one of two blacks in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Blacks Against Mugging at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is white people’s reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

***

My son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another girl came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind her at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – she turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that she speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a man, walking behind her. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to her to assuage her fear because she might get even more afraid.

He is finishing up a semester in Women’s Studies – he is one of two men in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Men Against Violence at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is our reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

Sexual_Assault_Rape_Stalker_generic_Image_722

Would we ever see black men, despite the disproportionate statistics and prison numbers (yes, there are reasons for this including racism and disproportionate poverty), tacitly accepting that people are afraid they’re thieves and muggers? Internalising this as somehow their fault and that they should act passively and show concern for people who are scared of them because they are black? Of course we wouldn’t. That’s an example of prejudice, despite the way some statistics can be spun to rationalise the ‘threat’ that they represent. Quite rightly we object to and reject this kind of stereotyping just as we do racial profiling for terrorism threat assessment.

Change race to gender though and suddenly we’re supposed to tacitly accept that we’re scary and nasty. That simply because we’re male we’re a threat and deserve to be treated as though we’re guilty before we’ve even done anything. This is just as unacceptable and yet unlike the example above men are willing to line up to agree that they should be treated with prejudice, with fear that they somehow deserve it just because of their Y chromosome.

This was a real post, made by an otherwise reasonable human being and supported by people who are otherwise reasonable human beings, including men. It was a public post and I have stripped out names etc so hopefully this isn’t overstepping any marks but it was jaw-droppingly insensitive and prejudiced. Any solution to these problems is not going to be met by simply reversing the direction of prejudice.

Dognative Cissonance

As is depressingly usual, the internet exploded with nerd-controversy yesterday. One more personal, one more public. Both, however, serve my purpose in the ongoing struggle to examine and make sense of some of these peculiar interactions between radical feminism, geekdom and other strands of activism and ‘social justice’ (scare quotes justified by the hypocrisy of so many who self-label as this).

The more personal issue was an eruptive argument about perception and wording. Several rather contentious comments on twitter went up surrounding a blog post ( http://www.xojane.com/issues/i-am-going-to-dropkick-the-next-dudebro-who-tells-me-coercive-sex-is-consenting-sex ) about coercion in sex. Some of the comments within/around/next to the article and in the responses to it (positive and negative) seemed to me to be blurring the lines between coercion, persuasion and persistence.

This observation earned me an immediate branding as a rape apologist (again, le sigh) and some totally uncompromising ‘NO!’ shouting as well as perpetuation of the myth that the article I wrote earlier this year was rape apologism rather than a polemic against concern-troll, de-facto censorship of certain topics in creative endeavours.

Was I saying coercion is good and fine? No. I was saying that perceptions differ between people and from situation to situation. One person’s coercion may be considered by another person to be persuasion or simply being persistent. Consent is negotiated and any romantic or sexual attraction and courtship is an extended exercise in persuasion to acquire consent. The establishment of the idea that one is attractive, a safe bet, a pleasure to fuck.

Shockingly, but unsurprisingly, it was also said that the only thing that matters is the perception of the person on one side. Predictably, the person who decides they’ve been coerced. The feelings of the other party are entirely irrelevant, just as my feelings about being called a rape apologist – or worse – are irrelevant. Yet reverse the positions and feelings are absolutely essential and any insult cannot be tolerated. The problem with feelings is that they’re inherently subjective.

The second incident of note was Tony Harris (artist on Ex Machina) blowing up in frustration on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/tony.harris.313/posts/4441714834591 ) about cosplay girls. The gist of it is he’s unconvinced that cosplay girls are genuine, that they distract and detract from the purpose of the cons and pull people away from traders and creators. I don’t agree, but I can see where he’s coming from. I follow several cosplayers such as Yayahan because I find their craft amazing and, hey, full disclosure, doesn’t hurt that they’re hot too. Tony blows off some steam and in minutes he’s plastered all across the internet as being a misogynist dick which doesn’t particularly strike me as true.

In both instances what really strikes me is how it mirrors what one sees in other areas of argument, or even in the same area of argument. Hypocrisy is rife.

I’m an atheist and so I argue a lot with the religious. Sometimes you get someone willing to actually debate but more often you encounter people who only seek to proselytise, not to listen or discuss. Quite often simply disagreeing with any point is enough to get you written off as being ‘in the sway of the devil’ or similar. Anything you say can, then, be discounted and ignored no matter what it is while the fanatic blithers away on their points without pausing to back them up.

So it seems to go with these feminist arguments. Disagree on the most minor point of order and you will be instantly branded a misogynist, rape apologist or worse. This happens regardless of what you actually think or say and from that point on anything you do or say can be ignored. This most insidiously makes itself shown in the concept of ‘privilege’ where simply because you are a member of one or more ‘bad’ categories anything you say can be discounted.

Male? White? Well, you’re shit out of luck. Nothing you say can have any weight or point and you’re denied even the basic and fundamental human trait of empathy. The irony – given the people dismissing you are often fighting against similar dismissal of people on the basis of gender, race, etc – seems weirdly lost on people.

The fuss about Tony Harris also has its mirror. The comments he has made about cosplay are mirrored less far away than the arguments above. The kind of things he says in his rant are exactly the same kin of things said by feminists and white knights about booth babes. It’s almost exactly identical. ‘They’re not real nerds’, ‘They’re just there to lure people in’, ‘It’s all about the sex, not the product’, ‘They’re distracting’. Convention goers to events like Pax have even said these sorts of things about cosplayers themselves! This makes their criticism of Harris’ views ironic (again) and hypocritical (again).

Another mirror is in the behaviour of these internet social justice warriors and the behaviour of trolls. Just as trolls share the lulz and don’t stop to consider what they’ve actually done. So it is with internet warriors who – after an engagement – do the same backslapping and lulz-sharing dance that trolls do. At least trolls are honest about what they do and why though. Something that almost makes them better.

The reactions to this aren’t particularly helpful either. The reaction to the echo-chamber views of extreme feminism seems to have been for Men’s Rights Activists to create their OWN echo chambers where they can pursue their own, equally outlandish ideas. Again irony comes in as feminists dismiss MRA concerns in exactly the same way their own concerns have been dismissed in the past by sexists.

Dialogue isn’t possible without the venn diagram circles overlapping but so few people are willing to debate and discuss in good faith and with an open mind that compromise or tolerance seems impossible. Those of us who just want to create without our every thought being second-guessed with the intensity an stupidity of an English class dissecting a poem get caught in the middle.

It appears to be impossible to please anyone since the demands being made of the creators are contradictory. A great example of this is in ‘racefail’ ( http://fanlore.org/wiki/RaceFail_’09 ) where there are simultaneously complaints that there are not enough racial minorities in genre fiction but, at the same time, existing non-minority creators are not allowed to write them because they get it wrong, or it’s insulting, or it’s cultural appropriation.

An example closer to home is the insistence that rape is a huge, widespread and powerful issue but one that you’re absolutely not allowed to explore in fiction despite that. Somehow even writing about how bad it is or using it to reflect the harsh, wicked or evil nature of a society or a person is contributing to ‘rape culture’.

With these contradictions it is literally impossible to please these people and one will always be left open to a rhetorical broadside from some pretentious cunt with a bee up their arse about cause X, Y or Z.

If it doesn’t matter what we do or say? If we creators are not listened to. If our actual feelings and thoughts about topics are ignored in favour of what you THINK we do/say/feel then where is the motivation to listen to these critiques and the baseless lambasting of our work, politics or social views?

Whatever else it is, this kind of bullying definitely falls under ‘coercion’.

We need actual discussion, without the recrimination and with people actually willing to listen – particularly on the self-described ‘social justice’ side – to criticism without seeing it immediately as an attack or support for ‘Bad thing’. They need to deal with the cognitive dissonance that sees people supposedly against *isms being some of the most racist and sexist persons on the internet. Dissonance that lets someone simultaneously be outraged by mention of rape in fiction and at the same time threaten to rape my wife to ‘see how I like it’. The same dissonance that sees them supposedly campaign for women’s rights but spam me with anonymail saying things like ‘It figures a rapist would work with a whore’ or perpetuating lies and misconceptions in a way that would never be accepted the other way around.

Fat chance that such a debate can be had, but this door’s open if anyone wants to take the chance in good faith.