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

#Genderweek ‘Male Privilege’

IcaD3i1399117104As you’ve probably gathered from previous posts, I loathe the cynical manipulation of the word ‘privilege’ when talking about ordinary people who should be granted the same basic rights and freedoms as everyone else, but I’ll concede the use of the term for this post while still disagreeing with the fallacy of redefinition involved in its use.

It’s a common claim across multiple strands of social justice that you have privilege for being white, or male, or heterosexual and that this makes life easier for you. Objecting simply gets you told to ‘check your privilege’ and is taken as evidence you have it (kafkatrap) and being white, male or heterosexual apparently means that your arguments, points, statistics and observations are automatically worthless.

It’s patently obvious to anyone with a passing interest in logic or debate that this is a fallacy with no place in debate, but more to the point is it true?

It’s genderweek so let’s restrict ourselves to the discussion in terms of that frame of reference. Gender.

Do men have it easier? Do men have it better? Is it purely down to gender or is anything else going on?

  • Here’s some examples of what radical feminists consider male privilege: LINK
  • Here’s some examples of what MHRAs consider female privilege: LINK

 

A huge number of both are petty and a good few of both are factually wrong (perhaps most notoriously the 1/4 rape statistic and the supposed pay gap).

However, there’s another factor to a lot of these that doesn’t seem understood by either ‘side’ and that is that each side sees things through a different lens.

I’ll use two fairly important instances to make my point.

Gender Lensing: Divorce Court

From a feminist perspective the fact that women get custody so much more often isn’t a sign of female privilege, but rather a patriarchal imposition of the childcare role upon women and a judgement based on that bias. The same or similar with financial settlements, child support payments and their suggestion, perhaps, that women can’t cope without support, assistance and the involvement and care of a man.

From a men’s rights perspective this is an instance of female privilege. The assumptions favour the women, fathers frequently don’t get custody even if the woman is at fault, even if the woman is a drug addict or otherwise unfit mother. What the feminist might see as patriarchal role enforcement, the masculinist sees as in inherent bias in the system in her favour – surely a privilege?

To me such things should be settled based on merit, finances and fitness but it does expose the intellectual weakness of the concept of ‘Patriarchy’. When the system open and specifically works against the interests and desires of men how can it be called patriarchal? It’s a conspiracy theory term, one into which anything can be twisted with enough rhetorical gymnastics.

Gender Lensing: Military Service

From a feminist perspective putting women in light duty – if any duty at all – and their exclusion from the military in times past can be seen as yet more patriarchal oppression. Why shouldn’t they be able to serve their country, fully, in every capacity? Why shouldn’t they fight on the front lines? It can only be sexism preventing them from doing so.

From a masculinist perspective women have been granted special status (privilege) by being allowed to opt in to dangerous duty, but men not being able to opt out. Women being excluded from the draft would be another sign. From a man’s perspective this can be seen as a duty and imposition, not a right or privilege and so it goes for a great many other things as well. Men have been called ‘disposable’ and war is a situation that makes this abundantly clear. In exchange for these duties men were rewarded by society in the past. Now the rewards have been very much eroded, but the demands remain.

 

Is this reconcilable? Can each side see the other’s perspective and compromise, recognise that what they see as an advantage can be seen as a disadvantage by the other? I doubt it, but I hope.

#Genderweek – What is Gender?

R7J4qR1398783935(This was meant to go up yesterday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just not the be all and end all.

Antisocial Injustice

Two Sneetches-Taunt -Trans

But the straight, white, middle-class, cisgender sneetch had no stars at all.

Prompted by the unjustified hate and nastiness of the trans community towards @giagia

Write what you know they say.

Here’s what I know.

‘Despite’ being a white, straight and male and growing up in rural England I have man aged to achieve adulthood without any of the egregious prejudices that I’m supposed to have.

I didn’t encounter anyone of any other race who wasn’t on the television until, I think, a Sikh door-to-door salesman when I was maybe eight or nine years old. He was alright, but otherwise my formative encounters with practically any minority you care to mention – sexuality, disability, unconventional gender identity – have been negative. Still, I didn’t come out the other end of that with any real prejudices.

Sure, I’ve made mistakes now and then. Some genuine, some what people happen to consider mistakes, upon which I disagree.

I was raised ‘right’. I was raised to be as polite as possible, to treat people fairly and equally and to give them a fair crack of the whip whatever my first impression. To ‘judge people by the content of their character’, if you will.

If my friends exhibit racism, sexism or other prejudices, they get my disapproval and often a stern word. Yet, I find myself unaccountably tolerating the exact same prejudices in people who are of a minority or subjectively oppressed group.

Why?

I learned my lessons well. That treating anyone differently on the basis of race, gender etc was wrong. Surely these people – activists even – who have been on the receiving end of prejudice themselves should know this better than anyone, shouldn’t they?

If someone wants their feelings and problems taken seriously then they should extend the same to others, you would think. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

Instead I find that people who claim to be activists, who claim to be fighting for equality and fairness are amongst the worst bigots I have ever encountered and the most dismissive of anyone else’s point of view.

If I am against racism, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who broad-brushes all white people or dismisses anything I might say simply for my relative lack of melanin?

If I am against sexism, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who regularly insults men as a gender, laughs off misandry as not existing and undermines genuine men’s issues?

If I am against the persecution of LGBT people, and I am, how am I supposed to react to someone who derisively refers to heterosexuals as ‘breeders’ or ‘cis’ in a sneering tone?

If I don’t think people should be judged for being poor, and I am, how am I suppose to react to someone who dismisses me (wrongly) for being affluent middle class?

Yet I find myself, more often than not, letting these things pass. Not because I don’t find them as objectionable as I do in other contexts, but because of the hypocrisy, the vitriol, the denial, the insults, the swarming pack tactics, the lies and misrepresentations are incredibly stressful and hurtful and aggravating.

And disappointing.

Here are the people who should be on the same page as me, succumbing to and excusing their own bigotry. Redefining *ism from prejudice to prejudice plus power to try and tell you people literally can’t be racist against whites, men, or heterosexuals. Something that is patently untrue.

Here are the people who want you to take their feelings and concerns seriously, no matter what any facts might be, but who will write off anything you say as ‘white tears’, ‘manfeels’ or some similarly dismissive variation thereof.

A person’s colour, gender, sexuality, gender identity etc has absolutely no bearing on the value of their ideas. Nor does being offended by something. I am offended by ‘cis’, ‘privilege’ and many other items of social justice terminology and ideology. Should you stop using them simply because I’m offended?

No.

You should stop using them because they’re useless bullshit that add nothing to discussions and instead anger, alienate and are used as ad hominems and to poison the well before a discussion even gets off the ground.

So what to do?

Being even handed, applying the same call-out culture rules will get one rapidly labelled a bigot, even if you oppose genuine bigots just as vociferously. A blog like this will doubtless attract some sarcasm and the very behaviour I’m talking about. Do I value friends and acquaintances over and above their attitudes? Then why not for the more typical bigoted views, rather than the less typical bigoted views of the activists? Why should activist bigots get a free pass from me that they don’t even give each other? (See the trans/TERF war).

It feels like an insoluble problem.

Here I am, white, straight guy, brought up to treat people equally finding the largest groups I know that don’t do this are the people supposedly campaigning for it. Further, before they know anything about me, they’re already ignoring and prejudging me on the basis of my sex, race, assumed social status and sexuality. I refuse to be held accountable for the actions of my ancestors or for people who aren’t me. I refuse to be tagged with some bizarre new version of ‘original sin’. I want to hold people to the same standards, after all…

If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

Right?

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?

Shut Up & Listen When I tell you about ‘Check Your Privilege’.

0Xo8hfvI want you to ‘check your privilege’ about the phrase, ‘check your privilege’.

If someone is arguing with you, you should address their points, their reasoning, what they’re saying. When you tell someone to ‘check your privilege’ you are, essentially, engaging in an ‘ad hominem‘ fallacy, an ‘argument to the person’. For example:

“I don’t think that statement qualifies as sexist.”
“That’s because you’re a man, check your privilege.”

Simply because one is male (or white, or rich, or whatever else) doesn’t render one’s arguments invalid, it doesn’t mean you lack empathy, sympathy or imagination, it doesn’t even mean you haven’t experienced racism, sexism or whatever else yourself.

I’m sure in some ideal world ‘check your privilege’ is meant to mean ‘I say old chap, have you considered that your socioeconomic, racial and other statuses might affect your point of view?’ In practice however it means ‘Shut up you white male oppressor, you don’t know shit’ which is – in and of itself – quite startlingly sexist and racist.

I’m hardly the only person to note this.

Add to this things like ‘mansplaining’ (another horrifically sexist term) and the fact that some people think they can’t be *ist simply because they’re members of a self-identified oppressed group (riddle me this Batman, is the Nation of Islam racist against whites or not?) and its not hard to see why the perceived hypocrisy on display costs feminism and other activists a lot of support from people who should be natural allies – such as myself. The problems between the sceptic/atheist movement and skepchick/Atheismplus provide ample example of the problem here.

If your task is to communicate with people outside echo-chamber activist groups and their unquestioning hangers on then you have to listen to the experience and perception of the people you’re talking to. You also CANNOT presume that simply because a person agrees with you on one topic (say, atheism) that they must agree with you on another topic (feminism).

Questioning and challenging are vital to scientific enquiry and rational thought, challenging your claims about X,Y,Z doesn’t make the person challenging them *ist, it means they’re looking for evidence, testing your ideas to see if they’re robust and accurate. When you write these people off you’re harming yourself and your cause which would be much stronger if it did stand up to scrutiny and came out the other side unscathed.

We have all become very sensitised to sexism. I suffered a huge amount of unwarranted abuse over written works making fun of sexism and over a blog article defending what Neil Gaiman would call ‘icky speech‘. That has hyper-sensitised me to much of the hypocrisy I see in the ‘social justice’ movements, many of whom – to me – seem to have become the very things they hate.

In my experience many of these groups and their members are amongst the most obnoxious, bigoted and horrible human beings it has ever been my misfortune to come across – ironically as blind to their own bigotry as they claim others are to their own privilege.

If you’re a feminist and you’re calling out what you consider to be misogyny or sexism you want to be taken seriously and not dismissed, yet all too often this is exactly what happens if a man calls a woman out on misandry or sexism. Rather than acknowledging that men can suffer from sexism – or whites from racism – or anybody else from another other form of prejudice, this is dismissed, mocked, derided in exactly the same way as would not be considered acceptable the other way around.

This is a missed opportunity. We have a whole generation that is now very aware of unfairness on these sorts of bases but rather than going ‘You know what? You’re right, lets fight all forms of sexism together!’ it instead becomes a fight over who is more oppressed than who.

You don’t need to think the discrimination and prejudice is even or equal[1] to acknowledge that its bad and wrong and worthy of opposition.

Prejudice on the basis of sex/race/class/whatever is wrong, whichever direction it passes. Don’t be a hypocrite about it, it’ll cost you.

***

While I’m here I also want to pass comment on another thing that’s been going on lately.

Between the death of April Jones and ill-informed policy makers knee-jerking and Facebook drawing ire over ‘hate groups‘ along with policy signal shifts in the UK and the US the free internet is once again being chipped away at. I’m not saying that these rape joke or bad taste groups aren’t awful, but they are also legal and there’s nothing to suggest they actually harm anyone. After all, a picture of a person isn’t actually a person, its a picture and shock humour gets its ‘sting’ from being shocking, not being acceptable and beneath comment/reaction.

Of particular irony is the objection that these should be removed being on the basis of offence, often by the same people who were up in arms about images of breastfeeding being censored (also on the grounds of people being offended[2]). Personally, my opinion is that as long as it’s legal and age/membership restricted anything should go.

I am particularly worried about the ‘hate group’ reaction ending up being applied to kink/bdsm groups which given previous overreactions is nigh certain.

[1] – While I consider Watson’s ‘Elevatorgate’ fuss to be ‘a huge fuss about nothing’ I also consider this to be on occasion where Dawkins was wrong. That there are greater evils than lesser ones doesn’t mean the lesser ones aren’t also evil – and worth fighting.

[2] – And over-sensitive algorithms. 

Male ‘Slut Shaming’

This is all a bit ‘What about teh menz?’ but it’s important to me and it’s related to factors that have contributed directly to my depression issues.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this issue since it occurred to me to write about it. I’ve agonised over whether to even broach the subject at all because it’s just that contentious and dangerous to do so. It took me three days just to get up the courage to talk to my wife about my intention to write it and what would be in it and we had to negotiate a bit over the content because I tend to over-share.

I want to talk about sexual shaming. Slut shaming if you will.

However, I want to talk about the sexual shaming of men and the demonising of male sexuality, rather than that of women.

Slut shaming gets a lot of press and a lot of attention but the tribulations of expressing male sexuality don’t really get looked at at all, save in a negative light. There’s almost a new… taboo around discussing it. Male and female sexualities are seen very differently and the expressions thereof treated very differently indeed.

I’m going to draw on some of my own experiences to explain some of this. Not to try and claim that my experience is universal but, rather, to make the points relatable and as a jumping off point for discussion. I’m not going to go into as much detail as I could, partly due to my own reticence but also because I’ve been asked not to.

This just further goes to show what a fucked up situation this all is.

I am concerned and worried, deeply so, about the way male sexual interest and sexuality as a whole is treated and reacted to. It seems to me that it is always taken as threatening, as an imposition. You can’t look at a pretty girl, comment that she’s lovely, or even – it seems – ask her for a drink without being viewed as no better than a raiding Viking intent on rape and pillage. Every ounce of concern and thought goes to the lady’s reaction and possible offence and none to the feelings of the guy or the effect upon him of being treated like a criminal.

As a result, as a man, your sexual personality, your interest, gets bottled up, hidden, frustrated. If you’re in a relationship it’s assumed you can’t so much as look at someone else without upsetting them. You can’t ogle someone attractive without being told you’re objectifying or dehumanising. That goes double for pornography and – even more concerning for me – fantasy art.

The disparity in the way the genders are treated in this instance is certainly not in the man’s favour.

If a woman likes porno, erotica, sexy outfits, whatever, she’s seen as exciting, autonomous and in control of her own sexuality. Girls can go out shopping for sex toys and it’s no huge thing. She can go out for attention, being aggressively sexual in a way that would never be accepted for a man and it’s brushed off. If she oversteps his line, no big deal, if a guy oversteps her line, all hell breaks loose. A guy is supposed to be happy with any sexual attention from a woman, or not to let it bother him. Well, it is a bother when someone else’s girlfriend plops her arse down in your lap and tries to kiss you. Even if she is hot.

If a guy admits to buying porn or toys for his own satisfaction he’s creepy, disgusting, a failure as a man because he can’t get laid. A flasher-mac wearing saddo, a panty-snifffing reprobate. Admitting you need something to get you off and deal with your frustrations, or – heaven forfend – that you like it, whether or not you need it, is an admission of failure and – if you’re with a partner – it’s even seen as an insult to them.

If you’re in a relationship and there’s any disparity in desire then, really, there’s little wonder that one partner or the other might seek relief elsewhere. Better that they use porn than have an affair, right?
Typically it’s the male desire outstripping that of the woman, though it can happen the other way around, and if a man resorts to porn then it’s an insult. He doesn’t really love you any more. He doesn’t find you attractive, he’ll be off and away with another woman. Which in all likelihood is bollocks. It’s much more likely he’s just not getting enough and needs an outlet for the tension that doesn’t make him seem like a sex pest to the woman he loves.

For whatever reason these safety valves, these ways of coping, are considered off limits or hurtful to a relationship rather than a way of preserving it and keeping the peace. People break up over it. People are hurt and insulted by it and can’t understand how a man can jerk off over one thing and still find his soulmate sexy in her own right.

If you doubt that there’s a gender disparity here, take the example of Ann Summers parties.

Women can get together, as groups, play dress up in sexy outfits, get the opinions of their peers, buy sex toys etc all in their own living rooms.

Now imagine a group of thirty and forty something men getting together for a ‘Man Summers’ party. Waxing each other’s backs, trying on posing pouches and getting each other’s opinion on what’s sexy.

If you have any reaction to that other than amusement or disgust then I don’t think you’re being honest.

This is bad enough if you have entirely conventional desires and needs. If you just like pretty girls and want to have sex with them you’re already being regarded as some sort of barely restrained (wo)man-eating tiger or something. A pitbull who needs to be muzzled, licensed or ‘done’.
Suppose, though, that you’re a man who happens to be turned on by BDSM or rough sex, let alone anything stronger? Consent is a huge thing for these communities but even so, these sorts of desires are going to be considered beyond the pale for many and admitting them is going to be tantamount to wearing a sign on your head saying ‘Kiddie fiddler’ for all the reaction they’re going to get.

It’s not even as though these sorts of desires are unique to men. According to a variety of studies somewhere between thirty and fifty percent of women have rape fantasies.

It is, rightly, never assumed that this means that a woman wants to be raped.

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.

Why the disparity? Why is one ‘just’ a fantasy and the other a risk? How is such a person supposed to even dare to articulate their desires, their kinks, their turn ons without getting the kind of reaction normally reserved for homosexuals by the Westboro Baptists. Think of the danger involved in just finding people of similar tastes. The risk to partners, friends, family if you get found out.

It must feel much like it does for people who are gay. Afraid to come out, judging themselves by the standards of others. Shamed, guilt tripped without even saying or doing a thing. Afraid of the reaction to their sadism, masochism, dominance or submission.

I know that, for me, nothing more than a need to use pornography has wracked me with guilt, worry and concern for my partner. It has felt like a betrayal. I have reacted to it as strongly as I would have from having an affair. That’s certainly fed into my depression and self-loathing and exacerbated suicidal feelings of worthlessness.

So, then, from personal experience I can say that shaming of male sexuality and outlets can certainly be directly harmful and is grossly unfair. Because not having an outlet is also psychologically harmful. Just look at the Catholic Church for ‘Christ’s’ sake. We get so caught up in concern for women’s feelings – because that’s what men do – that we just suck up our own hurt, pain and shame and don’t speak up. It’s not healthy and it’s not right.

I don’t particularly buy into this objectification argument either. Maybe I’m some twisted, unique, freak of nature but I’m able to separate the item – the porn, the character, the image, the film, the erotic passage of text – from the person that makes or stars in it. The stimulus is the object, not the person.

I’ve known a handful of people who have worked in porn, fetish modelling or as camgirls. I know another fistful of lady erotica writers. Most of them are wonderful people (hey, they’re people, there are going to be a few arseheads), no different to anyone else, and I don’t treat them or think of them any differently just because I’ve seen them naked, seen them fuck or have read their fantasies written out in explicit prose.

Newsflash.

If you’re even slightly attractive (and even if you’re not) and you have friends or peers of the opposite sex, some of them have almost certainly had masturbatory dreams or fantasies about you to rival any porno. Yet they still treat you as a human being, despite having put you through erotic contortions in the burlesque of the mind’s eye.

Why would it, or should it, be any different for people who’ve done it on film?

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.

Maybe it’s because consent is, traditionally, in the hands of the woman and the man is supposed to be the initiator? Is that why male sexuality is seen as dangerous and aggressive because we’re supposed to be the proactive ones? Because it’s on us to make the move?

Why isn’t the harm that sex-shaming does to men being recognised? Can this partly explain the rise in young male suicides? It certainly nearly helped end me.

Why are we expected to suck it up, accept the insults and suspicions? Why should we accept being feared for no good reason? Why should we just suck it up that a woman’s step is going to quicken, or she’ll pretend to talk on her phone if we happen to enter an underpass behind her? Why do always put women’s needs and feelings ahead of our own?

Would you not feel a slight pang of guilt for clutching your purse tighter as you passed a kid in a hoodie, especially if he were black? That would be racist or classist, wouldn’t it?

It doesn’t seem very fair to treat men as foul and slavering beasts. That’s also the rationale behind racial profiling and the stop-and-search laws that have lead to race riots. This kind of profiling creates dangerous levels of resentment and anger.

It doesn’t seem very egalitarian.

It seems more than a little sexist and for me, at least, it makes me unbearably sad and hurt.

If you want to discuss any of the points raised in this post you’re welcome to do so in the comments or privately.