A constructionist view on social constructs. [part 2/2]

See part 1 for the first half of this entry.

I’ve already mentioned institutions reproducing social constructs a few times already, so I figure I should get into how social constructs are reproduced, controlled and enforced.

The first major way in which social constructs are reproduced is socialization. Socialization is the process by which we are indoctrinated to follow cultural norms (a large part of which have to do with expressing various social constructs), and this takes place mostly during childhood.

Parenting is the most important socializing institution, mainly because it falls upon the parents to inculcate to the child the basics of living in society, all the way from the basics of language to the subtle sense of belonging to a country, political ideology, religion, and so on. Parenting is the first and most crucial way in which social constructs are reproduced generation after generation.

Now, one thing I’ve said about parenting is that parenting is primarily motivated by fear. Parents live in fear of their children not conforming to cultural norms and being marginalized, so they go overboard on enforcing those norms on their children, even if they themselves only weakly adhere to those same norms.

Parenting is not, by far, the only institution involved in socialization: we also have to count school, the media that children are exposed to, other family members and adults, and peer reinforcement of all of these as well. These influences are very powerful, to the point that it’s widely acknowledged that parents cannot raise their children genderless or raceless, no matter how hard they try. We have to look at them as part of socialization too.

So take gender, for example. Parents desperately indoctrinate their children with gender roles so they don’t come out “wrong.” But beyond gentle encouragements, admonitions and punishments, they also populate the child’s life with gender-coded colors, clothes, toys, friends, activities, sports. Furthermore, it’s been shown that everyone, including parents, treat babies and toddlers radically differently depending on what they think “the gender of the child” is (I put this expression in quote because young children don’t have gender).

Now if you consider that babies start very rapidly to observe and integrate differences they observe between people, just as they are busy observing how the world works around them. Babies recognize race after 6 months and understand the concept of “things for boys” and “things for girls” after 18 months. By that time, it’s already over.

Children are exposed to the Internet younger and younger, let’s not quibble about that. They are exposed to pornography at earlier ages as well (the average age of first exposure is 11 years old). They are exposed to children’s cartoons (which are usually well-intentioned but problematic) and adult television shows (which are endemically sexist). They are taught what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl through the stories we tell each other.

Now magnify the influence of all these factors due to the pressures exerted by other family members, other adults, peer pressure at school and harassment. If some patriarchal religion is involved (like most denominations of Christianity), then the pressure to conform with gender expectations, and the punishments to gender rebelling children, is strong and constant from all these people.

In short, that’s gender socialization. None of us have escaped it. Even if we wish to change gender later in life, we were still socialized “man” or “woman,” and that’s something that can’t be changed no matter how hard you try.

***

Society encompasses not only individual human beings, but all the structure and apparatus of society. The conservative view that society is merely a bunch of individuals that happen to stick together is a laughable conceit. Individuals living in a social vacuum don’t have families, don’t form governments, don’t propagate culture. All those things are institutions which exist independently of any given individual.

I have already defined and attempted to describe the concept of institution. Individuals are only one part of the nature of an institution, and probably the least important part. The most important part of an institution, I think, is its aura of necessity and inevitability, especially as connected to what we believe is “natural” (another social construct). Religion is increasingly seen as unnecessary, and therefore loses power.

As I explain in the entry, institutions have a theoretical purpose (what we’re indoctrinated to believe the role of the institution is) and an actual purpose (the actual end product of the institution as observed and measured). Institutions depend on the reproduction and enforcement of various social constructs in order to fulfill their actual purpose.

To use an easy example, we’ve seen how pre-capitalist Western economies depended on slavery or feudalism, which are profoundly dependent on race, gender, status and marriage (and of course all governments depend on the nation construct). Therefore it’s always been in the interest of Western governments to enforce race, gender, status and marriage constructs. Now that we live in capitalist economic systems, and slavery is inefficient, governments can give lip service to race equality while maintaining immigration restrictions and letting corporations use minorities as unemployment buffer.

It’s not hard to understand how governments enforce race, gender, status and marriage (and call it “the public interest”): they use the power they have (condign, compensatory, conditioned). Likewise, organized religions, corporations in general, the mass media and the entertainment industry, schools and school systems, all have power they can use to enforce a specific view of the world and specific views on human relations.

But how does an institution that is not an organization enforce constructs? Well, I discussed previously how the family structure furthers the aims of indoctrination. Why do parents, by and large, do this if they are not being ordered to do so?

The obvious answer is that they all have some class interests in common. Parents share control over the life of another human being, and it’s in their interest to use that control in order to help that child to “be successful,” which means to conform. The Patriarchy pits men as a class against women as a class. Pseudo-science (such as that concerned with “proving” that race and gender are natural) exists because it fulfills the need of the organizations who pay for its continuation.

In order to understand the mechanics, the categories of power are a useful classification, because it is precisely power that we’re talking about here.

* Condign power- the use of force or the threat of force. In this category would be included the usual suspects: genocide, war (including the “war on terror” and its implied racism), torture, and other police or military forms of murder and rape. It also includes all forms of gynocide throughout history (witch-hunts, foot-binding, gender-selective abortions, etc), slavery, prostitution and pornography, rape, the assault and harassment of women for being women (including acid attacks), capitalist inequality (esp. in the rationing of health care, food and water, land), the use of neuroatypicality to justify the imprisonment and “treatment” of innocents, and so on. This list is obviously not meant to be exhaustive!

* Compensatory power- here we are talking, not about the power of the stick, but the power of the carrot. Think of all the things people are ready to do to obtain money or status, all the way from getting a job (which usually implies schooling and conformity) to being a “good parent,” a “good child,” “saved,” and so on.

So there are two elements here: one is the need for conformity and the fear of losing one’s source of money or status, and another is that these two elements lead people to become the executors of mental or physical violence, even against their class interests. The police and the military attack and kill against their own class interests, mostly because they are “doing their job.

* Conditioned power- the power of being able to indoctrinate people. I’ve already delved into that when talking about socialization.

It is fair to posit that we’re re-creating our own oppression every day, and it’s easy to say that we should simply stop participating in our own oppression. Certainly there is a part of personal responsibility, especially for the privileged. But it’s equally important to remember that there are centuries and millennia of social evolution behind this oppression, that there are entire institutions built around it, and that it won’t go away simply because some people refuse to feed it. There is a tremendous amount of power behind every single prejudice we fight against. It is important to fight, but it’s equally important not to be delusional. Social problems can only be solved by collective action.

***

The constructionist view is not that there is a shadowy government somewhere pushing sexism, racism, nationalism or ableism on an unsuspecting world population. Rather, what we observe is the result of society being molded, over large periods of time, by these institutions which depend on sexism, racism, nationalism, ableism, and so on. When a vegetable is grown into a shape by a container, we don’t think there’s an atomic conspiracy to bring about that shape.

Social constructs are of vital importance to any discussion regarding human societies, human actions, social roles. They are, without exaggeration, the substance of our mental life (starting from the first words we learn, all the way to our sexuality and sexual orientation). They condition how we position ourselves in society, who we think we are, whether through our acceptance or rejection of their influence. So it’s crucially important for us to question this influence and to measure its justifications up with logic and the observed evidence.

So what is the aim of social constructionism? To me, the most basic aim of talking about constructionism and constructionist issues (especially gender, in my case) is to get people to realize that the social constructs they think are “natural” and “necessary” are neither, and that, like any other belief supposed to pertain to objective reality, they must be questioned before we blindly accept their influence.

But there is a larger goal here. As I’ve stated many times, the only way out is through collective action, but collective action starts with individual awareness, especially awareness of class. The realization that gender, race, heteronormativity, capitalism and inequality, the nation-state, and other constructs, can and should be questioned hopefully leads the individual to become aware of their place in the hierarchies resulting from those constructs, whether that position is one of privilege or of subordination.

The end goal is for people to just be able to conceive of a better world. As long as people believe that the way things are is fixed and immutable, they will refuse to construct something new in their own heads. If social constructs are unquestionable, then there’s no point in fighting for anything. But because social constructs can be opposed and we can formulate alternatives, we can work towards a more egalitarian society.

Slavish allegiance to the status quo, visceral hatred of anyone who opposes authority, blaming the victim, are all control mechanisms I’ve written about on this blog. But I don’t think they are natural or inevitable either. The truth cannot be badgered into silence or intimidated, and there will always be people ready to take up the truth.

A constructionist view on social constructs. [part 1/2]

NOTE: I know I’ve stopped chopping up entries in parts a long time ago because it’s inconvenient for readers, but this entry was just way too long to keep as one piece.

***

Constructionists obviously use the term “social construct” quite a bit, since it’s the central concept of the ideology, and this may create some confusion as to what constructionism is really about. What a person thinks about constructionism will heavily depend on how they understand the term “social construct.” So I think it’s important to clear up the term.

A simple, if obvious, definition of a social construct would be that it’s constructed by society. I think the “constructed” term needs the most explanation here. When we say constructed, we mean it’s not imaginary, but it’s also not the result of observations about reality.

Consider how many levels of reality we hold in our heads when we say something “exists.” I can say, for instance, that the table in front of me exists. I can say that the concept of tables exists. I can say that property relations exist. I can also say that Superman exists.

All of these statements pertain to an entirely different kind of “existence.” When I say “the table in front of me exists,” I am referring to an existing object which can be perceived with the senses. When I say “the concept of tables exists,” I am referring to an idea in my head which refers to existing objects which can be perceived with the senses. When I say “Superman exists,” I am talking about a character which exists within the bounds of a fictional universe or universes which is depicted in documents which are perceived with the senses.

But think further about how the concept of Superman is constructed. I won’t rehash the entire history of the Superman character, but like most comic book heroes it had a beginning, and further iterations which evolved from that beginning. That is to say, “Superman” as a concept does not arise solely from the imagination but is the result of a history of fictional representations (for another example, think of any popular creature such as vampires, zombies or ghosts, and how our conceptions of them changes over time due to new representations). And the idea of Superman itself did not arise ex nihilo, but was itself the result of numerous cultural influences and popular ideas.

When we say something is constructed, we mean that it is the result of human thought and evolves as an independent entity within the realm of human thought. My table is not the result of human thought, it exists as a piece of matter that can be measured. On the other hand, anything I imagine in my own head cannot exist as an independent entity unless I express it to others and they pick it up as well.

***

At this point I think I should start using some examples, so let’s start with a pretty famous one, money. The paper that money is printed on exists in a very concrete way, but money itself, the idea that these pieces of paper have some value beyond that of the paper and that this value should be used in exchanges, is a social construct. The concept of money has evolved throughout millennia from weights of barley or shells to electronic accounting numbers. At every step of the way, the construct evolved from its previous conceptions: none of them are the result of observations of reality or purely imaginary.

So, complicating the issue even more, you have to differentiate between the social construct and the objects through which we regulate and control social constructs. People often confuse the two and think that this must mean that social constructs are really the objects and therefore “really exist” (i.e. exist as objects). Money is a social construct and does not “really exist” (i.e. exist as objects), but it does exist (as a social construct) and it is controlled and regulated through objects (as it must be).

Another good example of this dichotomy is property relations, which are relations between one person (“owner” of the object) and the other people in the society (non-“owners” of the object). These relations are sanctioned and defined as part of a legal or customary tradition. The objects that are labeled property (e.g. land, a house, a table) exist as objects, the relation itself (e.g. “I own this table”) exists as a social construct.

Theoretically the object can exist without the relation, but it would no longer be socially relevant. In a society like ours, where property relations are all-important, everything must be owned in order to be relevant. Anything that is not owned, such as the air or the oceans, is fair game for pollution and depletion.

Like everything that exists, property relations and money have causal influence in the world, even if you don’t believe in their validity. So there is this belief that if something is a social construct, then all we need to do is stop believing in it individually and we’re somehow attacking the problem. But social constructs have an independent existence which persists whether you or I continue to believe in them, and they are backed by institutions which will enable that persistence whether you like it or not. Even though they are not measurable objects in the world, they have a strong push back through their believers and the institutions that support them.

You observe this for gender as well; there are some people who believe that acting as if gender does not exist, or that denying the existing gender categories, is somehow an anti-genderist activity. But gender is profoundly rooted in every single institution around us, and will not be shaken in any way because you’ve personally declared yourself genderqueer or neutrois. It matters little to the continuation of Patriarchy whether there are two, three, or a hundred official genders, as long as the hierarchical nature of gender is maintained.

Gender is also another social construct which is often confused with its object, which is the human body. Because people assign or guess gender based on their observation of the person’s body, it has become fashionable to confuse the body with gender itself. But gender is a social construct, not an object.

Some people use the term “social construct” to mean that something does not exist, but that’s not in line with social constructionism. Social constructs like gender and race do exist (as social constructs) and have a profound influence on humans and their societies (as mediated by institutions and their objects); so saying that something is a social construct does not prove that it doesn’t exist, but rather confirms its existence in a huge way.

The substance of a social construct is agreement, and let me tell you, if you don’t think agreement is a real thing, try breaking all the mores and rules you can and see how far it gets you. People will very rapidly enforce agreement on you whether you like it or not.

Apart from money, property relations and gender, here are some other social constructs:

* Religion is a social construct and the source of many social constructs, such as the sacred/profane and salvation.
* Race is a social construct, with the human body as its object, although, as for gender, assigned race varies with context.
* Political ideologies, including parties and economic ideologies, are social constructs. They are all born out of specific social circumstances and evolve by necessity or disappear.
* The concept of marriage, including rules about who can marry who (endogamy and exogamy) and the kind of ownership it implies, is a social construct.
* Countries, such as borders and differences in laws between countries, are social constructs. Laws themselves, and justice systems, are also social constructs.
* The hierarchy of social status (including slavery) is a social construct.
* The concept of intelligence (including geek culture) is, in addition to being exceedingly vague, a social construct.
* Sports are a social construct.
* Fashion and language are also sometimes listed as social constructs, although I would contend that they are also fairly largely conventions (a convention being, in my view, the necessary effect of one alternative being used over others, and we need to communicate and wear clothes).
* Standards of attractiveness are probably social constructs (evopsych quackery notwithstanding).

All these things are constructed by society. We know this because they are not natural or imaginary, but rather the result of gradual social evolution and subject to general agreement.

One way to verify whether something is a social construct is what I’d call an anthropological check: does its expression vary throughout history and between societies? If so, it’s probably a social construct. I’m not saying this is a perfect test, but it’s certainly a good counter to the reactionary discourse where every feature of society is the best of all worlds and has existed in this form for all time (“marriage has always been between a man and a woman!”, “women have always been in charge of the domestic sphere, men of the outside world,” “people have always believed in God,” the past assumption that Western white societies were the pinnacle of civilization).

Continued in part 2.

No such thing as reverse sexism.

The excellent Feminism 101 entry about sexism includes discussions of reverse sexism, benevolent sexism and unintentional sexism.

A running theme in a lot of feminist theory is that of institutional power: men as a class have it, women as a class don’t. Obviously the power dynamics do shift around depending on the culture and the time period (not to mention the individual, the other privileges that the person does/does not have, etc etc), but ultimately the scales remain tipped in favor of men in general (if you disagree with that statement, please go read the Why do we still need feminism? FAQ entry first before proceeding).

What this imbalance of power translates to on an individual level is a difference in the impact of a man being prejudiced towards a woman and a woman being prejudiced towards a man. While both parties are human, and therefore have the same capacity to be hurt by the prejudice, whether they like it or not, the men have a whole system of history, traditions, assumptions, and in some cases legal systems and “scientific” evidence giving their words a weight that the women don’t have access to.

What’s Wrong with Sadomasochism? Pro-Feminist Ben Barker Explains the Harms of BDSM & the Kink Scene

From Anti-Pornography Activist Blog.

An entry against skepticism.

This entry, and indeed the whole site as far as I can tell, has disappeared since I first found it, but I got it back on Internet Archive because it’s so rare that you see a rational criticism of skepticism that it’s worth saving. There’s a lot of thoughtful material here and I can’t really summarize it into one good quote, but here’s something:

Skepticism, of course, is only one of the many online interests which attract barely-closeted sexists. But the particular attraction of skepticism is also its particular problem: it allows the sexist to disguise his prejudice as rationality and “common sense”. You can spot guys like this easily on skeptic forums: the word “feminism” brings them crawling out, like slugs after a downpour. For them, feminism is an unscientific discipline (but how could it be otherwise?), as nonsensical as astrology or Roman Catholicism, and as ripe and essential for debunking. They’re okay with women’s lib, within reason; but now it’s gone too far, and the firm hand of reason must rein it in. Reason, weirdly enough, never seems to disrupt their own grip on power. It’s always on the side of the patriarchy.

To be fair, such unabashed sexists are a minority on skeptic forums, but to be fairer, the general attitude to women isn’t exactly healthy. Women are present on skeptic forums in much the same way that women are present in early Star Trek episodes: while the men can take on a variety of roles, the women are always sex characters. Their every attribute is sexualised and objectified. Intelligence in a male skeptic is taken for granted; intelligence in a female skeptic is a turn-on. When a male scientist knows about science, it’s expected and goes unremarked; when a female scientist knows about science, she’s hot! And she’ll be barely visible beneath the throng of nerds trying to fap off over her lab coat.

Too often, the skeptic nerd who tries to display his women-friendly credentials ends up revealing himself only as a sexist creep. He’s all in favour of women, as long as they satisfy his own ideals of what a woman should be.

The pro-pornography and pro-BDSM positions are fundamentally selfish.


From Dinosaur Comics.

I think the proposition I give in the title of this entry may seem counter-intuitive; anyone interested in these debates has been bombarded by entitlement propaganda from the pro side, which posits that men have a right to, and are entitled to, female sexuality. Starting from this premise, I agree that the notion that the pro-prostitution and pro-BDSM positions are selfish does not make much sense (how can it be selfish to demand something that you are entitled to?). But I reject male entitlement to sex, and if we do go beyond that flimsy rationalization, I think the selfish nature of these positions is obvious.

I think that actions which benefit the self and hurt others would be labeled selfish by everyone (except Objectivists, but their own pro-capitalist ideology belies that). So however else selfishness may be defined, we can posit that selfish people are fine with running roughshod over others in the satisfaction of their needs.

Before even looking at how pro-pornography advocates defend their position, we can define the fundamental issue as this: in order to support pornography as an institution, you must first believe that your orgasms are more important than the widespread physical and mental abuse of women in pornography, the use of prostitutes and trafficked women to produce pornography, the creeping invasion of pornographic images and poses into mainstream media, and the threat to all women that pornography represents.

So I think we can all agree that, a priori, being pro-pornography is a very selfish position. But what about the advocates’ replies?

First, they try to argue that all these harms cannot possibly exist because “porn is not real” or “it’s just fantasy.” I could facetiously argue that they are out of their minds and can no longer differentiate between real life and fantasy, but I doubt that’s actually the case. I’m more inclined to believe that they are simply lying. Of course pornography is real, it’s made by real people in real circumstances and the sexual acts really are performed. To seriously argue otherwise is a complete psychotic break and requires treatment, not debate.

Sex-positive advocates will usually talk about how important healthy orgasms are, but pornography is not necessary for orgasms in the first place, so it’s really a red herring. The fact that a couple may sit down and watch pornography as a way to spark their sex life doesn’t mean they need pornography to have sex. And pornography, as I’ve pointed out before, is a very poor way of learning about sex. And even if the argument was valid and not a lie, it’s still selfish to think that the harms of pornography are compensated by your orgasm.

Another popular argument is the free speech argument. Besides its logical invalidity, what does it say about you that whatever you’re defending is so harmful to society that the only argument you have is that you have the right to defend it? Anyone has the right to be a woman-hating little shit, but how does that justify woman-hating? That seems to me like a rather childish and selfish attitude to have.

It rather reminds me of choice-talk. People throw the word “choice” around as a way to reduce everything to the individual. When they use it about themselves, they are basically saying “you can’t criticize me!”. To take one random example:

“I am an adult and if I choose to watch pornography, violence etc. then it is my own business.”

Really implies:

“I am an adult and if I choose to watch pornography, violence etc. then you are not allowed to criticize it. You may criticize children all you want, but I am an adult and all my choices are just as valid as yours.”

So there is an element of misopedia in this comment (obviously children don’t have rights and their “choices” cannot be valid without adult approval), but most importantly the individual demands that eir values have primacy over everyone else’s. Because there is criticism of pornography from a radical perspective and that criticism deserves as much consideration as the individual’s “choice.” To say otherwise is to refuse to live in society, but there lies the rhetoric of the sociopath, who, like the consumer of pornography, desperately does not want you to confront what he does.

If you read this blog, you know that I have repeatedly exposed the lies and misrepresentations of the most visible “feminist” pro-pornography advocate, Wendy McElroy (see 1, 2). Her defense of pornography is a mishmash of lies (e.g. radfems think women who look at pornography are “damaged” and regressed to a childlike state, pornography is sexually informative) and ignorance (e.g. she cannot use the term “objectification” correctly, she only discusses pornography with privileged and successful white pornographic actresses). Reading her defense, one gets the impression of a person who wants to sound like the voice of reason, but rejects anyone who is not like herself or who has different issues.

How often, in the pro-pornography discourse, do you hear anything about human rights, about equality, about the harm done? The reason is obvious: no human right, no egalitarian principle would be broken by banning pornography, and no harm is being resolved by pornography. They have no argument there, so they have no choice but to fall back to the same “free speech” and “it’s not real, it’s not real” rhetoric.

With BDSM, we have a similar situation, in that the person’s orgasm remains paramount. BDSMers must, a priori, believe that their orgasm is more important than the fact that they are reproducing physical and verbal abuse, sexual assault, torture, rape, and slavery, participating in a sexual institution which normalizes and justifies these activities, equating sexuality with oppressive hierarchies (and labeling non-hierarchical sex “vanilla sex,” on the premise that sexuality that is egalitarian and respectful of consent is inherently uninteresting and flavorless), and threatening abused women.

When I first commented on BDSM, I pointed out that, like with the pro-pornography advocates, the main argument used to address these charges is that BDSM is “not really” physical and verbal abuse, sexual assault, torture, etc. In order to make the point, they use weasel terms like “consensual non-consent,” “dubious consent,” “meta-consent,” “long-term consent.” None of these terms are actually forms of consent, but rather ways of calling various forms of non-consent “consent.”

I do feel like this point will be misunderstood, so I want to expand on it a bit. I have defined consent quite a bit on this blog, but basically to consent means to agree to participate to, or allow, if one is not directly involved, a certain course of action. All these BDSM terms entail that by agreeing to something that will happen in the future, agreeing when one is forced to agree, or by agreeing to actions which are undefined, one is agreeing to those future, coerced or undefined actions.

But this is logical nonsense. The only way to consent (agree to an action) is to agree to the action at the time of the action. Anything else is coercive; if consent really existed at the time of the action, then you wouldn’t need any long-term or contractual agreement in the first place. Sexual acts which are not consensual are actually really acts of sexual assault or rape.

Not only is it rape when agreement is not obtained at the time of the act, but even when there is no agreement at all, the assumed validity of BDSM as a sexual practice helps rapists get out of rape accusations (“we were practicing rapeplay, honest!”). Abusive forms of BDSM sex are, in practice, indistinguishable from other forms of abuse (how can we tell if there was an pre-existing agreement two days or two years ago?).

There is a “not all BDSMers” argument, just like there’s a “there is feminist porn too” argument. Both arguments are misguided, since the radfem position is not that all BDSMers are rapists or that all pornography is abusive, but rather that pornography and BDSM as institutions further the cause of woman-hatred and patriarchal ideals. Sadly, in defense of their sexuality, BDSMers are not ashamed to tell people about their sexual activities without their consent (not surprising, given how little they value consent) as if this was a normal thing to do (an activity which some in the anti-kink community call kink-creep).

Same problem with the argument that BDSMers only do it between themselves and thus cannot hurt anyone else. Apart from the fact that such arguments marginalize survivors of BDSM abuse, they obscure the fact that radfem arguments are not concerned with what people do in their own bedroom but with systems of oppression. BDSM as an institution is more than just people having sex: it’s a system of thought about sexual relations and “consent,” a reframing of sex as hierarchy and an us v them ideology where everyone who does not practice hierarchical sex is “vanilla” and has not discovered their personal kink.

As you can see, I’ve highlighted a number of areas where both positions are very similar. But the fundamental similarity, I think, is that advocates of pornography and BDSM are both conditioned by their orgasms (in the case of BDSM, often on purpose; in the case of pornography, involuntarily). If you keep getting orgasms in a specific physical or mental way, then eventually your orgasms will be connected to that way.

Let’s take porn for example: “John” enjoys pornography that includes group sex, so he seeks out this type of stimulus when he masturbates. Every time he orgasms to stimuli (visual or fantasy) of group sex, “John”’s brain forms an association between the stimuli and orgasm. And the more he pairs his orgasm to group sex, the stronger the association. Now, this doesn’t mean that simply seeing or thinking about group sex will cause “John” to orgasm, but it will start the arousal process. And more importantly, “John” might find that it takes longer to become aroused or to achieve orgasm to other types of sexual stimuli. He may even have to fantasize about group sex when he’s being intimate with his partner in order to orgasm.

If women’s oppression is the only way for you to get an orgasm, then you have a huge incentive to defend women’s oppression. Addicts will defend their right to have their drug of choice at any costs. And a lot of women are hoodwinked by the lie that it is normal for men to need pornography to orgasm, or the lie that women need to get into BDSM to have interesting sex lives (e.g. Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a manual for “forced seduction”).

Under the guise of tolerance and openness, pro-pornography and pro-BDSM advocates peddle the same old patriarchal bullshit. To paraphrase a famous quote, pornography and BDSM are the theory, rape is the practice.

I love when pro-porn people criticize radical feminists for their vague pragmatic agreement with conservatives but don’t seem to realize their much greater agreement with a massive legion of rapists.

[P]orn teaches the same things as rape.

Ask a Question 8

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers (maybe)! We’ve got two good long questions today, so let’s get to it.

***

Name: Anonymous
Comment: Hey, I found your blog a couple of days ago and really like your stuff on AN even though I don’t share your position on anarchism for mostly practical more than ideological reasons.

My question is – given a hypothetical “terrorist” who manages to synthesize a virus or something similar that has the capability of rendering every single living human sterile with no possibility of a fertility treatment for anyone, would you be willing to be the one to release it? More generally, what’s your take on the practicalities of antinatalism and how much of your freedom-based ideals would you be willing to give up to actually see global infertility?

Your first question is very similar to the “red button” scenario (which I already discussed in the case of Anarchism): if you could press a button which would magically resolve the issue you’re concerned about, would you do it? The trouble is in the details, of course.

In the case of antinatalism, there are two basic “red button” scenarios: one where all sentient life is rendered non-existent, and another where all sentient life is sterilized. I strenuously object to the former because, no matter how much worse existence is, we all have the right to continue to exist and I don’t think we can make such decisions for other people.

The case of sterilization is much easier, since we don’t have the right to procreate, and sterilization prevents suffering. The main issue with your question, from an antinatalist perspective, would be that it’s restricted to humans: even a plummeting human population would still be free to inflict suffering on other species (through the continued use of factory farming, for example), and when humans are gone those species would continue to exist and experience suffering.

Would I be willing to release such a viral agent? Doing so would come at great personal risks, one assumes, but I don’t see why not.

Your second question seems to be based on some assumption that implementing antinatalism would be counter to freedom-based ideals. On the contrary, both stances are based on the same fundamental principles: do not use people as means to an end, and assume all hierarchies and privileges are invalid unless proven otherwise. It would be abstruse for an advocate of self-government to promote natalism, and it wouldn’t make much sense for a statist to be an antinatalist, or at least that’s how it seems to me (although I have run into one antinatalist Christian, so I guess people can rationalize quite a lot).

Keeping in mind that antinatalism means that procreation is wrong, I certainly think antinatalism is practical, insofar as it informs people’s choices. But if by “antinatalism” you mean human extinction through ending procreation, then no, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. I think humans are in far, far greater danger from the Collapse, global warming, World War 3, grey goo, or whatever other doomsday we can bring on ourselves, than from ceasing to procreate.

***

Name: Hil
Comment: hey, i love your blog. My question is about repression of women. I like how in your genderism, trans theory, and hostility to radfems, you describe how gender should be eliminated as a social construct, where other theories use it as a basis (division). I noticed too, how women get oppressed by males through a patriarchal system to ‘put females in their place’, i noticed also there is an echo of this behavior in trans circles: why is dismissing women ok, but to shine light on trans bullying women not ok to discuss or acknowledge? how do they win allies by being hostile to the gender theyre trying to be (replace?)

I don’t want to speak for transgender people, and I think most of them, like most people in general, couldn’t care less about gender politics and just accept the options that are presented to them. It is the trans genderists I write against, the advocates of this new trans conception of gender, because gender reduces itself to the subjection of women.

I don’t think trans genderists want radical feminists as their allies, because radical feminism is too small. They’re going for the mainstream, the liberal feminists and the sex-positives, and in order to gain cred as a liberal feminist, one of the things you do is shit on radical feminists (usually, shit on their positions against pornography, against prostitution, against BDSM, stuff like that). That’s just how it works.

I don’t know if you noticed that, but I added Violent Threats to my radfem blogroll. This is a blog which lists all the death threats made against radfem (and some made by radfem as well), mostly by trans advocates. So this can be pretty instructive as to the nature of the “debate.”

Another obvious issue is that radical feminists are against gender, as you pointed out, and a lot of transgender people use gender as their primary self-identification. So when they try to engage the ideology (if they indeed do so), they feel as if radfems are attacking them personally, as if they want transgender people to fall to the wayside.

The basic fact of the matter is that transwomen were socialized as men. Now, I’ve got nothing against people who were socialized as men (I’m one myself!), but such people need to stay out of feminism in general unless they examine their privilege and genuinely listen to what women know. I know some transwomen do this, and I am grateful for that, but most do not (again, like most people, they have no particular motivation to care).

***

Thank you to Anonymous and Hil, and keep sending those questions.

Stefan Molyneux …just too silly

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