Antinatalism and the suffering of other species.

Some people think antinatalism only applies to human procreation. It is true that, by and large, antinatalists discuss human procreation because, after all, we are human and our concerns are mainly human concerns. Humans generally talk about other humans. Still, antinatalism does not only pertain to human procreation. It is about all sentient life. The ethical proposition of antinatalism is that sentient procreation is wrong, because sentient beings experience suffering and the creation of that suffering is unnecessary and wrong.

Granted, other species will not be moved by logical arguments or emotional appeals. It is not primarily about those animals themselves that we talk about, but about the humans who force procreation on animals for human purposes, most importantly livestock. As in the case of children, it is important to put the blame in the right place: children are not responsible for being born and are not at fault for annoying you, it is the parents who brought them into this world who should be blamed. Blaming cows or chickens for their own reproduction would be silly. Humans are responsible for a great deal of that reproduction, and we should put the blame on them, at least for that amount. The rest can be chalked up to that most “special” of special kids, evolution, smashing its toys together for millions of years until something works.

All the antinatalist arguments also apply to the forced reproduction of animals from other species. If there is no reason for humans to exist, there is even less reason for them to exist, since their purpose in life would be contingent on ours. If we have a duty to not create suffering, then we have a duty not to create their suffering as well. If the context of our lives is too bad to bring more lives into it, then how much worse is it for animals who are condemned to imprisonment until execution?

This has led many antinatalists to the position that vegetarianism is the only ethical position. By eating other animals, we contribute to their suffering. I agree that factory farming is evil and greatly contributes to suffering. However, it is not at all clear that vegetarianism is the only ethical solution. Millions of mammals die under the threshers every year. There is no diet under our current food supply system which does not create suffering in massive quantities (depending on what range of species you believe experience suffering). While this is a minor factor, vegetarianism also entails some human suffering, in that some people simply cannot stay on a vegetarian or vegan diet and stay healthy, a phenomenon called “failure to thrive.”

Would a vegetarian diet, widely adopted, be superior to the omnivore diet? Yes, but mostly due to the end of factory farming. I am not trying to argue that all diets are equally wrong, but merely that vegetarianism does not have the high moral ground that is generally assumed. Some antinatalists seem to believe that vegetarianism or veganism entail zero suffering. This is a laughable, conceited premise.

The infliction of suffering on sentient animals is a collective problem, and collective problems cannot be resolved by individualistic solutions. Recycling cannot save the environment, and being nice to your children does not eradicate childism. It may, in some cases, make you a good person, but it does not help address any collective problems. As radicals, we must attack the root of the problem, not trim some leaves. Our treatment of animals is based on the premise that other species are inferior to humans, and that they, like everything else in nature, are resources to be exploited. Antinatalism must most importantly lead to the awareness that the way we treat animals is not just wrong, but part of a system of prejudice, a global hierarchy constructed by religion and capitalism, where animals and the environment sit at the very bottom. It is that prejudice, and its expression in manufactured suffering on a worldwide scale, that we must address. People’s diets are of little relevance.

The antinatalist position is simple: the forced procreation of other species, including livestock and pets, is evil. Any industry or institution which relies on the forced procreation of other species should be dismantled. Note that, while this would dramatically reduce meat production, this principle does not imply that all eating of other animal species must stop. For one thing, it would not stop hunting. While I do not support hunting in general, except for subsistence, antinatalism in itself does not provide an ethical objection to it.

It remains to be hoped that the technology of artificial meat will put a final period over the whole issue, as long as it becomes widespread and easily affordable. At that point vegetarianism will hopefully become definitely established as the modern diet.

MRAs in a nutshell

From All is for All.

The Descent from Radical Feminism to Post-Modernism – Ti-Grace Atkinson

The Groundbreaking Life of Murasaki Shikibu #OrdinaryWomen

Contortions to rationalize the belief that pornography is not violent, from Psychology Today.

Michael Castleman, at Psychology Today, made the bizarre claim that pornography is not violent. Anyone who would make such a claim has clearly never watched mainstream pornography, or is a pornsick stooge. He is a journalist that specializes in sexual issues, so probably the latter. How can anyone make such a blatant lie and expect to get away with it?

Well, the first tactic he uses is to lie about the evidence, so his audience (who will generally be unfamiliar with anti-pornography research) will think he’s got the upper hand:

In her 2010 book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, author Gail Dines, Ph.D., asserts that 88 percent of porn videos contain violence against women…

Does 88 percent of porn really show violence against women? No way. But don’t take my word for it. Just browse any of the sampler sites that aggregate porn clips from thousands of sources (cliti.com is one example). The vast majority of porn videos, both professional and amateur, depict generally happy—or at least not visibly unhappy—people engaged in nonviolent, totally consensual sex.

First of all, Castleman clearly does not ever go on actual popular pornography sites on the Internet. He speaks from a position of pure ignorance. Secondly, this is a straightforward lie. Gail Dines does not say that 88% of all pornographic videos on the Internet contain violence against women. What her data says is that 88% of the most rented pornographic movies contain violence against women:

The data from the industry indicating that Gonzo is the most popular and profitable sub-genre of porn is backed up by a recent peer-reviewed study that conducted a large-scale content analysis of contemporary porn… Bridges (2010) and her team found that the majority of scenes from 50 of the top-rented porn movies contained both physical and verbal abuse targeted against the female performers. Physical aggression, which included spanking, open-hand slapping, and gagging, occurred in over 88% of scenes, while expressions of verbal aggression—calling the woman names such as “bitch” or “slut”—were found in 48% of the scenes. The researchers concluded that 90% of scenes contained at least one aggressive act if both physical and verbal aggression were combined.

Hell-bent on arguing against his own strawwomyn, Castleman then tries to explain why the results that he made up are wrong:

And how did the study’s authors—professors at four prestigious universities—come up with their figure? By totally misunderstanding one form of sexuality often depicted in porn—bondage, discipline, and sado-masochism (BDSM).

So this article is out to completely misrepresent both pornography and BDSM. He tries to prove his point, and wheezes, stumbles, and falls on his fucking face:

So, do people know violence when they see it? Not always. Consider this scenario: One man strikes another sharply between the shoulder blades. Most people would call that violence—hitting, assault. But if the two men are colleagues and they’re both smiling, the blow becomes a pat on the back for a job well done—not violence, but congratulations. In other words, violence must be judged not just by the action, but by the action in the context of the participants’ intentions.

Hitting someone in the back with an open hand is a ritual. To claim that this must be a violent act is to assume that one is ignorant of this fact. No one would confuse an act of congratulations with an act of violence. The participants’ intentions have nothing to do with this evaluation. If one person pats another on the back with murderous intent, we still would not see this as an act of violence. Likewise, someone punching another in the face with the very best of intentions is still committing a violent act. Intentions have no place in an ethical evaluation, such as the kind of impersonal judgment we make about acts committed by other people (moral evaluations are another thing entirely).

But most importantly, this is not the kind of violence perpetrated by BDSM advocates. Consider the following list: spanking, whipping, burning, cutting, strangulation, rape, torture. Do any of these acts sound anywhere remotely like the equivalent of a pat on the back? Do we have a common ritual of strangling people to congratulate them? Do people spank each other on the street as a routine greeting?

The argument is the result of a profoundly confused mind. There is generally no issue with identifying acts of violence. We may disagree on which are justified and which are not, but I don’t think identification is an issue.

He then goes on to describe the popularity of BDSM and BDSM-based literature, and offers another absurd whopper:

Porn critics rail against X-rated media, but oddly, don’t condemn romance fiction for the way the male characters dominate and threaten the female protagonists. Why? Because romance fiction is written to appeal to women’s erotic fantasies. Women understand that it’s fantasy. But the researchers who call X-rated media violent apparently don’t recognize that porn is also fantasy. They erroneously believe that porn represents men’s real-world sexual agenda. As anti-porn activist Robin Morgan once said, “Porn is the theory. Rape is the practice.”

Yes, it’s that old bromide again, “pornography is fantasy.” I don’t know how stupid you have to be to believe such nonsense, but pornography, like most filmed media, is not fantasy. It depicts real acts performed on real people. The only exception is special effects, but most pornographic videos, being produced extremely cheaply, do not use special effects beyond screen wipes.

To compare literature with film betrays a deep media illiteracy. Romance fiction does not involve real women performing real acts. Pornographic movies do. Novels are make-believe, filming people is not. Even if they are acting, you are still filming something that’s actually happening. Literature cannot show us things that are actually happening (at best, they are a recollection or a retelling of something that did happen, filtered through our conceptual understanding).

It’s hard to understand why a supposedly serious publication like Psychology Today would agree to publish such blatant lies and drivel, even if it’s only an online blog article. The only reason why anyone would even pretend to agree with it, I think, is because they are BDSM advocates and they wish to grab onto anyone and anything which attempts to justify or rationalize away the rape, violence, and cruelty in BDSM. But certainly they can do better than such pathetic nonsense.

Unboxing Masculinity

Quotes from Against Love, by Laura Kipnis

“However much the decline of arranged marriages is held up in this part of the globe as a sign of progress and enlightenment (including, lately, as propaganda for modernity when seeking to score political points against Islam), however much it flatters our illusions of independence to imagine that we get to love whomever and however we please, this story starts to unravel if you look too closely. Economic rationality was hardly eliminated when individuals began choosing their own mates instead of leaving the job to parents; it plays as much of a role as ever. Despite all the putative freedom, the majority of us select partners remarkably similar to ourselves- economically, and in social standing, education, and race. That is, we choose ‘appropriate’ mates, and we precisely calculate their assets, with each party gauging just how well they can do on the open market, knowing exactly their own exchange value and that of prospective partners… The real transformation of modern love, as sociologist Eva Iluouz points out, comes with the fact that ranking mates for material and social assets is now incorporated into the psychology of love and unconscious structures of desire, with individuals having now internalized the economic rationality once exerted by parents, thus ‘freely’ falling in love with mates who are also- coincidentally- good investments.”

“[W]hy has modern love developed in such a way as to maximize submission and minimize freedom, with so little argument about it? No doubt a citizenry schooled in renouncing desires- and whatever quantities of imagination and independence they come partnered with- would be, in many respects, advantageous: note that the conditions of lovability are remarkably convergent with those of a cowed workforce and a docile electorate. But if the most elegant forms of social control are those that come packaged in the guise of individual needs and satisfactions, so wedded to the individual psyche that any opposing impulse registers as the anxiety of unlovability, who needs a policeman on every corner? How very convenient that we’re so willing to police ourselves and those we love, and call it living happily ever after.
Perhaps a secular society needed another metaphysical entity to subjugate itself to after the death of God, and love was available for the job. But isn’t it a little depressing to think we’re somehow incapable of inventing forms of emotional life based on anything other than subjugation?”

“[B]anished thoughts include comparing the unfreedoms we subscribe to in personal life and the unfreedoms we oppose in political life. Or, as another noted comedian, Isaac Berlin, once put it: If an individual votes himself into slavery and thus gives up his freedom, is this really political liberty?”

“[I]t remains a baleful fact that making happiness any sort of an open political demand- or even just a demand of politicians- is a dangerous thing. But at least there was adultery, the current secret code for wanting something more. Adultery, whatever its inherent problems- as with other supplements and shopping sprees and pleasure quests- is at least a reliable way of proving to ourselves that we’re not in the ground quite yet, especially when feeling a little dead inside. Or at least until a better solution comes along.”

“The debate over the right to end our own lives is not a matter of medicine or so-called mental health.”

I wanted to highlight this great comment by reader Claudia54.

As a woman, I wonder that I can terminate a life growing inside me based on others’ volatile opinions about what constitutes “viable life,” but I cannot terminate my own life.

Whom do I belong to that someone else’s feelings, opinions, and perceptions are more important than my own as far as the continuance or termination of my life is concerned? I can make all manner of so-called horrible life errors, and society tells me that they are all my responsibility. That is the cost, I’m told, of being an adult. I can smoke. I can over-indulge in alcohol. I make unhealthful dietary choices. I can engage in unprotected sex with many, many high-risk partners. Once I’m a legal adult, I can refuse to continue my education or get a job. I can become homeless, suffer the sexual and other physical depredations of others, and die slowly and torturously. All these things, though nearly everyone agrees they’re unwise choices–mistakes, I’m free to do.

Why? Because I’m a legal adult and I am responsible for my own life, terribly “mistakes” and all. The regrets of others who’ve pursued, or been on these paths, never justify another forcing me to act “wisely.”

Yet I cannot end my own life.

Why do the suicidal deserve special protections, while the vast majority of society’s derelict do not? Just about everyone who matters — friends, family, politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges, police — tells the societally lost they made mistakes and must now pay for them. Many of them will die painfully, abandoned, and that’s just life. But I cannot end my own life, as many seem to argue, for my own “good”? How is that reasoning at all consistent with our culture’s principles of personal autonomy and responsibility?

Speaking, too, as a licensed physician, even when I am confident a patient would benefit from additional treatment, I cannot force her or him to accept treatment. Even when the prognosis with treatment is statistically “good,” I can only present patients data–survival rates by years from diagnosis, side effects from treatment… Even if death is imminent without treatment, I cannot impose my will on a (non-minor) patient. So I do not believe the justification mental health professionals give, that acting against patients’ wills is justified based on the clinician’s superior knowledge of the disease state, or on the patient’s lack of clear thinking, or on the regret others who’ve attempted an act but failed at it later express over having attempted at all. At the root of the unique treatment modalities for mental health, in particular suicidal ideation, is an unjustifiable belief — not scientific fact — that life is always better than death. Other scholars in philosophy and medicine have written broadly on why this viewpoint is fallacious and never objective. Just as several European countries have finally concluded that life value can only be determined by a person living life, the rest of the world will eventually follow. The modern mental health therapeutic belief system is wholly untenable since it relies, like religion, on others believing the same principles as clinicians and mental health policy lobbyists — all who have a clear stake in the game.

Lastly, on a practical note, study after study links quality of social life to depression risk. We’re all advised to have healthy and sufficient connections with others we care about and who care about us. But, who doesn’t want quality social relationships? A mentor of mine from my residency commented about the health protection of friendships that what counselors usually fail to acknowledge is that every relationship requires two people. There are very many reasons outside an individual’s control for her potential isolation. Clinical psychology fails to address how persistent these may be despite therapy, drugs, or other interventions. You can only hope to change an individual, not the others she must interact with. So the clinicians who are adamantly against the right of the patient to choose death, will they commit to being with each patient throughout the week, the day, the night, when loneliness sets in and these people feel abandoned and desperate? Can the clinicians guarantee that whatever treatment-du-jour will overcome the early-life formative experiences we know literally mold neurology so that these patients feel radically different, more inclined to stay alive? Will clinicians guarantee patients’ communities will put aside classism, ageism, scathing prejudice based on body habitus, or any of the other myriad prejudices that isolate over a lifetime? Or will clinicians be there, day after day, to provide the intimacy of a hug, holding those who need frequent reassurance? Or can clinicians guarantee a more equitable or hospitable world in general — especially regarding the sometimes monstrously callous or patently malignant mental health system itself?

I think not.

So, if clinicians cannot guarantee sufficient quality of life we understand is so crucial to “mental health,” neither should they be entitled to condemn the humans they cannot help to lives patients actually living those lives find to be hellish isolation and hopelessness simply because of clinicians’ assessments of their own lives, life in general, or even other patients’ lives.

The debate over the right to end our own lives is not a matter of medicine or so-called mental health. We already know this since every day patients whose imminent deaths could be forestalled by medical intervention are permitted to reject medical care, and insurance companies are entitled, based on finances, to reject necessary procedures the medical literature tells us are likely to extend patients’ lives significantly. The debate over the right to end our own lives is shockingly rooted in biased value systems — “shockingly” because other people in this arena uniquely get to command otherwise legal adults not to act on our own bodies.

To me, there is no greater a contradiction to the concept of personal freedom than this.