The Road to Antinatalism: The Right to Procreate

Q&A | Why No Kids? | Karl Pilkington

Rebecca Mott on the language of pro-prostitution advocates.

Rebecca Mott, who has always been a strong voice against prostitution, discusses the reframings used by pro-prostitution advocates to push their woman-hating agenda in this great interview.

We should also look at the way the sex trade has used feminist language to make itself look really radical and that it’s on the side of women. But trying to appropriate feminist ideas from the 70s is just a cynical act, it’s just a way to make more money ; what they really want is to open the market for women and younger people, they want these people to believe the language they speak. They also use the language of labour to make it look like it’s an ordinary job, that average jobs are just as dangerous. At a meeting that I attended, one of the « sex workers » kept saying that it was just an ordinary job—and it was really hard not to laugh—it’s ridiculous rubbish. I felt like saying : in how many jobs are you likely to be tortured ? In how many jobs is murder quite normal ? Anybody can think of any other job where that happens ? In other jobs –mining or fishing—, when people are killed, it’s usually an accident or it’s a human error and there is a huge inquiry about it. It’s not just something people consider normal, and when there is a mining disaster, there is not just an inquiry but people say : « we have to do something to make it safer, we have do do something so the manager takes responsability for what happened ». There is none of that in prostitution, what you get is that women disappear, they don’t have any rights and it’s normal. In prostitution, you don’t have « worker’s rights »…

Statistically, most prostitutes have no choice whatsoever, and even if they think they have choice, if you look to their whole life, you’d find something that shows that they didn’t have choice–whether it’s poverty, whether it’s child abuse, wether it’s being led on by people who say it’s not that bad. There are many varied reasons why people enter prostitution but none of them can be put down as free choice. It’s very rare that somebody wakes up one morning, who had a very good childhood and a very secure life, and think : « I will be a prostitute ». It’s not something that a happy child would even think about, it wouldn’t enter their mind because it wouldn’t be relevant to a happy child. When people talk about choice for these women, it’s like a sleight of hand, they say : « look at this hand, look at the women » and they make everything else disappear. And the thing they make disappear is that the only people who have full choice are the punters –and the people who profiteer from prostitution. No man has to buy a woman ever, it’s not part of evolution, it’s not part of any religion, every man who buys a prostitute can also make the choice not to buy a prostitute. They can walk out of it any time, they can NOT do it.

When men go to Amsterdam, they do not have to go to the Red light district, nothing forces them to go to there. It’s like men are hepless victims to a force when they are doing it. They are not, they are completely in control, it doesn’t matter whether they are drunk or whether they are very young, they still have control. It’s quite a conscious thing to buy a prostitute, even your are buying it on your computer, it’s conscious, you don’t just walk down a street and pay a woman money, it doesn’t happen like that, it takes time, you have to think about it, you have to conduct some negociation. It makes me really angry that people think of it as accidental…

The problem with consent.

I have written a great deal about consent. The reason should be obvious: consent is a fundamental principle of ethics, and yet we seem to give it little respect, diluting the concept beyond all recognition. Some people also confuse voluntary agreement, or even just agreement, with consent (“yes is yes,” “enthusiastic consent”).

In a great entry on this very subject, Meghan Murphy points out the ridiculous argumentative load we put on consent:

Consent is the magical fairy dust which turns rape into sex; trafficking into free speech; and sexualized abuse, torture, and subjugation into sexual liberation — or so many people claim.

Indeed, for liberals (especially liberal feminists) and voluntaryists, “consent” seems to be the only standard of morality, but when they say “consent” they really mean “agreement.” There is a huge difference between the two: as I’ve written before, consent is a much more narrow concept than agreement. Saying “yes” does not equal consent. For instance, we recognize that sexual relations between a person in a position of authority and another person who is under their authority is immoral and improper, even if both said “yes.”

But beyond the sexual realm, which is the topic of Murphy’s entry, we can look at consent as a social problem. Consent is not a simple matter. For example, it is generally believed that the social order is in place based on the consent of the governed. Well, that’s obviously false: no one explicitly consents to whatever social order or structure is in place. But it is a fiction that serves the interests of those who are in power and those who benefit from that power, in short, those who already agree to the social order. It is those who disagree with the social order who are most likely to incur its wrath, but we then punish them in the name of that same social order they haven’t even consented to.

In short, there is an equivocation between “consent” and “compliance” or “submission.” The inferiors in a hierarchy are constantly asked to acquiesce to their own subjection. They do so because they have no other choice, as to refuse to acquiesce either means losing whatever place they already have, or losing face and risking punishment, if the former is impossible. But this is not “consent” on the same level as consent for an action between two superiors in a hierarchy. A worker agreeing to work late is not the same as two managers agreeing on a budget. A child agreeing to clean its room is not the same as two parents deciding where to go eat.

These are qualitatively different experiences, because inequality makes agreement more or less mandatory. As an inferior, you’re not really weighting alternatives, you’re managing expectations. Beyond being free from certain kinds of oppression and having certain opportunities, privilege also means not being pressured to say “yes” or to conform. It means being able to make up your own mind.

Consent as ideology cannot be distinguished from habitual acquiescence, assent, silent dissent, submission, or even enforced submission. Unless refusal or consent or withdrawal of consent are real possibilities, we can no longer speak of ‘consent’ in any genuine sense.
Dr. Carol Pateman, “Women and Consent,” Political Theory, vol. 8, p. 149.

There are some people, especially in BDSM, who believe that they can truly consent to submission. This is a bizarre concept, but it’s all part of the murky realm of “non-consensual consent” in BDSM, where consent is redefined and reframed so much that it basically reduces itself to a contract and a safe word. They are not “consenting” to submit any more than other inferiors consent to submit.

Another problem with consent in a context of inequality is that we only consider relevant consent to specific actions, not to the structures that mold those actions. We simply assume that the structures are valid and assume that any further issues are problems with the individuals involved (“bad apples,” “evil people,” “a twisted mind,” and so on). This is obviously closely related to vulgar individualism and the refusal to look at systemic issues, which I’ve written about extensively, so I won’t repeat myself here.

Consent does not exist for the inferiors, but for the superiors, who want to ensure obedience and maintain the illusion of consent. And the illusion of consent serves to justify ongoing oppression and exploitation. Pornography, prostitution, BDSM, black imprisonment, child control and abuse, workplace exploitation, and even war, are justified by a mechanical “yes,” a contract, or the belief in some hypothetical future consent.

Responding to child sex abuse in religious institutions | by Ajahn Brahm

The Surprising Science of Happiness | Dan Gilbert | TED Talks

An interview with Meghan Murphy.

Meghan Murphy is the most prominent radical feminist in Canada today. This interview is an excellent exposition of radical feminist theory and Murphy’s views.

5) Advocates of prostitution and porn call these Nordic reforms “anti-sex” and “moralistic” but it’s interesting to note that these laws are passed in countries (Sweden, Norway, Iceland) that are known to have the most open, relaxed and non repressive attitude about sex. Your comments on that?

M: Yeah that’s a funny one. I mean, if we’re talking about free sexuality and a real liberated vision of sex and sexuality, you’d think you’d be advocating for consensual sex. But prostitution isn’t about female desire or “enthusiastic consent”, which is supposedly what we’re touting in feminism these days. I mean, sure, sometimes a woman “consents” to letting a man have sex with her or agrees to perform other sex acts, in exchange for money, but she isn’t “consenting” because, you know, she’s really into this guy and really wants to sleep with him. If she did, she wouldn’t have to be paid to do it. That whole argument – the one that says that feminists who are critical of the sex industry are anti-sex, shows a real anti-intellectualism and lack of critical thinking.

I mean, as you say, the countries that have criminalized johns, banned strip clubs, and are considering banning pornography are the countries that are the most progressive and the most sexually liberated. The US isn’t a sexually liberated country. It’s completely saturated and obsessed with pornography while simultaneously having this huge faction of right-wing, religious groups who think sex should only happen in traditional, heterosexual, marriages for the purposes of procreation (which is, of course, about controlling women’s bodies and maintaining a patriarchal family structure). I find the whole idea that women who advocate for porn and prostitution are “pro-sex,” whereas feminists who advocate against objectification and exploitation and are positioned as “anti-sex,” kind of hilarious and, in many ways, embarrassing. I just picture the next generation of feminists looking back at the third wave with shame. I mean, all these ridiculous women parading around in stilettos and pasties, on stage, pretending they are advancing women’s rights. What a joke. That whole burlesque/sex work is empowering/feminist porn aspect of the third wave is making a mockery of the movement.

The confusion between privilege and power.

I find that there’s a lot of confusion between privilege and power. People think they are criticizing the former when they’re actually equating it with the latter.

So you get people arguing against privilege saying things like “well, I’m a white man and I’m oppressed!” First of all, many of those people feel “oppressed” because some of their privileges are being revoked. Studies show that 50-50 representation in a dialogue makes men feel that women are dominating, because they are used to men dominating dialogue. They might be defensive because their privileges are under attack, or they might misread the situation due to a pre-existing bias.

What I wanted to point out, though, is that this can also be due to a confusion between privilege and power. For instance, a poor or middle-class white man can speak about being oppressed by the government or corporations, and this can often be a valid criticism. But what they’re complaining about is inequality of power, not a lack of privilege. Power, in its economic form for example, is something that both individuals and institutions can have, but privilege is something only individuals can have. A corporation, as institution, can have economic power or legal power over you, but it can’t have privilege.

So there is this common conception that if your life is shit, then you can’t have privilege. This is considered so obvious as to be a truism, but there’s nothing particularly obvious about it. Your life is never guaranteed to not be shit. You can have privilege and still have a shit life, and you can have power and still have a shit life. You can be an oppressed, exploited person and still have a good life.

This gets into issues of intersectionality: a person who is white and male but very poor may very well have a shit life. Since we do, after all, live in capitalist societies where money talks, your economic class is no small matter. But it’s important to remember that money is a form of power, not of privilege.

I can completely understand why broke white folks get pissed when the word ‘privilege’ is thrown around… I was constantly discriminated against because of my poverty and those wounds still run very deep…[But] the concept of intersectionality recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not in others.
Gina Crosley-Corcoran

So why is privilege important at all? Because it’s a system of advantages granted to a group or a class of people on an arbitrary basis. Privilege is basically the reverse side of oppression. Black people are treated like criminals as a class, therefore white people have privilege in that they are not treated like criminals as a class. Women as a class are targeted for sexual objectification and sexual harassment as a class, therefore men as a class have privilege in that they are treated like whole human beings. Children are not granted most basic human rights or dignity as a class, therefore adults as a class have privilege in that they are considered to have human rights and dignity.

Having privilege means that you are part of a class of society that benefits from the way institutions oppress some of us and benefit others. It does not mean that you personally always benefit from all the advantages of your class. An individual is not a class. A male homosexual may be harassed for sexual reasons, and adult prisoners have their basic human rights revoked by the State. So there is no guarantee that all members of a given class will experience privilege in the same way. In some cases, they may see no personal advantage to themselves. But this does not deny the existence of the privilege. Personal experience is not counter-evidence to a systemic criticism.

So white people complain that people are trying to impose “white guilt” on them, and reply by saying that they don’t own slaves. This reply is inadequate because not owning slaves personally does not prove that there can be no “white guilt,” since one person cannot represent an entire class. But furthermore, it is pointless for these people to complain of mistreatment, because they are not white people as a class. There is no conspiracy out there to blame any single individual out there for slavery, Jim Crow laws, or the incarceration culture. Systemic and institutional racism is the issue, not individual guilt.

I’ve often referred to people confusing systemic analysis as a form of individual blame. For example, many women feel that denouncing the fuckability culture means blaming them for following it. Many men believe that denouncing male entitlement to sex means blaming them for being men. Likewise, I think that white people feeling blamed for black people denouncing the racism of white people partakes of the same fallacy.

The issue of “reverse racism” is equally relevant. Of course a white person may point out prejudice in a black person’s words. But to call it racism implies that black people as a class are oppressing white people as a class, which is just not true. A given black person may use their power against a white person, which may very well be oppression, but that does not make it racism. Racism is more than a prejudice: it is a hierarchy of “race” (where white people are superior to black people) which is used to justify economic, legal, cultural, and historical oppression. Saying that a black person is racist against a white person is to simply muddle the issue, making a hash out of words that have a clear meaning.

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