Category Archives: Radical feminism

Brynn Tannehill and the Huffington Post pushing the transgender cult dogma about gender.

The Huffington Post published a pseudo-scientific, confused, self-contradictory mess about gender from the transgender perspective written by transgender advocate Brynn Tannehill. And make no qualms about it, this is a pro-gender screed, as the introduction itself specifies:

Gender and gender expression are complicated, but not nearly so much as critics would like to claim. They are also not inherently contradictory, nor anti-feminist. Indeed, they can be liberating for everyone.

From an actual feminist perspective, this statement makes no sense. Gender by definition is a hierarchy which classifies men as superiors and women as inferiors. To support gender means that you support the oppression of women. How can that not be anti-feminist? We know FETAs hate and exclude women, but they constantly project that exclusion by accusing feminists of excluding transgender people and being “transmisogynists.”

I am not sure what it means to say that gender is not inherently contradictory. FETAs certainly cannot provide any (non-circular) definition of gender, therefore it’s impossible to say whether their concept of gender is contradictory or not. It may be or it may not be. Either way, it’s invalid.

The first point is a jab at right-wingers who reject the FETA concept of gender because they don’t understand it. While I can’t blame them, because FETAs actually have no coherent concept of gender, I will skip over it because all it reduces itself to is “don’t argue against something just because you don’t understand it,” like physics. While I think it’s laughable that Tannehill would equate her petty prejudices with one of the most successful sciences in the history of science, I will simply go on to the next point.

2. It is not a fad: Gender non-conforming people have been around for millennia

There is extensive archaeological evidence that transgender and gender non-conforming people have existed for millennia. In Eastern Europe, 5,000 year old graves were found with female skeletons buried with male warrior accoutrements. There are records of Norse women going Viking (raiding). Joan of Arc was burned for wearing men’s clothing. The Kama Sutra describes a third sex, and the Bible talks of “self-made eunuchs.” The kathoey of Thailand have a place within Buddhist writings. Other cultures have long traditions of gender non-conforming individuals, such as the hijra of Hinduism and India, the fa’a’fa’fine of the Pacific Islands, and two-spirits in Native American culture.

Here we see again the long-standing FETA trend of co-opting non-Western cultures (which applies in all listed cases except Joan of Arc) for non-binary genders and jamming them into the transgender umbrella. There is zero attempt here to discuss what these individual phenomena were about, what they represented to those people at the time and in their culture. They seek to reduce everything to a shallow imperialist Western transgenderist analysis.

Beyond that general criticism, many of these cases are actually great examples of the exclusionary nature of transgender advocacy. These people seriously believe that a woman wearing men’s clothing (for that culture and time) or participating in typically men’s activities (as labeled in that culture and time) means that these women were actually transgender, that a woman cannot wear different clothing or do different things and still be a woman! Did all these women actually identify as transgender? No, because that concept did not exist. They were women wearing men’s clothes and doing men’s activities. Which they are perfectly justified in doing, because being a woman implies nothing about what one should wear, think, or do.

She has no idea what Joan of Arc’s “innate gender” was. She has no idea what gender Norse women identified as. According to the trans cult’s dogma, she is guilty of the worst sin one can commit, misgendering.

Have gender non-conforming people been around for millennia? Of course. But this goes nowhere in proving that the FETA position makes any sense. Trangender people didn’t exist, because there was no such thing as “being transgender.” Identification is not innate, it is constructed by relating to other people and producing inter-subjective agreements, like any other ideological, religious, or relational group.

3. Gender fluid expression is something a lot of straight cisgender people do (to a degree) already

Women in American society can (and do) express their gender in ways that that can change from day to day, if not hour to hour. They can put on a business suit to feel commanding and strong at work or an interview, both of which are stereotyped as masculine traits. Or mix a jacket with a dress to keep it at a business level, but more feminine. Other times they can dress in ways that make them feel attractive, which often means much more stereotypically feminine attire…

Women in our culture have much greater room to express their gender than men do, but this bolsters the underlying point. Given the option, straight cisgender people will change their gender expression to fit how they want to feel about themselves in that moment, whether it is sexy, strong, or comfortable. While these feelings may be tied to stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, they are deeply ingrained into how we see ourselves.

Completely omitted from the discussion here is the reason why women do this. And it is very interesting that Tannehill singles out women here, because women are the category of people who need the most to be “fluid.” Why? Because they have the least power over how they are seen by others. Women must change their gender expression, not because of how they “feel,” but because of the demands imposed on them. There is the constant demand to be attractive, but also the constant pressure on women to outperform men or be forgotten. Women navigate this labyrinth of expectations and demands in order to not be seen as second class citizens, not because they are expressing themselves.

Because FETAs are generally privileged white men, and have never been oppressed because of their gender, they easily think of gender as something you play with, not as something that one struggles with. Brynn Tannehill, a man who graduated college and served in the US military, is a good example of this. It is people like Tannehill, men who treat other people’s lives as a plaything for their ambitions, who see the oppression of others as a game. Because transgender ideology is a genderist ideology, it is also inherently a patriarchal ideology, an ideology which promotes male supremacy. Men appropriate women’s identity and then viciously attack the women, especially lesbians, who complain or argue against that appropriation.

4. Gender has components of both nature and nurture

Demonstrating that gender has components that are social constructs is relatively easy. The colors pink and blue are not intrinsically gendered; they are merely frequencies of light. Dresses and skirts are not either; they are simply bits of fabric any human being can drape over themselves. (The fact that some people are willing to defend the morality of hurting or killing someone for wearing the “wrong” bit of fabric says a lot more about us than it does the fabric.)

At the same time, people seem to have an innate gender identity, whether female, male, or somewhere in between. Anecdotally, we can see this in Dr. John Money’s failed experiment with David Remer, who was raised as a girl but never identified as such. The guevodoces of the Caribbean similarly appear female until puberty and are raised as such as a result of 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. However, at puberty their genitals descend, and are treated as male thereafter. While usually infertile, guevodoces almost universally identify as male, despite their upbringing.

Isn’t it… interesting… that all the examples Tannehill brings up concern people who identify as men? I don’t find that particularly surprising that some people may want to identify as men in a society where we are socialized in a gender hierarchy where men are the superiors. But this is speculation, since I do not know the particulars.

That little curiosity aside, the examples themselves refute what they are supposed to demonstrate. The conceptions of gender operating in one village in the Dominican Republic with a prevalence of a very specific sex-related birth defect are rather different from those operating amongst English-Canadians during the seventies. This disproves the notion of an “innate gender identity,” which would be the same in each case. If gender identity was innate, then there could be no comparison to make between these two contexts, and the argument would be simply invalid.

A valid argument for innate gender would start by stating what those innate genders are exactly, and then compare those innate genders with the ones we have today in various cultures. But the fact that various cultures have wildly different conceptions of gender would then collapse the argument. Any concept of an innate gender is an intellectual dead end.

A recent meta-study at Boston University looked at the peer reviewed evidence, and concluded that gender identity has biological origins, though the exact biological mechanisms remain unknown. This conclusion is not uncommon; it is effectively the same conclusion we have reached about sexual orientation and autism; namely that these have biological origins which are not fully understood.

There is a link provided to the abstract of this meta-study (the full text of this study is available here). The conclusion of the study is not that “gender identity has biological origins,” because the study is about the existing literature, not about presenting scientific evidence for the claim. So this statement by Tannehill is a straightforward lie. Beyond that, there are reasons why the individual studies discussed in this meta-study are irrelevant or disreputable, but there is no point in discussing those since Tannehill doesn’t even bother to do so. At any rate, it seems like the meta-study was thrown in as a way to say that actual evidence was presented, but without even bothering to read the abstract.

Tannehill further shows her lack of desire for real scientific evidence by shackling her case to that of sexual orientation. Actually, there is no credible evidence that sexual orientation has a biological basis. Note that I am not saying that sexual orientation definitely does not have a biological basis, simply that our default position should be to reject that notion unless it is well demonstrated. In the case of transgenderism, we should likewise reject the proposition that transgenderism has a biological basis until such a basis is well demonstrated. But at any rate, this cannot prove the existence of “innate gender,” because such a concept is illogical and contradicts our understanding of human societies. Which brings us to the next point…

5. Cultural gender norms change over time naturally

Remember the whole pink and blue thing for boys and girls? That wasn’t always the case. It used to be that pink was the color for baby boys. This can be seen in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, where the baby that Lady protects is clearly sated to be a boy, and yet is dressed in pink, as was traditional at the time…

Thus, the angst over people eschewing modern gendered norms is less about the norms themselves. If it was about a belief that gender norms are immutable and unchanging, then why aren’t conservatives upset about Lady and the Tramp? They aren’t, and thus fact remains that gender norms are changing and conservatives are angry they have little control over it. The change itself is a normal part of cultural evolution.

Radical feminists, who oppose the trans cult and FETAs, have been repeating this for a while now, because this, as I already pointed out, neatly disproves the concept of “innate gender.” If gender was innate, then it would not change substantially in the way that it actually does in real cultures. We have innate biological needs, a fact that does not change between cultures, which all develop some way to deal with hunger, thirst, shelter, and so on. We have innate morality as social animals, a fact that does not change between cultures, which all develop sets of rules regulating social behavior. We have biological sex, a fact that does not change between cultures. Gender, however, can change rather drastically between cultures and eras.

If changes to the conception of gender are part of cultural evolution, then they cannot, by definition, be innate: they are social constructs.

6. How you were raised does not determine the reality of your gender identity

One line of argument that tries to further segregate transgender people is that they are not “real” women or men because they do not have the exact same experiences as most cisgender people. This is dangerous in the sense that it invalidates the lived experiences of a threatened minority group, while othering them and opening the door for “separate but equal” legal marginalization. It’s also wrong on a number of levels.

I literally have no idea what this argument means. The argument is not that “a transwoman/transman is not a ‘real’ woman/man because she/he did not have the exact same experiences as ‘cisgender’ people.” First of all, there is no such thing as cisgender people (i.e. there are no people who conform completely to their gender role at all times), so I have no idea what the comparison is based on. But secondly, that is not the argument being made by opponents of the trans cult. The experiences of a transgender person don’t have anything to do with their biological sex. Biological sex is a fact of biology, a measurable fact, not a question of experience.

I think this may be a failed attempt at referencing the socialization argument, that transwoman specifically (not all transgender people, as she tries to make us believe here) were socialized as boys and therefore maintain the attitude of male entitlement that they were raised with. If that’s what was intended, then the response is highly inadequate. We are not “invalidating the lived experiences” of transwomen. We take them at their word when they talk about their personal experiences and their sense of identity. Where we disagree is on the ideological implications of these experiences, especially as they relate to gender and the rights of women.

Transgender people are held to a double (read impossible) standard for asserting the validity of their gender identities. David Reimer was raised as a girl, but no one questioned whether he was a “real” boy when he asserted gender identity. The same is true for the guevodoces. In this, we can see that when someone asserts a gender other than the one they were raised in, it is only treated as valid if the individual’s eventual identity is cisgender.

Here Tannehill is just straight contradicting herself. Her argument in previous points was that transgender individuals have an innate sense of gender because of some biological component, and she linked to a meta-study which cites many studies which hold that people’s gender identity is linked to their genetics or some sex-based brain part. Here she is saying that that very argument holds transgender people to an impossible standard. So which is it? Is the validity of gender identity linked to sexed biological component, or isn’t it? If the latter, then what is it linked to? If something in humans is innate but cannot be measured in any way within the human body, then in what way can it possibly be said to be innate?

7. Transgender people do not intrinsically reinforce gender stereotypes

Transgender people, by definition, go directly against societal norms for how a person should dress or act based on their assigned gender. Virtually every Circuit Court in the U.S. has agreed with this interpretation of what it is to be transgender. However, the argument made by anti-transgender conservatives attempting to appeal to women and feminists is that when transgender people transition, they do so by adopting cultural norms and stereotypes of their target gender, thus reinforcing them.

This is a dishonest argument, because Tannehill knows very well that this argument is strictly invalid under her own belief system. If a man adopts female cultural norms, FETAs say that this person is actually a woman, therefore they do conform to societal norms of how their actual gender should dress or act!

To express this more clearly:

Right-wing argument:
A person should adopt the societal norms of their assigned gender.
This man is adopting the societal norms of women.
Therefore this person is acting wrongly.

FETA argument:
A person should adopt the societal norms of their innate gender.
This person is adopting the societal norms of women.
Therefore this person is a woman.

Radical feminist argument:
A person should not adopt societal norms of gender, because gender is a social construct which subjugates women.
This person is a man adopting the societal norms of women.
This person is not wrong, and they are also not a woman. There is no norm of dress or action that should be followed by anyone based on gender, because gender is generally irrelevant to determining how one should dress or act. How you dress or act does not make you a man or a woman.

Under the FETA argument, no person can go against the societal norms of their gender. They simply believe that the assigned gender is invalid and that the “innate gender” is valid. Radical feminists do not believe in either assigned gender or “innate gender” as connecting people to an obligation to dress or act in any specific way. People should be free to dress or act in any way they find fit. The FETA argument is merely the flip-side of the right-wing argument.

Both cisgender and transgender people change their gender expression to match how they feel about their gender, and themselves, at any given moment. However, transgender people have traditionally had even less space to express their gender than others.

I’ve already debunked that notion above. Most people do not change the way they dress or act because of “gender expression,” but because they way they dress or act has a direct impact in how seriously other people take them, and how they are able to deal with a hostile capitalist society. Gender roles are prison cells, and we are all prisoners of them to some extent, although women, as I’ve already pointed out, are the primary victims of the gender hierarchy. The only system which would permit us to express ourselves through our mode of dress or the way we act, in short which would permit us to have the same privileges as the white men who think gender is a fun game, would be a system where gender is abolished, capitalism is abolished, and we can all be treated as individuals with our own personal preferences and whose livelihood does not partially depend on what other people think of us.

In the past, transgender people (particularly transgender women) were not allowed to medically transition unless they looked, sounded, and acted in a stereotypically feminine manner. In recent years, people who are visibly gender non-conforming have been at a much higher risk of violence than those who blend in. Religious conservatives have urged violence against transgender people; and the easiest way to avoid this is to adopt an appearance and mannerisms which blend in.

As such, if transgender people have done anything to reinforce stereotypes, it is a result of a patriarchal culture which we have no control over which severely punishes anyone who is seen to violate these stereotypes.

I find it extremely interesting that it is only at the end of this article that Tannehill, after lauding “gender expression” over and over, finally acknowledges that people dress and act in certain ways in order to escape judgment and punishment. Where was this enlightened attitude in the rest of the article? Or does she only sympathize with transgender people (and also giving lip service to gender non-conforming people)? I guess “cis people” (whoever the fuck that is) don’t deserve to be understood.

Also, is it a Freudian slip that she typed “stereotypically feminine manner,” implying that the only transgender people that exist are men wanting to become women? She should have written “stereotypical manner conforming to their innate gender.” I guess the plight of transmen is not that important, right? After all, they are only females, and females are not as important anyway.

Either way, I don’t understand why Tannehill is deploring the fact that transwomen had to “look, sound, and act in a stereotypically feminine manner,” since that’s exactly what FETAs are advocating: that transwomen must “look, sound, and act in a stereotypically feminine manner.” They spend a lot of time telling transwomen how they should move and sit, how they should sound, what attitudes they should have, in order to be “real women.” Why else do transwomen receive estrogen, and go through surgery to get a fake vulva, if not to “look… in a stereotypically feminine manner”? The whole point of transition is to turn a person with their own individuality, their own particularities, into walking stereotypes. All cults seek to brainwash their members so their personalities conform to a certain model, but the trans cult takes that to a whole new level.

Jerry Coyne says “rape culture” doesn’t actually exist.

I have never heard of Jerry Coyne before, but he is apparently a well-known proponent of atheism and evolution. His blog is called Why Evolution is True. His article on the rape culture, called Author claims that ALL men are “unsafe” enablers of rape culture—even her own sons, ironically, shows that his reasoning has not evolved. He’s responding to an article written by a liberal feminist called Jody Allard (I can’t imagine what nonsense he’d have come up with if he was answering an actual feminist).

This woman was reasonably pointing out that all men are potential rapists and that men are not “safe” for women to be around. This is demonstrated by crime rates by gender, the incidence of rape, as well as the profound sense of entitlement that men display. Coyne’s response is… not very serious:

Now, I don’t know exactly what people mean by a “rape culture”. Rape is a serious crime in the U.S., nobody I know takes it lightly, its incidence has been falling (85% since 1980, according to government statistics [and a drop of more than 50% for college-aged women since 1996]), and, at least from my own experience, I’ve never heard a man say anything about rape other than it’s horrible and offenders should be punished severely.

I don’t understand why Coyne thought he should write an article about a concept he doesn’t even understand, but this demonstrates that he didn’t even bother to research anything, which is not a good sign for a scientist. Perhaps he thought a feminist issue was below his level, and that he could just say whatever came to his head.

Unfortunately, what came to his head was not convincing. Of course rape is a crime and men will publicly declare that they are against it. Traditionally, rape has been a crime because wives were considered to be the property of their husbands. Nowadays, we distinguish between “good women” and “bad women,” with “good women” (usually defined as “your mother, your wife, your daughter,” basically anyone you care about) not “deserving” to be raped, while “bad women” (prostituted women, promiscuous women, women of color, lesbians, and so on) “deserve” to be raped.

In my entry on the subject of rape culture, I addressed the misconception that opposition to rape means there is no rape culture. In order to create a culture of rape, in order to keep women in line and ensure that women are groomed for male abuse, you only need a small percentage of men to actively rape. As we see with actual rape cases, most men may profess to be against rape, but they trip over each other to make excuses and justify another man’s rape. Rape culture means that we live in a society (and a world) where women are persecuted for calling out rapists. Rape culture means that men feel entitled to women’s sexuality, and that women are kept in their place as providers of sexuality (through pornography, prostitution, “sex work,” and to a lesser extent mainstream media).

Of course I don’t inhabit all American cultures, but Allard’s sons, as white, educated middle-class males, can’t live in a milieu much different from the one live in. But I hasten to add that rape is still far too common, with roughly 15% of women experiencing it at least once in their lives. That horrifyingly common! But if we do live in a “rape culture,” then we live even more in a “robbery” and “aggravated assault” culture, with the rate of the former four times higher and the latter nine times higher than the rate of rape.

This is an absurd statement. People who claim to have been robbed or assaulted are not publicly demeaned, and it is not assumed that they are in the wrong. Their claims are taken seriously. There is no one complaining about “false robbery claims,” although such claims do exist (as they do for all crimes). There is no culture pushing people to rob others as a part of their identity. So where is the evidence for this “robbery culture”? On this, Coyne has nothing to say except that the rate is higher. The fact that the rate of a crime is high, in itself, shows that this crime is being reported. Most women are afraid of reporting their rape, because they know the consequences for speaking up. So Coyne’s argument is not only specious, but also profoundly offensive. Being a man means that he doesn’t have to confront that fact.

The need to reduce the rate of sexual assault, catch more offenders, and punish them severely should not, however, mean that all men should be demonized as potential rapists and/or misogynists. Yet that’s exactly what Allard has done in her article. She says there is no such thing as a “safe” man—even her own sons.

How is it “demonizing” to call men potential rapists? 90%+ of rapists are men, across the board. So unless Coyne is saying that men are literally demons, this argument makes no sense, since men definitely are potential rapists. Not all men actually are rapists, but a woman really can’t tell by looking at any individual man whether he is a rapist or not, simply because the risk is great.

Coyne then quotes from Allard about how men absorb sexism from their socialization, and that men aren’t safe. His reply is this:

It may be true that all men absorb sexist ideas, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t try to root those ideas out, or, more important, act on those ideas and treat women as inferiors or sexual objects. Allard doesn’t think her sons will be rapists, but for some reason she doesn’t feel “safe” around them

Allard nowhere states in the quote that she doesn’t feel safe around her sons. What she does say is that men aren’t safe. Coyne perhaps does not understand the difference, or perhaps he’s being disingenuous here. The point is that he wants us to imagine Allard cowering in front of her sons, not the more accurate view that her sons, like all other individuals raised in masculinity, may become rapists and cannot be automatically exonerated for being “good guys.” It seems Coyne wants us to believe some people should be exonerated, but he doesn’t tell us how we can make that judgment call. We already know some men don’t treat women as sex objects (although subconsciously all men do), but how are we supposed to tell, apart from knowing a man personally and intensively? Unless Coyne can tell us this, his argument is utterly pointless.

Why? Because, like all men, they don’t believe everything women (and rape victims). That kind of doubt is in fact embedded in our legal system when it adjudicates rape, as it does all crimes, by looking at all the facts and convicting only when the evidence is beyond reasonable doubt.

Coyne is definitely being disingenuous here, since he knows very well the difference between a man listening to a woman in a casual setting and the setting of a court case. We don’t talk to other people in our daily lives as if we were a judge. If Coyne acts like this, then I doubt he has any friends. It is completely unscientific and irrational to treat what a woman says with the same epistemic standard as that of a court case. And yet this is an attitude that “skeptic” misogynists adopt to justify their misogyny: “women don’t provide the evidence they need to prove their claim, so I don’t have to believe them!”

One final part I want to examine is one where he quotes Allard on the fact that men don’t believe female lived experience, and that she doesn’t want to waste her time on people who are more interested in ideas than feelings. Coyne, the scientist, is annoyed by theis demand that people stop ignoring the evidence:

What bothers me here are the notions that feelings always trump ideas, that someone’s feelings are not just to be taken seriously, but believed absolutely, that those who don’t accept every word are rape-enablers, and that all men are not just tinged with sexism, but dyed with it to a degree that their actions enable “rape culture.”

But that’s not the point Allard was raising. Her point was not that men are looking at evidence instead of feelings, but rather that men refuse to look at the actual evidence of what women experience, preferring to take refuge behind slogans and bizarre belief systems. Feelings do not trump ideas, but one should not disbelieve someone’s lived experience merely on the basis of an idea. One good example of this is homophobia. Homophobes reject homosexual individuals’ lived experience because of ideas like “homosexuality is a sin” and “homosexuals are pedophiles.” Coyne’s beliefs that we should not believe women and that rape culture is a myth serve the same general purpose: reassure the bigot that he’s in the right regardless of what anyone experiences, lower the importance of “feelings,” and hold women to a higher standard than men hold themselves to. There is also the added disincentive that “feelings” are associated with femininity, thus making men reject them wholesale because listening to your feelings is “faggy.”

Does anyone who refuses to accept a woman’s every word a rape enabler? No, clearly. But men do refuse to accept women’s rape testimonies because they are rape enablers, by and large. Whether they are consciously in favour of rape, or they simply want to ignore testimonies because it’s more convenient for them, or because they are covering for other men, that’s another issue, one which should not overly concern us.

And I wonder whether teaching all boys that they’re perpetrators of “toxic masculinity” doesn’t demonize them without justification, and represents the wrong way to educate people how to treat each other as moral equals.

Equality is a liberal concern. Feminism is defined not as a demand for equality or “treating each other as moral equals,” not even for equity, but rather for liberation. Equality rhetoric assumes that everyone has the same needs and can equally flourish under the same conditions, but this is absurd from a feminist perspective. Because we live in patriarchal societies and we live in rape cultures where women’s well-being is always endangered, women do not have the same needs as men, and cannot equally flourish under the same conditions. Educating people on how to treat each other as moral equals just teaches them to ignore systemic oppression against specific groups of people… which is exactly what Coyne does in this entry.

As for toxic masculinity, I have no idea who Coyne thinks is teaching boys that they are “perpetrators of toxic masculinity.” Children are the victims of gender, not the perpetrators. To accuse children of something adults do betrays childism on Coyne’s part, but that’s par for the course.

Talking ’bout pedophilia.

The issue of pedophilia lies at the crossroads of childism and “sex-positivity,” with misogyny added for good measure. Pedophilia advocates are using the “innate sexual orientation” argument that has worked so well for homosexuals, hoping to dupe liberals and other “tolerant” folks into pitying their sad fate.

I have already given some idea of my position about pedophilia in this entry on why DD/LG (Daddy Dom/Little Girl) is pedophilia. Since then, I have had first hand experience with the rationalizations that pedophilia advocates use to defend their position, which is why I wanted to get into this topic further.

As I said, their main argument is that pedophilia is innate, and not a choice. And if it’s innate, then we can’t blame the individual pedophiles for it. While there are pedophiles who assault children, there are also pedophiles who do not. While “bad” pedophiles should be punished for their crimes, these “good” pedophiles should be pitied and helped (but only if they want to be helped, we wouldn’t want to infringe on their freedom).

The first, and most basic, issue with the argument is that we have no more evidence that pedophilia is innate than we have evidence that homosexuality is innate. This is not to say that I am against homosexuality (quite the opposite, actually), but that I see no reason to believe its “innate” framework until it’s been demonstrated. Likewise, I see no reason to believe that pedophilia is innate until that’s demonstrated as well.

This does not mean that I blame pedophiles for being pedophiles. I am a determinist, so I don’t believe in blame. To me, that’s a non-concept. However, not blaming people does not mean I don’t believe in personal responsibility. People are responsible for who they are and what they do, whether they are to blame or not. I’ve used the analogy of a machine in a factory many times before: if a machine is malfunctioning and producing defective products, you would shut it down and repair it, regardless of whether it is to blame or not (granted, the analogy is not perfect).

We know that pornography has something to do with pedophilia (as well as its greater acceptance). Pornographers have always tried to appeal to their clientele’s “inner pedo” (which is now bolstered by pseudo-science) with underage-looking women, or actually underage women with falsified contracts. People who are attracted to that sort of thing naturally “graduate” to actual child pornography, and from there to child assault. So there is some percentage of pedophilia which is not innate but the result of pornographic conditioning. What that percentage is, I have no idea. Pedophilic images from pornography have also leaked into the wider world, contributing to the normalization of being attracted to underage individuals.

it is true that there are pedophiles who do not assault children, but this does not prove that they are “good pedophiles.” While sexually assaulting children definitely makes you scum, we don’t usually praise people’s morality for not sexually assaulting people, because that’s a basic thing that everyone should be doing anyway. The fact that they refrain from assaulting children does not nullify the fact that they are sexually attracted to children.

In my opinion, this whole separation of “good and bad pedophiles” is a form of grooming, because it legitimizes pedophilia as a valid orientation, and that party line is pushed on young girls who complain about older men creeping on them. I’ve witnessed this bullshit many times on social media. Even if the pedophilia proponents are outraged that you’d even suggest that they’re grooming young girls, or would even deny that they support pedophilia (as in the case of DD/lg), that’s what they’re doing. Likewise with the constant insistence that “real BDSM” is nothing like Fifty Shades of Grey, which reinforces the notion that there is such a thing as “good BDSM” based on consent. These are all lies told to young women to get them to accept BDSM and pedophilia as normal and acceptable.

These ideas also contribute to pedophile culture. For more information on what pedophile culture is about, read this article on Feminist Current. The word “culture” in this context refers to a set of attitudes and rules which are mutually reinforcing and are accepted or thrive within a society (e.g. rape culture). Pedophile culture is not only expressed in the standards we set for women and girls, or in the way we talk about children, but also in the way it makes pedophilia itself invisible (just as rape culture makes many rapes invisible). People are simply unable to recognize pedophilia when they see it. And talk about “good pedophiles” and “real BDSM” contributes to that invisibility.

The belief in “good pedophiles” is also childist, because it posits that it is good for people to be sexually fantasizing about children. Children do not deserve to be sexual fantasies, and to say anything else is not only gross but a lack of respect towards children. Likewise, the pornification of children’s media and children themselves contribute to making the Internet a hostile place for children, as well as being highly disrespectful.

Pedophilia advocates have a number of arguments supporting pedophilia, but they mostly reduce themselves to two: the innateness arguments and the cultural relativist arguments.

There are two main innateness arguments, one that pedophilia is an innate orientation, and one that men are naturally pedophilic, which, as I said, is supported by pseudo-science. While it is true that pedophiles are by and large male, there is no evidence that pedophilia is innate and plenty of reasons to believe that it is a result of male socialization and pornographic conditioning. I don’t think there is any definite proof on the subject, but the burden of proof is on the pedophilia advocates.

Cultural relativist arguments center around the role of culture: one holds that past cultures show that pedophilia can be validated, while another holds that pedophilia is illegal in our societies only because of our repressive culture. But this is really cultural supremacism, not cultural relativism, because they are saying that the judgment of pedophilic cultures (e.g. Ancient Greece) that pedophilia is good should have precedence over our (Western culture) judgment that pedophilia as a general concept (if not in all particulars) should not be allowed. But why should we assume that pedophilic cultures are superior to ours? You can only arrive to that conclusion if you start from the premise that pedophilia is superior to the alternative, therefore it’s circular reasoning.

Furthermore, these arguments go against the “good and bad pedophiles” distinction, since they advocate open attraction or outright sex with children, which is in the “bad” category. Promoting pedophilia as innate makes no sense if you’re not also advocating for the expression of that orientation: to take their analogy with homosexuality to its logical extent, people who promote homosexuality don’t do so under the premise that gays should stay in the closet, but rather advocate for open homosexuality. Likewise, cultural relativists argue from cultures which allow open pedophilic expression, and the illegality they decry is the illegality of pedophilic expression (since it is not illegal to be a pedophile, as long as you don’t express it).

So now the pedophilia advocate is caught in a dilemma. If they want to use these arguments to support pedophilia, then they have to accept that they are also supporting child rapists. If they want to use a True Scotsman fallacy and separate the “good pedophiles” from the “bad pedophiles,” then all their arguments for pedophilia are refuted. Either way, it’s not a very good case.

“Girls just wanna have fun” and other infantilizations.

It’s probably one of the first things that anyone who converts to feminism realizes, and so it may be somewhat trivial, but the word “girls” used to designate grown women is pretty infantilizing. Adult females are women, not girls or chicks (newly hatched birds), and they should be called women.

That much is obvious, but there’s a lot more behind these words. There is a whole ideology of infantilization, and this is only the most visible manifestation of it. It is also one of the least significant, especially since these words have changed in meaning over time, like all words do. The words are symbols emergent from a disease, not the disease.

The infantilization of women takes many forms, from BDSM and DD/lg to mansplaining, the association of women with frivolous pursuits like shopping and shoes while serious things are associated with men, the belief in women as emotional and pre-rational beings, and so on. I have commented about most of these issues on this blog, so I will not repeat myself here.

Infantilization doesn’t just mean equating women with children. As I’ve discussed on the issue of childism, children are associated with wildness, and the need to be tamed and pacified so they can fit within society. Likewise, women have been associated with wildness, although in their case wildness means sexual depravity. So we get things like “girls gone wild,” and the association of “savages” with being oversexed and animalistic.

Some women have reappropriated this and have associated wildness with courage, adventure, and independence in general. But liberal feminists still associate women with being oversexed, by calling all women sluts and whores through the use of the terms “slut-shaming” and “whore-shaming.” Men, of course, also love to link women to oversexed terms, even women who refuse to have sex with them.

But infantilization is not strictly a gender thing. Think of Catholic priests, “fathers,” calling everyone “my child.” God being the “father” of all mankind, and humans as “his” property to dispose of as “he” wills, with violence if “he” finds it necessary. Citizens being the sons and daughters of the motherland/fatherland. People seeing pets as their children. The infantilization of people of color, especially indigenous populations. The paternalistic State. “Childish” being used as an insult: to be like a child is to be “immature,” that is to say, to not conform to social norms, to be disobedient, to remain “wild,” to not be serious or responsible. And while, clearly, not all abusive personal or social relationships are infantilizing, most abusive relationships have some elements of infantilization (e.g. “I really know better than you, so just do what I say”).

You don’t really hear anyone talking about any of these things as childist phenomena, or even as specific phenomena worthy of note (except for the infantilization of people of color, which has been analyzed in The Culture of Conformism, by Patrick Hogan, and probably others places I don’t know about). Childism is the very first hierarchy we experience, albeit not completely consciously, and a case can be made that that experience is where we derive our hierarchical dynamics, with the metaphorical father as the strict dispenser of “discipline” and punishments.

I think childism fits well with other hierarchies because there is no doubt in everyone’s mind that children are actually biologically and mentally inferior. Therefore, treating women or POC like children reinforces the belief that women and POC are biologically or mentally inferior, even to people who may not hold this belief consciously. Likewise, being treated like a child by a superior, whether explicitly or implicitly, is likely to make you feel inferior, incompetent, or irresponsible. And there’s the added bonus that, because we are so unconcerned by childism, infantilization most often passes under the radar. Being treated paternalistically may make you feel frustrated or want to escape the situation, but you’re not likely to jump from there to the concept of infantilization or childism.

The intersection of childism and sexual abuse.

The association between childism and sexual abuse is an old one. Many people have remarked about the absurdity of Freud’s theories about children having sexual drives which push adults to rape them. In that sense, the hatred and objectification of children has always come with acceptance of the sexual abuse of children. The concept that children were objects into which one could pour one’s anger or sexual frustration (as Lloyd de Mause calls it, the “child as poison container” mechanism) was historically a common belief, both in the Western world and in the ancient cultures we revere. In that sense, the idea that children have needs that should be fulfilled by their parents, and are not just objects to be used by the parents to fulfill their own needs, is a very new idea, historically speaking.

As I said, the modern formulation of childism came to us straight from the Freudian belief that young children who are abused are really seducing their parents, that children are the initiators of their own sexual assault, and that therefore the way to resolve issues with the adults who were sexually assaulted by their parents is for them to make their peace with their parents and to forgive them. This is a standard blaming the victim setup that we apply to all exploited people: how did they actually deserve it?

The answer is given to us by the layers of rationalizations. We frame childhood as a form of depravity, which is derived from its wildness (the same general principle applies to nativeness and other “inferior” ethnicities). It is socially necessary to keep children under control because otherwise they would run amok, de-civilize society, and, through their unending needs that constantly need fulfilling, rule over us. Or as a parent once told me, parents are slaves to their children because they are forced to serve them (although there’s no word on how that child somehow managed to force the parents to conceive it despite not existing, let alone being able to cause anything).

The idea of attributing malice to young children, despite a complete lack of evidence of such, is another widespread and bizarre phenomenon. I discussed a couple of examples in this entry. It seems that we automatically associate children with depravity, and that it takes at least some conscious effort not to do so. This is a powerful incentive for people to remain childist.

If we believe that children seduce adults into having sex with them, then the next logical step is pedophilia and its various sub-categories (DD/lg, ephebophilia, lolita, and so on). Children are eroticized because we eroticize infantile traits, such as hairless and blemish-free skin, big eyes, shaved vulva, and most importantly, “innocence” (a false concept that would probably take an entire entry to unpack). Men want to have sex with children because they possess those erotic traits, but they generally cannot do so, which gives rise to fake teen pornography, illegal child pornography, “loli” hentai, and so on.

Nowadays, pedophilia has been integrated within alternative sexualities because it’s “edgy” and “transgressive” (there’s even a push to call trafficked girls “sex workers”). Most heterosexual men are pedophiles, albeit of the mundane kind, and therefore not “edgy.” Mundane in the sense that they are attracted to girls, due to the eroticization of infantile traits, but they are also attracted to women. This is too mainstream, not “edgy,” and therefore unworthy of the attention of the new genderists. What interests them, however, are pedophiles of the extraordinary kind, those who are only attracted to children. That’s where the real transgression is.

The opposite error is to hold that children are “pure.” Children are human beings and have sexual needs, mostly a need to discover what bodies are all about. They are, after all, discovery machines, and preventing children from discovering is an aberration. Their sexual needs, however, do not exist to be exploited by adults.

A child does not become an adult, but is made an adult, by getting the wildness beaten out of them (metaphorically or, in sadder cases, literally). The cutoff age (whether 16, 18, or 21 years old) is just an estimate of when you’ll definitely have been beaten down, when you’ll be “responsible.” And adults are responsible for who they have sex with, children are not. To want to have sex with a child means, amongst other things, to reject their childhood and to demand that they should be seen as adults. But children are not adults, by definition. Children have this undefined, fantasy quality that we call “innocence.” Adults, almost by definition, cannot be “innocent,” as they have been filled by knowledge of, and experience of, the evils of the world.

Traditionally, the child is a container ready to receive the poison coming off of adults who are polluted by this evil. In this way they are themselves filled and are slowly becoming adults. The process of becoming “mature” is literally to be filled with poison, a pollution of the child’s mind and body. The child’s mind is naive, curious, filled with wonder, basically moral and egalitarian. A great deal of poisoning is needed to make it “normal.”1

Sexual abuse specifically introduces a dynamic that goes beyond childism and goes into misogyny as well, an intersection which which we could call something like pedomisogyny, the hatred and objectification of girls (non-adult females). An unwieldy word for sure, that will probably never catch on, but a word that designates a needed concept nevertheless. We know that the subjection of women starts with the imposition of gender on children. Boys and girls must learn their place in society, and girls in particular must be reconciled with their inferior status.

Pedomisogyny is what I had in mind recently when I saw an episode of America’s Supernanny where one of the first things the nanny did was to talk to the oldest girl and ask her how pretty she thought she was on a scale from 1 to 10. Ostensibly, she was trying to measure her self-esteem. Naturally, she made the immediate equation that a girl’s self-esteem was measured through how pretty she thinks she is. No one thought there was anything strange about that.

Sure, this is a pretty tame example of pedomisogyny. I think that most pedomisogyny takes place in the streets and in the schools, not in the home. But any time we equate the value of a girl with her appearance or attractiveness, that’s pedomisogyny. Every time we assume that a little girl will grow up to be a wife and mother, that’s pedomisogyny. Every time parents berate a girl for liking “boy things,” that’s pedomisogyny.

It is not random happenstance that girls are socialized to both be passive and to be physically attractive. Both are about reducing females to the status of sex objects, willing to spend their time to reproduce the labor force instead of pursuing a career or live alone. But pornography takes these two factors to a whole new level. It is little wonder that we are now talking about girls being groomed for sexual abuse, and that pedophiles are saying that “society does most of the grooming.” There’s no two ways about it, we live in a pedophile culture.

1 At least we have improved the process by filtering the violence out, but the end result is the same. If it wasn’t, you can be sure that violence against children would still be legal.

Liberal Relationship Advice Column

Welcome to the Liberal Relationship Advice Column by sex-positive guru and relationship expert Reefer Myst. People of all genders are welcome.

***

I am a 36 year old woman and I’ve been married to my husband for ten years. These past few years, he’s become violent towards me. At first, it started with telling me how much of a fuckup I am. More recently, he’s started to hit me. Mostly with open hand, but also with his fist, whenever he’s really, really angry and drunk. I want to leave him, but he’s isolated me from all my friends and I don’t have anyone to turn to. What should I do?

Black Eyes in Tuscaloosa

I’m sorry to hear that, Black Eyes. But like it or not, you’ve made a lifelong commitment to this man. You’ve known him for a long time, so think about his feelings. Your message was all about your feelings, and not about his feelings. How does it make him feel? There must be a reason for this escalation. What I am saying is, if you look into it, you’ll find out why he’s being violent and you can resolve this issue together, as a couple. You need to confront your role as an enabler in this situation, okay? It takes two to tango.

For you to stay with him for ten whole years must mean he’s a good person, at least most of the time, otherwise you’d have left a long time ago. Right? If he was that way before, he can be that way again. Also, the fact that there are even better husbands out there means that he too could be like that. All you gotta do is work with him. You can bring about gradual improvements in his character by constantly pestering him until he becomes the man you’ve always wanted. You could nag him to stop drinking, for example.

Divorce is the easy and messy solution. You’re better than that.

R.M.

***

My best friend joined some group called Landmark Education. When he came back from his first seminar, which lasted a whole weekend, he told me he was a new man, and was using many words in a different and weird way. I didn’t think there was any harm to it. But after two more seminars, it seems it’s the only thing he can talk about. But what’s more, he left his wife (he’s been with her for 15 years) and their two children, spent all his money on a new car, and is hooked up with a woman from Landmark. He’s telling me he wants to become a trainer himself and tried to recruit me. Help!

Concerned in Cincinnati

Concerned, I don’t understand why you’re being so melodramatic. Sure, your friend may be annoying right now, but don’t you tell your friends when you discover a new cool thing? And this sounds really important to him, so you should try to be nice and at least indulge him. Just be a good friend.

Now, you didn’t mention anything about how the relationship was going, apart from the length (15 years is a long time to be with someone else), so I can’t judge that situation. However, I did notice something while reading your question: everything you told me has been your friend’s personal choice. He chose to attend the seminars, he chose to leave his family, he chose to buy the car. If he really is your best friend, then you should stand behind his choices. Trust them to know what’s best for themselves, like you’d want them to trust you in your own choices. The best and fastest way to lose your friend’s trust would be to deny his agency.

Besides, I see nothing wrong with what he’s doing. More education is always good, and you should be happy that he’s still educating himself. After all, education is what determines a person’s worth in our society, as well as the merit and standard of living they deserve. Without education, we’d be no better than your average neoconservative redneck.

R.M.

***

I am a 24 year old straight woman who’s looking for a stable partner. The dating scene in my city has been pretty difficult to deal with. There’s not a lot of eligible bachelors, and the ones I’ve dated have been… works in progress. They don’t know how to talk to women, they have personal hygiene problems, or they’re a little crazy. I don’t know what to do! I’ve heard bad things about online dating, so I don’t really want to have to go there.

Lonely in a Small Town

Lonely? More like bossy! Listen, your attitude really stinks. You can’t just decide you’re never going to date someone who doesn’t fulfill some arbitrary criterion. If, for example, you were white and said you only wanted to date white men, that would be racism. Not wanting to date people because they have hygiene problems or don’t fit your ideal of a “normal” person (way to be neuronormative with that “crazy” comment, by the way) is just as prejudiced. Have you thought about talking to them about it, or are you just using it as an excuse to discriminate against certain men?

What if a man is unable to be decent? Should he be punished for his failings by being unable to be attractive to women? Having a coffee now and then with a man you most likely won’t find attractive is a small price to pay to make the online dating world a less shitty place for men. It’s what a good woman would do. Also, check your privilege, lady. There are many people who’d kill to get as many dates as you do. You should thank your lucky stars.

R.M.

***

I am a mother of one boy, Ira, who’s 12 years old. He is such a smart child! But recently he’s started giving me some trouble. At first it was just whining about having to mow the lawn for his allowance, calling it “wage slavery.” But now he just flat out refuses to do his homework, because he says doing his homework “means giving into the indoctrination system which provides a skilled labor force for the capitalist democratic imperialist hegemony and fractures the working class into largely hereditary economic castes,” whatever THAT means. I have no idea where he gets this stuff. How can I get him to do his homework?

Perplexed in Pittsburgh

Perplexed, you probably don’t read my column very often, because I say it all the time: disagreements always stem from ignorance. That is the reason why everyone who disagrees with me is an ignorant fool. So the answer is to educate your child. Clearly he’s been reading too much political stuff on the Internet and needs to be brought back to the real world. You have to sit your child down and calmly and politely explain to him that education is what determines a person’s worth in our society, and that if he wants to live a good life he needs to study and do his homework so he can get good grades. It’s really that simple! Maybe show him some hobos that live in Pittsburgh or take him to a soup kitchen or something. That’ll scare him straight.

If he still refuses to do his homework, then that’s perfectly normal. Children are not yet cooked, and their brains can’t really cope with the long term. They’re kinda dumb that way. So what you have to do it invoke things that he does understand, like guilt. Tell him that if he doesn’t do his homework, then you’ll be really disappointed in him and everyone will think you’re a bad parent. If that doesn’t work, then blackmail him by threatening to take away something he likes. There doesn’t have to be any clear relation between the task and the thing you threaten to take away. That’s why it’s blackmail and not something that makes actual sense.

But don’t ever use physical violence on your child. Violence doesn’t solve anything. Only education (and guilt, and blackmail) does. Always remember that and keep it close to your heart, or at least the part that goes pat pat pat.

R.M.

***

I am a 25 years old woman and I have a new boyfriend. I really love him, but recently I caught him watching a pornographic video. I was rather offended by this, but he said it was no big deal and that all men do it. I kept asking him questions and finally he admitted that he’s been watching them all this time we’ve been together. How can he truly respect me if he gets off on videos of women getting called “whores” and getting gagged by penises? Is that really how men see sex, as a violent act done against women, instead of a loving act?

Sad in Singapore

I get these kinds of questions sometimes and it really irks me. You have got to get rid of your backwards, conservative attitude towards porn. Porn is just fantasy, okay? It’s not real. They’re acting. When you watch an action movie, do you complain when a character is captured and tortured for information? It’s all movie magic.

And reality check, Sad: men need porn in order to masturbate. That’s how we get off! Men are visual creatures. So, yes, your boyfriend uses porn. That’s not a big deal at all. All men do it. And access to porn is a basic human right. So basically, you’re saying that you’re against your boyfriend’s human rights. And you say you love him? Really?

If you don’t want to be with someone who looks at porn, if you can’t handle it, then get a woman, get a dog, or get a blind guy. I’m sorry if you think that’s insensitive… no, wait, I’m actually not sorry.

R.M.

***

Hi Reefer, I’m a big fan of your advice column! Thank you in advance for answering my question. I am a 32 year old straight woman and I am having trouble with my relationship. My boss at work keeps asking me to do overtime and I have to do it because of a possible promotion coming up. I want to make a good impression. But I work so much now that when I come home, I’m just too tired for sex, even though my husband keeps asking me for it over and over. He says that his sex drive is too high and that he can’t stay with me if I don’t put out. What should I do?

Tired in Toronto

Well Tired, it seems to me, just from your message, that you’re setting yourself up to be the victim. I’m not going to validate your feelings of victimhood, especially since you choose to work late for your own benefit. Your husband is the victim here, not you. This is why it’s important to do the right thing and talk about sexual expectations at the beginning of your relationship, not in the middle of it. You should have known this would happen if you started to work late.

What you need to do is stop pitying yourself and use your hardship to your own advantage. You’re too tired to have sex? Then start roleplaying with your boyfriend: for example, you could be a patient and he could be a doctor, or you could be a corpse and he could be a necrophiliac. Basically, anything that involves you lying down and being limp would work. That way, you can both preserve your choices and satisfy your boyfriend sexually.

R.M.

***

I am a 35 year old man. A year ago, I was stabbed in a dispute with a (former) friend. While the physical wounds have healed, the wound to my ego is still painful. I am still traumatized and this has affected my relationship with my friends and family. I can’t trust anyone right now. I need help to deal with my fears.

Slashed in Sarasota

Slashed, this is a delicate psychological issue. One method that’s been very successful in dealing with trauma of that sort is re-enactment. It’s perfectly safe and will help you deal with your feelings. Join a local APRS (Active/Passive Re-enactment Scenes) club and get to know the members. Eventually you’ll be able to participate in one of the Scenes. In order to deal with your stabbing trauma, you would, for example, be stabbed by another person, in a manner similar to what happened to you, but in a safe environment with medical kits available on hand. The stabbing, of course, would be done on areas of your body that are not dangerous.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, getting actually stabbed would not be a good idea, but it’s just play-acting. I mean, yea, the stabbing is real, but it’s within a Scene, which makes it all right. You get comforted afterwards and it helps you. Many people swear by it. It’s definitely more cutting-edge than anything else you might want to try, like therapy or Scientology. I strongly invite you to look into it. You’ll thank me for it later.

R.M.

***

NOTE: the “having a coffee now and then” and “If you don’t want to be with someone who looks at porn” parts were lifted pretty much directly from things Dan Savage has said (but with better grammar). This entry was partially inspired by his unqualified, laughable “advice”.

“You’re using the wrong definition of pornography!”

Whenever one talks about pornography and how noxious it is, there is a fairly common sort of reply, which is to argue that we’re not talking about all pornography, that our discussion only addresses some pornography, and that there are things about it that aren’t “so bad.”

First of all, let me clarify once again what I mean by pornography. By pornography I mean a product of the mass capitalist production of representations of what is supposed to be sexual activity. By capitalist I mean to imply that some people are getting paid in exchange for their labor (in this case, “labor”) under someone’s orders.

This definition excludes a lot of things that most people call pornography. For example, it excludes two people filming themselves having consensual sex and keeping the video for themselves, or giving it to a few friends. It excludes pictures or videos of naked people who are not having sex. The feminist position on pornography, as far as I am aware, does not argue against either of those things. The main feminist arguments against pornography are as follows:

1. Many women are abused, assaulted and raped during the production of pornography.
2. Pornography is a propaganda tool for the patriarchy, depicting women’s submission and objectification in a way that is addictive for men and women and changes their attitude towards women (as well as POC and children).
3. Money does not entail consent. Getting paid to have sex does not entail that the act was consensual. Therefore, in the absence of contrary evidence, we must assume that any pornographic product may show actual non-consensual sexual acts.
4. Sex is not a commodity1, and having sex is not a form of “labor.” To posit that sexuality is labor means positing a person’s entire body, including its most intimate parts, as a means of production, objectifying them as a literal tool of production.

Note that these are not all the arguments against pornography, only the most important ones. As for the arguments for pornography, I have discussed them in various entries (e.g. see 1, 2, 3), so I will not repeat them here.

Now, you will note that the two cases I excluded above would not tend to run into any of these four arguments. While I’m sure there are exceptions, self-shot sex between two lovers will not generally contain abuse, objectification, or a monetary exchange. And while there may again be exceptions, pictures or videos of naked people who are not having sex will not generally involve abuse or objectification. Things like “camgirls” and paid pictorials enter a grey area, in that they do involve monetary exchange, but they do not generally involve a sexual act. So I would not tend to include these things in the category of pornography, although again some of them may be reprehensible. A depiction of sex does not have to be pornographic to be reprehensible.

Those are the reasons why my definition of pornography is narrower than the definition used by the general public, which seems to be basically “anything that shows intimate parts of the human body and is not safe for work.” I do not think that a naked human body is pornographic. It is precisely that, the body that we were born with and will die with. Anyone who takes offense from that is inane at best. It is not the vulva or the penis that is the problem, people who believe that those things are inherently erotic and dirty notwithstanding. It is the attitude that abuse and objectification are permitted as long as they are for sexual purposes, in short sex-positivity, that is the problem. If anything, people who claim that naked bodies are dirty and reprehensible (especially normal bodies) prevent healthy body images from being accepted, leaving us only the pornified and idealized sexual images. And both the purity-obsessed and the sex-positive are responsible for this state of affairs.

There are other areas that people usually bring up in such discussions. For example, drawn depictions of sex, such as hentai, are sometimes presented as a healthy alternative, because they do not involve actual people having sex. That is true, but hentai can still present abusive, objectifying stories, which have an effect on our subconscious. Drawn depictions of naked people not having sex would fall under the same category as real pictures of naked people not having sex.

Another example sometimes brought up is gay pornography. This is a silly response, but it is somewhat understandable by the fact that feminists are talking about women’s oppression, and gay pornography does not explicitly portray women’s oppression or involve women being abused. However, a lot of gay pornography does involve femininity as a mark of inferiority which targets a man for abuse. While women are not abused, the root of their oppression, their gender, is still presented as a reason for abuse. Furthermore, gay pornography is, well, pornography, which is reprehensible because of the arguments I listed (amongst others).

In any case, what we want to talk about is precisely that which I have defined as pornography. If a person is not satisfied with my definition and wants to define pornography with a wider scope, that is fine. I care mainly about the concept, not the definition. Whatever you want to call “a product of the mass capitalist production of representations of what is supposed to be sexual activity,” that’s what we need to talk about. Call it pornography, call it commercial pornography, call it X, it doesn’t really matter. We call it pornography because what we are talking about is by and large what pornography is in the real world, it is what people pay for, it is what sustains this gigantic capitalist industry, and it is what sustains the abuse and objectification of women.

1 I say this in the same way that a person might say “human beings are not a commodity.” The existence of slavery does not refute this assertion any more than buying and selling sex disproves the assertion that sex is not a commodity. What it actually means is that anyone who claims that such exchanges are valid is in error. In itself, it does not logically entail that such exchanges cannot happen or should not happen, but it does entail that they should not happen if there is no further justification for them.

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.