Category Archives: Radical feminism

Pole dancers talk about the power in “empowerment.”

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Empowerment can be painful. But no pain no gain, am I right?

I have previously commented on the twisted use of the word “empowerment” in our new post-feminism culture (i.e. liberal feminism, the belief that systemic analysis of gender issues is no longer valid or desirable). It’s all about personal feelings, not facts. “Empowerment,” in this sense, is about the individual woman (because it is mostly about women) dealing with the ways in which she is constrained. Being subject to the male gaze, she “empowers” herself by taking control of the way her sexuality is seen by others. But this has nothing to do with actual power.

This entry by Meghan Murphy received a heap of comments from ignorant “polers” (which is apparently what pole dancers call themselves now) complaining about how pole dancing has “empowered” them. I thought this would be a good occasion to try to get to the bottom of this belief. So I asked them:

“You say you are “empowered.” What ACTUAL power do you have? Physical, financial, political, ideological, or what? What power are you talking about? Can you actually name the specific ways in which you are actually “empowered”?”

I expected many responses, but I only got two. It seems like the “empowerment” dogma is not as solid as I thought it was. Here is the first response:

It’s empowering in the way we are pushing our body to new limits. Like any athletes. Before I started pole dance, I was so so bad at sport, my cardio was bad, etc. Now I am fit, more confident about myself because I used to think I was a lost cause with sports, but here I am today doing flags for fun, always pushing my limits further. So yeah i find it pretty empowering.

There’s nothing wrong with a woman becoming fit, but this is not “empowering.” It feels empowering because you’re able to do more with your own body, but the fact that you feel better and that you’re able to do more is not, in itself, power. In our Western societies, physical strength is no longer the source of power it used to be, mainly due to guns and other mechanized weapons, and to technology making labor less physically demanding. I daresay that very few people, if any, are powerful individuals because they are strong individuals.

I know this is different from what these people are talking about. They are not talking about power, they are talking about their feelings. But feelings of being powerful do not give you actual power, the kind of power that actually matters in reality. That is where the danger lies. People who don’t have power and have to deal with the consequences (like women dealing with objectification, black people dealing with racist violence, poor people dealing with capitalist exploitation) have to fight for their rights. That requires the ability to look at the dynamics of power in reality: who has it, how does it work, and how it can be seized. Equating power with feelings deprives you of the ability to criticize hierarchies, and that ironically prevents you from seeing how to gain real power.

The power elite always wants people to introvert, because it prevents them from coming under examination. Christianity has been such a perfect tool of control because it puts the blame on individual sin and demands that the individual looks within oneself to eradicate sin. Likewise, the post-feminist worldview keeps women busy by having them constantly tend to their feelings, and equating feelings with reality. Women are too busy to look at the ideological and social structures that keep them exploited and oppressed.

This is why I believe that this “empowerment” talk needs to be deeply examined and debunked. Post-feminism is a dangerous path that can only lead to complete disaster for all women everywhere. The only end point of this sort of global introversion of the oppressed is voluntary and cheerful slavery (as we’ve seen with democracy and the power elite’s interests).

The second comment (from someone else) is pretty long, so I’m going to break it up.

I was hesitating to answer because many people have already mentioned it in many different ways and it has been rudely dismissed and ignored. But here it is: Through pole fitness I rediscovered the strength in a body that is not the “standard” of beauty and I gained love and power over my own body by accepting my body as it is and by nurturing it. The ability to learn tricks and gain strength through training gave me more confidence in all areas of my life, I gained power to stop caring about what men (or women) thought or didnt thought of me or my looks, I gained power to speak up in situations where I wasnt being treated fairly and where before I didnt have the confidence to speak up about, this gained confidence helped me at my work when I decided to pick up new challenges that moved my career forward because I learned by experience that I was capable of doing more than I previously imagined, I gained power by having the physical strength to do many more things by myself without needing help from someone stronger (i.e. A man). I gained a lot of respect from being independent and strong, I gained power by expanding my support system within the community and we all have gained power by teaching more people that our bodies our ours and can be beautiful and do marvelous things without the approval or for the entertainment of anyone other than ourselves.

I have to repeat myself here because the argument is basically the same. There’s nothing wrong with a woman gaining confidence in her life. Actually, I think that’s a great thing. Everyone, especially women, should have the confidence to speak up for themselves, loving their own bodies, and not caring so much about what other people think. Here’s the thing, though: whether you care what other people think or not, it still influences their actions. Can you just ignore it? Sure. But that doesn’t change reality.

Does it benefit her to gain respect from her peers and having a support system? Of course. So there are actual tangible benefits there beyond personal feelings, which is great. But you can get those from a lot of different activities and hobbies, none of which give you actual power. I used to talk about ethical and political issues from a more mainstream perspective, just divergent enough to be different, and I got a lot of respect for it. So what? It wasn’t the way to a real understanding or the way to understand how to gain more power, individually or collectively. The only ideologies which lead to power are those that help you understand how power is gained and kept.

The power elite feeds the masses airy words like “democracy,” “freedom” and “human rights,” but in their internal documents and in their actions they seek only domination and obedience, and if you believe the airy words you are a gullible fool. To a large extent this is true of other hierarchies as well. Anti-feminism serves genderism: it preaches “happiness” and “choice” to the faithful but produces only voluntary, cheerful servitude to oppressive gender roles. Are there secondary benefits to obedience? There have always been, otherwise obedience would be much harder to enforce. It is always a big fallacy from those purveyors of post-whatever to equate the presence of some benefit, any benefit, with the belief that there cannot be any exploitation going on (men are nice and open doors for you, therefore rape is not a big deal). I am not saying that this is what the commentator is doing: I believe she is writing in good faith, but she falls into the same traps.

I get it that you won’t care about this and that your idea of feminism is different than mine, that’s fine. When someone says they are feminists I think they would be open to hear other women’s thoughts so I am respectfully sharing them in the spirit of creating conversation and learning so we can all improve our views on what women need to do or not to do to further our cause. We work hard to disassociate this thing that has given us so much from negative connotations that come from fear, prejudism, and yes, the patriarchy that you hate so much.

This is not an issue of what your idea of feminism is. While our beliefs about feminism may cloud our judgment on factual issues, the facts remain what they are. Something being empowering or not is a statement of fact, not a statement of belief, ethics or feelings. The radical feminist questioning of pole dancing does not come from a position of fear, prejudice, or from supporting the patriarchy. Insofar as the question I asked her was concerned, and insofar as this entry is concerned, I am simply stating that the “empowerment” they use as their main argument is, factually, a dangerous delusion which is counter-productive to feminism (i.e. the interests of women as a class and the elimination of the patriarchy). The fact that it gives some women more confidence or more ability to deal with life, while important, does not cancel this out.

It seems the commenter may have thought I was a woman (or perhaps she thought I was Meghan Murphy, or someone else in the conversation), but I will answer for myself. As a man, my responsibility is to be informed on the topics I write, and to present a dissenting (pro-women) viewpoint as a man and to other men. I know that what I write is always under scrutiny from feminist women, with good reason, so I’ve always been very careful in what I put forward as “feminist.” I have to exercise due diligence at all times. I say this not to elicit sympathy or support, but to point out that I cannot, as some have suggested, “listen to what all women say,” because there are plenty of women who are not pro-women, even women who call themselves feminists. “Conversation and learning” implies that the commenter and I have common premises and common goals. This does not seem to be the case, at least on the issue of “empowerment.”

No one is harassing you, we are doing our part in sharing our experiences and keeping the conversation open until women who want to take this as a hobbie are not labeled in negative ways and to make sure whoever wants to, has a safe space to learn and experience it. We are not expecting or wanting it to be everywhere all the time, we are just asking for people to be respectful of those who chose to do it.

We come back once again to the confusion of systemic criticism with a personal attack. To criticize pole dancing as not being “empowering” does not mean that we dislike “polers.” I’m sure most of them are really nice people. I know that there are very nice and kind and good people who believe and act on all the ideologies I criticize on this blog (religion, natalism, statism, whatever), and I respect those people. The fact that I respect them does not mean they are right. Whether a person is respected or not has no bearing on the truth of what they are saying. Many people get respect when they say the worse kind of nonsense, and many people who dare to speak with clarity against hallowed beliefs don’t get nearly as much respect as they should. Respect and truth have no clear relation of cause and effect.

It’s easy for people supporting “empowering” practices to think of themselves as trailblazers who are helping women. And I don’t have any objections about that. My objection is when this translates into an ideological battle, where the possibility of actual empowerment (expressed by a systemic feminist analysis of what they’re doing) is being stifled in the name of fake “empowerment.” The goal of most of the “poler” commenters on Murphy’s entry was to try to silence her analysis, to tell her to shut up because her analysis goes counter to their beliefs.

Users of pornography should rightly be ashamed.

Should users of pornography be ashamed? Pornography is the visual representation of the objectification of women and of violence against women. People who get orgasms from pornography are getting orgasms from the exploitation of other human beings. Anyone should be ashamed of reaping the benefits of someone else’s exploitation. Should Westerners be ashamed they’re getting cheap clothes and electronics from actual slave labor? Yes, of course. I would say you are a very dull and insensitive, or a very hateful, person if you didn’t feel some guilt about it.

To a lot of people who believe themselves to be “modern,” guilt and shame are considered passé, impediments that need to be eliminated. They associate any positive attitude towards guilt or shame as a religious thing, a pre-modern thing, an irrational attitude. So when feminists say that users of pornography should be ashamed, and that the ideal world is a world where no one watches pornography because they are too ashamed to get off on women getting abused, they already know how to interpret that: in fact, it dovetails nicely with their smearing of feminists as right-wingers (as nonsensical as that is).

This article quotes a so-called “educator” as saying:

“The idea that we should all feel ashamed of ourselves, that we’re all damaged losers is really preposterous… So, a simple equation might be the more you believe sex is bad or shameful or immoral, the more you believe that watching porn is harmful and that sex addiction is possible.”

There is a subtle equivocation going on here: if you think users of pornography should be ashamed, and are all losers, you must therefore first believe that sex is immoral. This is a “simple equation,” and like all simplistic theories about a complex phenomenon, it’s also wrong. There are sex-negative people who believe that sexuality should not be exempt from criticism, there are people who abstain from sex (whether they are asexual, or for religious reasons), and there are people (antinatalists) who believe that procreation is immoral, but I do not know of anyone who believes that “sex is immoral.” That seems to me like a huge straw man against feminists, in the same way that bigots say that Andrea Dworkin preached that all sex is rape (she didn’t). So she’s basically equating people who are against pornography with people who are (imaginary) extremists and therefore unreasonable.

Neither the conservatives who oppose pornography because they are against female sexuality (and have deluded themselves into believing that pornography is a representation of female sexuality) and who support the objectification of women only as long as it’s done within marriage, or the radical feminists who oppose pornography because they are in favor of female sexuality and against all objectification of women, are against sex. Conservatives do not oppose sex because they use sex as a tool against women, and radical feminists do not oppose sex because sex itself is not the problem, the objectification and the fact that pornography solely serves, and molds, male sexual desire is the problem.

I am sex-negative, but I do not believe that sex is inherently bad, shameful, or immoral. What I do believe is that all expressions of sex need to be analyzed critically, and that includes representations of sex like pornography. I do believe that using pornography is shameful and immoral. But to equate this with a hatred of sex is like saying that I oppose advertisements on television because I hate people recommending things to each other. Clearly the problem with advertisements and other “sponsored content” is not that it recommends things to us, but in how it does this and in how it infiltrates all areas of our lives.

The parallel is fairly obvious, I think: the main problem with pornography is not that it represents sex, but in how it does it and how it infiltrates our lives. If someone seriously tried to argue that advertisements should not be analyzed critically, and that watching advertisements is “healthy,” it would just be very strange. And yet when people say the same thing about pornography they are hailed as experts. It all depends, I suppose, on who is pretending to determine expertise in that case. I happen to have the weird opinion that anyone who makes bizarre statements without evidence should not be called an expert on the subject, but what do I know? I’m no expert.

If it’s healthy to use pornography, then why be ashamed of it? Sure, but what’s healthy about it? Pornography is not good for your sexual health or your mental health. It gives users unrealistic ideas about the female body, it makes men want to perform unsatisfying or hurtful acts on women’s bodies, and it changes men’s attitudes towards women in a very negative way. Pornography created a generation of men who believe that women owe them sex like they’ve seen in pornography, and that women actually like that sort of sex, that women love to be degraded and treated like sexual objects. This is not healthy by any meaning of the word.

To teach that pornography is shameful has nothing to do with “teaching people that sex is shameful.” To equate the two means to equate pornography with sex which, as I’ve said many times before, is the same as equating McDonalds with food. Pornography and McDonalds are a degraded, artificial, capitalistic parody of sex and food. We should not more defend pornography for selling us shitty representations of sex than we should defend McDonalds for selling shitty food. We should no less be ashamed of the existence of the pornographic industry than we should be ashamed of the existence of McDonalds.

A dude at Upworthy wants you to know that pornography shouldn’t be banned.

Evan Porter, writing for Upworthy, wrote a pro-pornography screed which is more imbecilic than most of the ones I’ve reviewed here before. I don’t usually go into the “feminism that caters to men is fun and edgy!” source materials, like Upworthy, mainly because they tend to be inane and devoid of logical argumentation. They inevitably degenerate into “choice” and “agency” rhetoric, self-ownership, equating feminists with misogynists, and other platitudes which are meaningless but make centrists feel tolerant and inclusive.

This one, however, has some twists to it. Very silly twists, but twists nevertheless. So I think it would behoove us to refute this nonsense, because people read this stuff and think it’s credible, mainly because they haven’t heard these arguments presented in that way before.

1. Anti-porn arguments are dangerously anti-science.

The anti-porn movement makes a number of scary-sounding claims: Men who watch porn will fall out of love with their partners; it causes them to lash out violently at women; it destroys the innocent, malleable minds of young people who view it.

The only problem is, most of this stuff is (probably) untrue.

Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who specializes in human sexuality, says the majority of respected science reports viewing porn can have a positive, or at least a neutral, effect on a person. That hasn’t stopped opponents from twisting, ignoring, or even nearly fabricating results to say otherwise.

What Porter is presenting here is not the feminist view of the consequences of pornography, but the “drug scare” view of pornography. In the days before the Drug War, marijuana and cocaine were presented to people as leading to immediate violent crimes and to crippling lifelong addiction, and the right presents pornography in the same manner. So the mainstream view is that pornography should be illegal because it leads to men raping in the streets, marriages breaking up, and that it is an addictive substance, like a drug.

The feminist view does not present pornography as part of the addiction model, but as part of the conditioning model. Pornography does not turn the viewer into a sex-crazed maniac on the spot. Rather, it is, when repeated over and over, a conditioning tool, because the viewer gradually creates an association between their orgasm (a powerful stimuli) and what they are seeing on the screen, usually violent sex acts and the objectification of women. With more and more exposure, male viewers associate their sexual pleasure with violence against women and the objectification of women, while female viewers associate their sexual pleasure with their own objectification. Although we do know that many men develop an addiction simply because they become unable to orgasm without seeing pornography that has a certain level of violence, the addiction is not necessary for the conditioning to take place (we’re also conditioned by socialization, but socialization is not addictive).

As for the study that is presented to us as proving that pornography has a positive effect on people, well. You can read it yourself at this link, if you want a laugh. Look, for instance, at the “positive effects” of pornography:

Most people who view VSS [Visual Sexual Stimuli] believe that it improves their attitudes towards sexuality and improves their quality of life. More VSS viewing has been related to greater likelihood of anal and oral sex and a greater variety of sexual behaviors. This increased breadth of sexual behaviors could arise by increasing a person’s feeling of empowerment to suggest new sexual behaviors or by normalizing the behaviors. In any case, sexual novelty can increase pleasure in long-term partners. VSS can also promote pleasant feelings in the moment, such as happiness and joy. Additionally, VSS may provide a legal outlet for illegal sexual behaviors or desires. Increased VSS consumption or availability has been associated with a decrease in sex offenses, especially child molestation and inhibition of aggression.

Right now I can just imagine every woman who’s ever been pressured or coerced into anal or oral sex seething with rage, and every other woman laughing their asses off at this passage. I mean, I couldn’t make this up. This is pure misogyny disguised as a “study.”

The final claim is perhaps the most surprising. The two studies referred by the “child molestation” section are behind some kind of paywall or registration, so I can’t judge their contents. One of them claims that there is “evidence” (but not conclusive evidence) that pornography decreases child molestation rates, and the other suggests that pornography may be a reason for a decrease in child molestation in Denmark. Neither of these studies talk about the effect of looking at child pornography, which is the crux of the matter here. So, as far as I can tell, the “association” between pornography and lowered child molestation rates is a hypothetical one at best. The claim of “inhibition of aggression” simply repeats the claim that viewers of pornographic images do not become immediately violent, a claim that feminists do not make anyway.

For more on the bizarre no-subconscious model adopted by liberals to defend pornography (i.e. “if pornography does not make someone violent immediately, then it has no effect at all”), see this entry.

2. Attacks on porn are often attacks on the LGBTQ community.

There’s been a lot of talk about simply “enforcing existing obscenity laws,” which doesn’t sound so bad. After all, there’s nothing illegal about most porn featuring consenting adults, right?

Actually, within the law, the Supreme Court (and Trump’s likely extremely conservative appointments) has a lot of leeway to decide what is considered obscene and, therefore, legal.

Kitty Stryker, a writer and former adult actress, put it this way, “One of the first things to go in that kind of censorship is not heterosexual porn. It’s queer porn, gay porn, porn with trans people in it, porn with interracial relationships.”

Again, the argument here demonstrates that what Porter is really attacking is not the anti-pornography position (the position adopted by feminists), but right-wing prudery. Right-wing prudes are mainly against non-heterosexuality, not against the objectification of women. They fight what they (falsely) believe is sexual freedom. Feminists fight mostly against heterosexual pornography because patriarchy in sexuality is expressed mainly through heteronormativity: the position that we should all be heterosexual, have heterosexual sex, act according to our gender roles, and follow the heterosexual life plan (marry, have PIV sex, have children, have grand-children).

Generally speaking, while “queer” pornography, homosexual pornography, and trans pornography still tend to express misogyny in some form, we (anti-pornography advocates) do not see it as the crux of the problem. Our attacks against pornography are aimed at heterosexual pornography, not LGBT-related pornography. The fact that right-wing prudes don’t see it that way proves nothing except that right-wingers operate under a false set of beliefs (including extreme genderism and heteronormativity).

3. The anti-porn movement is often carried out in the name of feminism. Many would argue the opposite is true.

Feminist author and leading anti-porn activist Gail Dines writes, “The more porn images filter into mainstream culture, the more girls and women are stripped of full human status and reduced to sex objects. This has a terrible effect on girls’ sexual identity because it robs them of their own sexual desire.”

But maybe this isn’t so much a problem with pornography as it is one with our entire culture.

After all, actress Evan Rachel Wood famously skewered the MPAA for censoring a scene from one of her films that featured a woman receiving oral sex. Meanwhile, guys getting blowjobs in Hollywood movies is pretty much standard procedure.

Say what you will about the sultry looks and the over-the-top moaning that’s synonymous with porn films, but at least they’re not afraid to show female pleasure.
*&**

I have to give Porter props for quoting Gail Dines, the most prominent anti-pornography advocate at present. Her work is absolutely amazing and highly recommended to all my readers. And she is absolutely right. Objectification is carried over from pornography into mainstream media and into the public consciousness. Arguing that this is a cultural problem is akin to arguing that cancer is not really a medical problem, but rather a problem with our entire body, since our body is made of cells that divide. That may be so, but it is a singularly unhelpful statement. More to the point, saying that cancer is a body problem does not tell us what causes it, or how to fight it.

Likewise, saying that the objectification of girls is a cultural problem makes it sound as if girls just pick this up from the social aether, that it has no definite cause. This is clearly not the case. We know what the cause is: the pornified depictions of girls and women as sexual objects or as objects of desire. It’s not rocket science. Depicting a woman receiving oral sex is not acceptable because women’s sexual pleasure is not generally an accepted thing in pornography either. No need to invoke the entire culture to explain it.

As for the last line, I think it’s quite clear that Porter has not seen any pornography that was made in the last twenty years, which makes him uniquely unqualified to write on the subject (although you have to wonder, why is this dude who clearly never watches pornography defending it?). I have no idea what “female pleasure” he’s talking about, but again, there’s not much of that in pornography, except if you go in the absolutely softest side of pornography, where there is some concern for showing women having an orgasm and enjoying themselves and so on. But this is not the vast majority of pornography that exists, and not the kind of pornography that children are first exposed to.

4. They say banning porn is about fighting sex trafficking, but conflating the two just makes things worse.

Human trafficking is bad — finally, something we can agree on!

But experts say propagating the myth that porn and sex work are totally overrun with people being held against their will (they’re not, at least in America) makes it that much harder for people who truly need help to get it.

The refutation only makes sense because the argument presented is batshit insane. I have never seen any argument that pornography and “sex work” are full of trafficked women. Yes, there are trafficked women in both cases, but I am quite sure it isn’t the majority by any means, and I have never seen any anti-pornography advocate saying such a thing. This is a straw man, and I don’t even know of what. This point is really only there to lead into a spiel for the legalization of “sex work” as the safe alternative, which is just silly nonsense. Real life cases have shown that legalizing the exploitation of women does not make it safer, and it does not hinder human trafficking. Only the Nordic Model does both of these things.

5. A lot of the same people who want to ban porn also want to ban abortion and outlaw same-sex marriage.

Fight the New Drug, a leading anti-porn awareness group, offers a whole host of alleged scientific evidence that porn is harmful, but many of the studies it cites come from the Witherspoon Institute, a research body co-founded by Robert George, who’s also the founder of the National Organization for Marriage. (Take a wild guess what they do.)

There is no link to any Fight the New Drug page or the biased studies on the article itself, so I went to Fight the New Drug to find those studies. There are a total of 22 citations presented as support for the factual assertions from Fight the New Drug. Of those 22, 4 are credited to the Witherspoon Institute, which is a conservative institute with clear conservative aims and which should not be quoted as a source. I agree with Porter that this is regrettable.

However, this does not prove his conclusion. By and large, anti-pornography advocates do not want to ban abortion or attack same-sex marriage specifically, because they are feminists. The fact that an anti-pornography organization references a conservative organization does not prove that anti-pornography advocacy is conservative. And if it does, then let me make the following argument: Evan Porter quotes Gail Dines (and agrees with her!), and his article was approved by Upworthy, therefore a lot of the same people who support pornography also agree that pornography objectifies women and promotes violence against women.

The lesson here is, don’t make straw man arguments, because they’ll only make you look stupid.

Entitlement and privilege: hierarchy is the root problem.

It is not fashionable to blame hierarchies for systemic problems. It seems most people believe that hierarchies are necessary, and even beneficial.

The case of gender is no different. Gender is a hierarchy, where men are the superiors and women are the inferiors. Genderism, the ideological support for gender, is as strong as it ever was. One of the main consequences of this denial is the justification of entitlement and privilege. People don’t really oppose entitlement unless it is part of dysfunctional behavior (like young male mass shooters), in which case they single it out as “sick.” And privilege, as far as I can tell, is rarely opposed at all, except by those who are victimized by it (and not even then, if those victims have any hope of getting the privilege themselves in the future).

Hierarchy is a system of systemic and directed control. This system can be an organization (a school), an institution (the family), or a prejudice (genderism). Whatever the hierarchy is, it has superiors, people who wield control, and inferiors, people who are targeted by the control (not necessarily completely separated, as people can be part of both groups in different ways, such as in a workplace with layers of management). Superiors expect certain patterns of behavior from their inferiors (such as a submissive or humble attitude), and inferiors expect certain responses from their superiors if they fail, disappoint, or do the wrong things (getting reprimanded, getting fired, getting punished, losing resources).

Entitlement happens when a person feels owed something because of their social role. We all know the stereotype of the rich shopper who treats store employees like shit. Although it may not seem like it, this is directly related to hierarchy: the rich shopper has control over the employees because they have some influence over the managers.

There is no sense of entitlement that is not mediated by a hierarchy. We all expect to be treated in certain ways because we are aware of our status in the hierarchies we navigate in, and we all adjust our behavior accordingly. In those areas where we are either superiors or have influence over them, we naturally expect to be treated in certain ways and to be allowed to do certain things. This does not mean you can’t be nice about it: magnanimity towards your inferiors is considered to be a good trait, and even people who abuse their power don’t generally do it in the open (and when they do, it’s almost always a form of abuse which is supported and/or codified by the hierarchy or society as a whole).

Male entitlement is a good example of all these points. It is not only the result of the gender hierarchy, but it is also mediated by many other hierarchies, such as the mass media, the family, and capitalism. Men in relationships with women, or dealing with women in the public spheres, expect certain behaviors from women (such as meeting fuckability standards, or openness to being validated by men), and women prepare for certain responses from men (by putting on makeup, by preparing for self-defense, by not doing certain things such as being alone at night, by guarding their drinks, by making first dates in public spaces, and so on). Many men behave completely respectfully and appropriately towards women, but they still benefit from women’s responses, which are generally geared towards appeasing men.

Privileges are actual benefits granted to people on the basis of their social role. If entitlement is the psychological side of domination, privilege is the concrete side. Many people who hold to an entitlement are clearly mistaken, such as men who become shooters because they believe they are entitled to voluntary sex from women (while society does operate under the assumption that men are entitled to sex through prostitution or rape, that sex is not at all voluntary). People may feel entitled to something that is not their actual privilege, and they may not feel entitled to something that is their privilege. Privilege is all the benefits we actually get.

Again, all privileges exist because of hierarchies. White privilege, which is much talked about these days because of racial warfare in the United States, exists because of the racial hierarchy and is mediated by other hierarchies, like the justice system, the military, the government as a whole, and capitalism (and of course the mass media, as the servant of public opinion, which is largely racist). Being white confers a number of privileges, such as being assumed to be reasonably intelligent, trustworthy, and peaceful unless proven otherwise, not being targeted by the justice system and other government organizations, having an easier time finding a job and getting the highest levels of schooling, and being heavily represented at the highest levels of most hierarchies and in most media. While many white people believe they do not possess these privileges, they do, nevertheless.

Many white people interpret this as a personal attack against them, that they are personally oppressing black people. But as I pointed out about male entitlement, you don’t have to be personally coercive in order to reap the rewards of other people being coercive. But white people are not, by and large, aware of the effects of white privilege on black people, so this process is generally invisible to them. So they have no frame of reference by which they could systemically analyze the issue.

Compounding the problem is that superiors in a hierarchy typically have weak egos. When you are routinely not challenged by anyone or anything in an environment, you will not mature emotionally in relation to that environment. It is said that men are less mature than women, and that’s because they tend to encounter fewer challenges. Likewise for white people as regards to race.

I do atypical work for a white person, which is that I lead primarily white audiences in discussions on race every day, in workshops all over the country. That has allowed me to observe very predictable patterns. And one of those patterns is this inability to tolerate any kind of challenge to our racial reality. We shut down or lash out or in whatever way possible block any reflection from taking place.

Of course, it functions as means of resistance, but I think it’s also useful to think about it as fragility, as inability to handle the stress of conversations about race and racism.

This is understandable. If you are white or male, if this is part of your core identity, and you get constant benefits from it, then you would have no interest whatsoever in discussing whether being white or male harms other people. In general, people will not question anything their livelihood or personal identity depends on.

In all cases, entitlement and privilege are not the root problems, hierarchies are the root problem. Entitlement and privilege exist because hierarchies exist. Generally, the most unequal systems entail the highest levels of entitlement and privilege, and the more egalitarian a system is, the less entitlement and privilege can exist within it.

DD/lg as pedophilia and childism.

DD/lg (daddy dom/little girl) is a subset of BDSM which consists of older men doting on, and having sex with, younger women (sometimes actual children) who display infantile behavior and dress like children. Here are some examples of pictures used by daddies or littles (as they are called) on their blogs:





Please note that I have not deliberately chosen the worst or most squeaky images. These are only a sampling taken from a short, arbitrary interval of time.

Many people have been accusing the men involved in DD/lg (the “daddies,” a term I will not use because of its squeakiness) of being pedophiles. The standard reply from BDSM proponents is that, like all BDSM, DD/lg is not actual abuse but simulated abuse. This, however, is as poor of an argument as people who argue that pornography is not “real.” Both arguments assume that any degree of artificiality whatsoever means that nothing is real, either in a movie or in a BDSM scene. And yet this is clearly not true: how could pornographic actresses be raped on set and how could subs experience “sub drop” if nothing is real?

BDSM is not a simulation, as a simulation implies some kind of analogous, but not equivalent, situation (e.g. the car, train, or airplane simulator, used with a keyboard or controller, is analogous for using a real car, train, or airplane, which have completely different controls). Being in a simulation is not the same kind of experience as actually doing the thing simulated. Pornography and BDSM are the same kind of thing as abuse (i.e. actions performed by human bodies onto other human bodies), they are merely “softer” forms of abuse (unless actual rape is performed).

For the dom, DD/lg is about the fetishism of, and fantasy about, sexual activities with children, implemented through adult women (and sometimes actual children). This is literally pedophilia. Advocates will strenuously argue that it cannot be pedophilia because it involves adult women, but that is irrelevant to the issue of sexual orientation and sexual disorders, which we evaluate by looking at a person’s sexual fantasies. A gay man in the closet may have sex with women, but that does not make him heterosexual. Many people have fetishes or kinks that they do not act upon, but that does not nullify their existence. The fact that a pedophile may have sex with adult women does not nullify his pedophilia. It is the sexual fantasies that make him a pedophile.

[A]geplay and ddlg can ONLY be understood in the context of child abuse. the entire point of it is to imitate and act out scenarios in which children are groomed, punished, and sexually abused by an adult– specifically by their fathers or other male relatives in the case of ddlg.

The standard defense of pedophilia nowadays is to argue that the pedophile is a good person as long as they don’t act on their desires. Pedophiles even argue that their basic restraint should be seen as noble. I cannot agree that not raping children is noble or makes one a good person. I would say it is a very basic duty we all have as citizens and human beings, and that fulfilling it merely makes you not pure evil. There is no reason to give cookies for it. A fetish is not a compulsion, but even if it was, it would only demonstrate that pedophiles are innately dangerous and unworthy of freedom, not that they are noble people. If I had any kind of destructive compulsion, I certainly wouldn’t brag about it, and the fact that some pedophiles do so inclines me to believe that they don’t really have the restraint they claim to have.

Pedophilia is not in itself childism, because it is a sexual desire, not a theory, but it lends itself easily to childism. After all, pedophilia, and DD/lg as an expression of pedophilia, is based on the objectification of children as sexual targets. I think the above images explain this well enough. The pedophile does not see children (or children seen through a substitute) as persons with their own values and desires, but as passive receptacles for their sexual desire. The DD/lg dynamic reproduces this by having women dress us like girls and roleplay innocence, a sense of play, and other psychological traits we usually attribute to children, and then having them be used sexually by men who pretend to be their father or another adult male figure. The “little” is at the mercy of the “daddy”‘s sexual desire, like how real children are at the mercy of their abusers (usually their father or other male family member).

Furthermore, it does so by appropriating the language and behaviors of childhood. I know the word “appropriation” is somewhat overused, but in this case it is particularly appropriate. There are many stories of girls who find themselves ashamed of saying the word “daddy” or having braids because of DD/lg participants using them for sexual purposes. This appropriation takes place over the Internet, when girls looking for typical childhood interests see keywords invaded by DD/lg images and messages. It has also been noted that men seem to enjoy sexualizing media meant for children, and DD/lg is a big part of that.

Because children are generally not aware of their existence as a social class, and children are generally not informed enough to formulate a critique of DD/lg or BDSM in general (although I do want to point out that this is not universally true, as some children do criticize DD/lg), it is easy for DD/lg proponents to speak over children and their needs. This is why I identify DD/lg as being particularly childist. DD/lg gives pedophiles an open space to formulate rationalizations for child abuse, rationalizations which can be used by real offenders, just like BDSM supports and abets rapists and violent abusers.

The tendency of modern pornography to infantilize women has been noted a long time ago. This infantilization is mostly used to impose rigorous fuckability standards on women. DD/lg is a whole different animal: it is not only used to control women but also to sexualize infancy itself, and to rationalize that sexualisation. Both represent dangers to girls and young women, but the danger that DD/lg may be used to make pedophilia respectable is crucially important, both from a feminist standpoint and from an anti-childist standpoint.

Some ways in which people use misdirection to erase abuse.

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Misdirection is an important method of deception, whether you’re deceiving people as entertainment, like magicians, or deceiving people as a tactic, as in politics. As long as your misdirection attracts, and keeps, people’s attention, you can do whatever you want with the other hand, literally or metaphorically.

I’ve talked about how I think various political issues are hiding misdirections: gun control as a way to hide the use of guns by the State, immigration as a way to hide the effects of neo-liberalist policies, and the minimum wage as a way to hide the control that the power elite has over people’s livelihoods.

Misdirection also applies to prejudice. Take sexism, for example. So we are told by the sex-pozzies that pornography and prostitution lessen rape and sexual assault. As I detailed in my recent entry “The catharsis theory used to defend pornography,” this conclusion is based on a deeply flawed model of internalization, at least insofar as pornography is concerned. But more relevant to this topic is the fact that this equation is a misdirection from the fact that prostitution and pornography are themselves ways by which men can rape women with impunity. Many pornography actresses (13.6%, according to one study, although there was no gender distinction made there), including famous ones, have reported coerced sex taking place on movie sets. A majority of prostituted women (around two-thirds) report having been raped “on the job” (although this conception of rape implies that paying someone for sex is consent, which I disagree with).

This is not to put a number on the rapes in pornography and prostitution, or to debate their relative importance compared to rapes in other areas. The point is that concentrating on these assumed beneficial effects erases the fact that they enable many rapes. Sex-pozzies do not want you to look at the rapes they are enabling, therefore they use misdirection with the “lessening rape” tactic, which is also a clear projection, since they are actually pro-rape. But they support the rape of “bad women” (i.e. women who supposedly get pleasure from violent sexual acts in pornography or prostitution), not of “good women.” To them, the rape of “bad women” needs to remain hidden, and they do so through talking about the rape of “good women,” a standard divide-and-conquer tactic (“we’re not like them so we need to respect their choice, although we would never make that choice ourselves”).

Childism has its own misdirection in the form of “stranger danger,” an old propaganda line which states that children must be protected from strangers trying to kidnap them. Clearly, children getting kidnapped is an extremely bad thing, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that only 3% of its kidnapping cases are caused by strangers. The vast majority of children are kidnapped by a parent, caretaker, or acquaintance. So there is another misdirection here: our attention is directed towards people who we can easily imagine as dangerous kidnappers, strangers with candy, while the real danger is the parents and people close to the family.

The same thing is true of assault and abuse against children in general. For instance, parents are far more likely to spank a child than anyone else, but we are told that spanking is not “really” criminal and that it prevents children from becoming criminals later in life. That may be so, although I rather doubt it, but either way this hides the truth that parents are the real danger. By directing our attention to the idea of strangers as the source of danger, they distract us from the fact that the vast majority of abuses take place within the home. In this generation, parents are reported to be afraid of letting their children play outside: I fear for the children who are stuck inside, with the people who are most likely to assault them.

But there is, again, this divide-and-conquer mechanism: we need to “discipline” the “bad children” so they don’t end up as criminals on the street. “Good children,” that is to say, obedient children, have nothing to fear. So the standard story has a “good child” get kidnapped by a sinister stranger with candy, as a way to divert attention to all the abuse inflicted on “bad children.”

Racism has its own misdirection, at least in the United States: we call it the politics of respectability, the principle by which black people need to “clean up their act” by erasing the behaviors and language proper to black American culture in order to gain respectability. According to this principle, it is the people who adopt black culture, meaning that they speak black English, listen to rap, use drugs, or wear their pants low, who are oppressing black people. If these people were to be “reformed,” then black people would be respected and racism would end.

This is another clear example of both misdirection and divide-and-conquer tactics. It is clearly not black culture that is putting millions of black people in jail, segregating their housing, or raising their unemployment rates. All of these points have to do with the massive systemic racism wielded by the power elite (which is 95% white) in order to keep black Americans as second-class citizens, which both affords white people some protection from the worst of the State and, as we’ve seen historically, prevents solidarity between white workers and black workers.

Again we have the division between good and bad black people, the former being those who adopt white culture and are “unthreatening,” and the latter being those who adopt black culture and are “threatening” to white people (such as how police officer Darren Wilson described an unarmed 18 year old who was one inch taller than him as a “demon” and a “Hulk Hogan” who he had to shoot because he was “bulking up”). I think there are two parts to that: one is that it’s easier for the privileged to divide the oppressed against each other, and another is that it’s easier for the oppressed to go after each other than to go after the privileged.

Also, it’s easier to maintain your moral status if you’re going after “bad” people, and I think childism has a lot to do with that. From the youngest age, we learn to associate obedience with goodness, and disobedience with badness. I’ve talked about this in regards to the obedience circuit: we are all indoctrinated to support authority and go after its victims. This applies to everyone; even people like me (and, I presume, you), who hate authority, adopt their position as a reaction to that indoctrination.

Yet another factor is the fact that we all want to believe that we live in a just world, that people who are abused somehow must deserve it. Because if they didn’t deserve it, then it could happen to us, too. And that’s a very scary thought. But the premise that it only happens to “bad people” is satisfying to us, at a conscious or subconscious level (I admit that even I get this sometimes), because we know we’re not “bad people,” and therefore it can’t happen to us.

So while it appears that pornography and prostitution, child abuse, and systemic racism, are unrelated, isolated issues, they do partake of the same impulses within the human psyche, and their supporters use basically the same tactics. All these issues are strongly related.

Pornography grooms boys into abusers.

I’ve discussed pornography a great deal, but mostly to talk about its deleterious effects on women and women’s rights. However, it’s important to talk about its effects on men, too. And not the current discussion of “awareness” of how pornography makes men impotent and pushes them to divorce. I don’t care about that at all, and I don’t know why this sort of discourse about pornography has taken so much importance, apart from the fact that men generally only care about issues that affect them personally and don’t give a shit about women. So it’s a purely pragmatic move. I’m not saying it’s wrong (it is true that pornography has these effects), but I won’t talk about it on this blog.

My point here is not to trot out the old bromide that “gender hurts men too.” While it is true, it is not a relevant statement. Likewise, we can say truthfully that inequality also hurts the rich, but that’s not a good reason to oppose inequality, because the rich are still privileged over everyone else. Gender may hurt men, but it doesn’t hurt their privilege, since gender is the creator of that very privilege. I just wanted to make that clear before I address the main issue.

Pornography grooms girls into self-abusers and rape victims. But there’s another side to that equation: there’s no rape victim without a rapist. Pornography grooms men into abusers and rapists. When men and women see representations of verbal and sexual violence on screen, they integrate it differently. A woman sees another woman receive violence in a medium which is supposedly a representation of sex, and she will believe that violence against women is sexy. The representations of women will make her question her own desirability.

When a man sees these same acts, he sees himself as the perpetrator. He identifies with the men who use verbal and sexual violence against women in what he believes (and has been pushed on him) as a representation of sex. So these children, who are raised on pornography from the age of 11 or earlier, are taught to equate sex with violence. Not only that, but they are taught that women love violence. And they are taught that they should want to have sex with women whose appearance fits a very narrow an unrealistic range, the implication being that those women who do not fit that range are basically worthless.

Some pornsick men argue that everyone is able to make the difference between pornography and real sex, and that therefore pornography does not serve a socializing role. But arguing that children can make the difference between pornography and real sex is silly, because there are no representations of actual sex available to them. Furthermore, as I’ve argued before, this view is based on a bizarre model of socialization which posits that there is no such thing as the subconscious, and that children somehow filter everything they see and hear through their rational faculties and are free to reject any message they wish. Such a no-subconscious model is not based on any studies or observations: it is a make-believe model, with absolutely no evidence or validity, used to support a certain victim-blaming view of the world (if you’ve been socialized in a certain way, it’s because you really wanted it and accepted it consciously).

We already know from an entire generation of young women what the result of this indoctrination is. They report that young men are pressuring them to perform pornographic acts. They report that young women are dressing in a more and more pornographic manner. They are seeing a growing incidence of STDs and injuries caused by unsafe sex in young women. These are all factual things happening today thanks to a generation raised by pornography from the youngest age.

We usually talk about grooming from the point of view of an abuser grooming a young child into accepting sexual abuse. This is what pornographers (and the pornographic elements of the mainstream media), grown men, are doing to young girls. But the grooming of young boys is one of reproducing their abuse patterns. Due to the testimonies of countless pornography actresses, we know for a fact that pornographers abuse and exploit women’s sexuality routinely, and they are teaching generations of boys to do the same in their own way. It is an inter-generational repetition of abuse.

The end result is that, while heterosexual men could have sex lives that fulfill both themselves and their partner’s needs, they end up pornsick, unable to get turned on by their partners, unable to be intimate or have sex, dependent on pornography. And this ends up hurting the people around them. Furthermore, women who complain about the use of pornography publicly are told by “expert” men that they should shut up and watch pornography with their partner in order to save their relationship. Or to put it another way: women should get cozy with the system that pushes for their abuse. This is nothing new for women. But women don’t deserve this shit. What women deserve is a world where men are socialized using models of healthy sexual relationships. Not pornography. Any man who says otherwise is a pornsick asshole who deserves nothing but public ridicule. They are no “experts” at all.

Humans are social animals. We’re born to mimic. We figure out what’s expected of us by observing others in the same role. Our children are taught how to be sexual beings by an industry dedicated to making money by creating and deepening addiction to violent imagery. The end result will be a generation of men who don’t know how to love and a generation of women for whom sexual abuse is routine. The damage is done, but we need to pull the emergency cord right now to prevent this from happening to future generations as well.

The support for pornography is not only anti-women, but it is also anti-children. No one deserves to be stunted sexually because of an industry. No one deserves to grow up to be abused. No one deserves to grow up to be an abuser. If you support pornography, then what you’re saying is that you don’t give a shit about children. You can’t claim to care about children, ensuring that they have the best childhood possible, believing that all children should be raised in a healthy environment, and at the same time raise them to be abused or abusers.

Guest post: What’s so bad about rape?

Thank you to Carmen Speer, an absolutely shrewd and wonderful writer, for letting me publish this essay she just wrote. I hope you enjoy.

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Much has been written about the strange cognitive dissonance of both believing rape to be one of the most heinous crimes a man can commit and outright socially excusing and justifying it, a cognitive dissonance which as a culture we confront on a daily basis. In olden times, rape was a property crime against a father or a husband; as a woman’s body was her greatest value, she was “spoiled” by rape, no longer chaste or virtuous, her pedigree and that of her children no longer certain. In modern society this horror of rape as the ultimate property crime against another man still persists. This is why we insist that rape is always a crime of deviants in bushes, punishable by extreme sentences, when the reality is that rape is usually a crime of anger and entitlement committed by an assailant known to the victim and that often what she wants more than anything is empathy, and an apology.

I could quote to you statistics about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cortisol suppression, flashbacks, nightmares, the terrible psychological torture of trying to come to terms with a new understanding of humanity after being hurt in such an intimate way. I could tell you stories of wartime victims of rape that remember it decades in the future and still exhibit the symptoms of rape-related PTSD while having long forgotten much of the wartime strife surrounding. I could tell you that researchers have long known rape to be an especially traumatic crime, more traumatic even absent a great deal of force than more violent non-sexual assaults; I could tell you that they cannot quite put their finger on why, except that it has something to do with the perversion of an act that one researcher has called “the single human act with the greatest capacity for both good and evil.” I could tell you that it has something to do with shame, with self-blame, with a distinct lack of social support, with not fitting the right scripts when it comes to the image of good victim. I could tell you that it has something to do with losing a sense of trust and safety in those people and institutions you have been led to believe your whole life that you should trust the most. I could tell you that as a woman it has something to do, deep down, with knowing how men really think of you, with knowing how constrained and imperfect any definition of you really is (if you perform your femininity perfectly your best reward is scorn). Yes, what it really means to be female, a condition most of us would not give up despite the constant rain of shit upon our heads.

Compounding this fundamental understanding about what it means, as a woman, to be raped, is the deep unspoken knowledge of women that translates into the ignorance of men about what it means to be raped again and again. Being pegged as bad early on becomes a kind of living death for a lot of women; throughout their lives rape is their punishment and their reward for resisting but not well enough. The cumulative weight of every sexual assault in the end holds a mirror up to your face of what these men want you to be: how diminished, how hollow, how pretty and still.

I can tell you what impact sexual assault has had on me. I can laugh off most of the men who preyed on me when I was young; little went far, and none of it seemed malicious; it would strike people mainly as “creepy” now if I told them. The man in his forties who rented me a hotel room with “three foot thick walls” when I was seventeen (I escaped him), the man in his late thirties that same year who walked me home, sobbing drunk, after our mutual friend’s funeral and went down on me on the hood of my mother’s car, another blip on the radar. A little more scary the man who molested me in the movie theater when I was thirteen, the men on the beach when I was nine, the man who gave me panties and kisses when I was six, the man who backed me into corners, snarling, when I was sixteen, backstage of the production I was assistant-directing, whenever he caught me alone, “fat assssss” hissed between his teeth as he grabbed for it; but at seventeen it was the man who flattened me to a shower wall and made me bleed in a place I’d never bled like that who made the greater impact; how much he thought it was his right. How little he cared for damaging my body. How little he cared for me as a human being when I could instead be a plaything.

There were others, after that: a boyfriend who loved me, who coerced me and hit me. A lover who put down my body while he couldn’t get enough of what he wanted from me. Men I thought were my friends who got me drunk and tried to tag-team me, and why—because who was I—this fragile, fierce, self-loathing woman, who only wanted to be taken seriously, but always fell short of that one word, “pretty?” (And why did I think that meant the same as “worthy?”)

I can tell you that, at age thirty-two, when I fell in love, all I wanted was for someone to see me, and yet still I didn’t know how: to have sex without doing it to please, to untangle my desire from my desire; to fuck and to be seen, to make love and to be a human being. And I can tell you that when I made a boundary—a clear boundary—after I grew more and more uneasy with the way that he saw me—the way he could not extricate the body he could control from the self he couldn’t—and he held me down and broke that boundary forcibly, I can tell you what it’s done to me: how hard it is for me just to wake up. How hard it is for me to put a face on it. In my daily “life” the world expands and contracts, swoops in and out of focus, cracks and refracts, kaleidoscopic and dizzy; in front of a class my students distort and waver like ghosts, but I am the ghost, or nearly, dead from a wound that’s necrotic in how my spirit fled me in the moment he had me and no begging would save me. How far away I went, and how so far there is no retrieval.

I can tell you about the waves of senseless panic that roll over me, of the fragility of a good mood these days. Of how I have hidden out from the world, of how I never want to date again for fear of becoming a painted canvas instead of a three-dimensional being. I can tell you how afraid I am now of even the gentlest man. I can tell you about how gentle he was before he did it, curled up in front of the television with his head in my lap.

I can tell you how rape has shaped my life. How impossible I find it to trust, how I drink to soothe my nerves, how much I hate myself and believe the distorted image men have created of me in the Expressionist mirror. I can tell you that real love and children now seem like a far-off dream, and I am only hoping to stumble from one day to the next and how I catch myself hoping there won’t be a next day at all. I can tell you how on a beach in Mexico I shattered my ankle rather than face the threat of rape and it’s a limp that I have still.

I could rattle off for you the laundry list of physical and mental ailments over the course of a life that might blight a rape survivor, once the more pressing fear has passed: depression, borderline, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, dementia, lost work, lost love, lost life. I could try to describe the cost but the closest I could really get is a grievous soul attack that some survive and others don’t. I could tell you until I’m out of time and out of line what’s so bad about rape, but because it’s simply the most intimate and visceral form of what’s so bad and so invisible—so invisibly bad—about being below in the first place, you might not understand me; because of the deliberate manner in which rape without “unnecessary violence” is an ingenious form of psychological torture, a way to kill and stay out of prison, you might not understand me. You might not understand the betrayal when it’s someone you have invited (like a vampire) past the cautious door: that sense any moment that someone who claimed to love you might kill you is what I’m left with, a sticky residue I can’t wash off long after the ceiling spins away and my mind averts its gaze from the lurid tableau.

I have dreams of smiling death and of dark water. Every night I arrive at the same conclusion, and every morning I awake in the torment of how wrong I am: that is my fault, so it’s okay then; that it is not, that I did nothing to deserve this beyond somehow, in some essential way, escape him.

I can tell you all these things, but you still wouldn’t believe me. Because for the born lucky rape’s special power is to instill the deepest sense that one is nothing in the person who has everything, and when I look in the mirror I can see that I still do: I am still attractive, I am still smart, I still have heart, I still am, I.