Category Archives: Radical feminism

The layers of rationalization for prejudice.

In this entry, I gave a series of stages which, I’ve now realized, represent the layers of rationalizations that support prejudice. These layers are not the same for each prejudice, though. In the case of gender, I presented the following five layers:

1. Gender is innate.
2. Gender is so ingrained in the fabric of society that it cannot be eliminated.
3. Gender can be abolished, but the results would be catastrophic.
4. Gender can be abolished, but it would destroy individuality.
5. Abolishing gender is bigoted because it would go against people’s self-identification.

I think you could make the case that replacing gender with race would yield a pretty accurate account of racism, except for point 5 (or at least, we haven’t gone to the insanity of self-identifying as other races yet). But in this case there are notions of ethnicity and culture complicating the picture, and this mono-concept list can’t convey that.

In general, we can say that there are levels of justifications that exist in all prejudices: first the biological level, then the social level, then the individual level; bigots will argue first that their prejudice is a biological fact (an innate property of the individual), then that it is necessary for society to function, then that it exists for the individuals’ benefit. Before the intellectual impact of the Renaissance, religious dogma would have been the first step (“God made women to serve men,” “God created the black race as a curse”).

[M]ost people are susceptible to the argument that if a difference between men and women has a biological basis, it is inevitable (‘you can’t argue with nature’), desirable (‘what’s natural is good’), and the world should be organized around it.

Deborah Cameron, The Myth of Mars and Venus

These levels are not separate and individualized: they form a self-reinforcing network of justifications.

Take the example of genderism again. As a form of linear logic, the belief that women are inherently passive, emotional and caring leads to the belief that society is best organized along gender lines with men being the leaders and women being nurturers. This belief, in turn, leads to the belief that women are better off when they follow instead of lead, when they have lower-paying nurturing jobs, when they busy themselves with children. It also leads to the secondary benefits of women subordinating themselves (e.g. they don’t have to succeed, they are supported by a husband, they are admired for their beauty, and so on and so nauseatingly forth).

But the logic also flows in the reverse fashion. When a man observes a woman who follows her gender role, runs a “successful” family (the large family being of course the end point of genderism, the black hole where all individuality is absorbed), and seems to live a happy life, he therefore concludes that society is better off when men and women follow these gender roles, and that there must be something innate in men and women to make them happy in these roles.

Racism follows the same linear logic. The belief that black people are inherently deficient in intellect and inherently violent leads to the belief in physical and intellectual ghettoisation (and its moneyed cousin, gentrification), which leads to the belief that it is right for black people to be underemployed and underpaid, overrepresented in prisons, brutalized by police, executed, and so on, that this inequality is the result of individual (innate) flaws and not of systemic capitalist oppression.

Likewise, any instance of a black person being brutalized by police serves as “evidence” (because of the belief in obedience) that black people deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, and this must be because they have some innate moral deficiency.

I have previously highlighted three main lines of rationalization for childism:

1. Children are not physically developed, therefore they are not mentally developed and are incapable of moral reasoning, decision-making, figuring out what’s true and what’s not, and so on.

2. Children are dependent on adults for their survival, therefore children are inferior, therefore children must be controlled for their own good.

3. Children are inherently gullible and believe anything their parents say, because evolution made them that way.

Each of these rationalizations can easily be translated into layers of rationalization:

Biological necessity: Children are not mentally developed/ Children are dependent on adults for their survival/ Children are inherently gullible.

Social necessity: We must have a system whereby children are under the control of some (arbitrary) adults.

Individual necessity: Children will thereby be taught how to become moral agents/ Children will develop “correctly”/ Children will be taught the “correct” beliefs (whatever these are supposed to be).

Because there have been no widespread criticism of these claims, we are still at a stage similar to that time when everyone accepted the claim that women were made by God to serve men, or when the belief that black people had inferior craniums and were best served by slavery was accepted in slave countries. Although there are movements against schooling, and there are laws against physical violence committed by parents, childism has not yet been put into question.

If emancipation can be defined, dixit George Fredrickson in Racism: A Short History, as “the process of elevating the civil and political status of an entire ethnic or racial group from legal inferiority to equal citizenship,” then emancipation takes a whole new meaning in childism (even though children are not an ethnic or racial group, they are a discriminated group), not simply to be reserved for individual children: children as a dispossessed class need to be emancipated, given equal citizenship, but this will not be possible until they are first given equal humanity.

The natural sort of attack to make on these rationalizations is to argue that the so-called biological necessity is quackery, based on the flimsiest pretense of science. Certainly this was a fruitful line of attack against pseudo-sciences like anthropometry, IQ racism, sociobiology, and against our current enemies, evolutionary psychology and innate (brain) gender.

However, the layer model points to the fact that there are many possible vectors of attack, not just one. We know this is true because people have testified that knowing gay people have changed their opinions about homosexuality. I don’t know what influence this really had on gay rights, but it doesn’t seem negligeable. Seeing the evidence that women, POC or gay people can be better than the dominant classes can be as salient as the rejection of biological necessity.

The problem for childism is that children are virtually never encountered in a context without control. We almost always see children when they are either under the direct control of their parents (or guardians) or teachers. Prejudice against children and women shares one crucial property: the victims generally live with their oppressors, although there are many more single women or lesbian couples than there are emancipated children.

This is especially problematic because individuals from oppressed groups need independent safe spaces in order to first become aware of their status as a class, and then to develop theories and solutions about their oppression. Without this process, oppression remains normalized and there can be no systemic understanding of its nature.

The belief in “good porn” and “happy hookers.”

If you look hard enough, you can find a “good side” to pretty much anything; but morality is not a mathematical operation by which you can compensate for the infliction of harm with some act of charity. The example I like to give is that of a doctor who saves a patient’s life and then punches him while he’s in recovery. Saving a life doesn’t nullify the punch.

Christian sects like to flaunt their charitable activities as if it gave them moral credit. Many corporations also try to cover up their unsavory activities with charity. In general, anyone who has things to hide can use charity or some good cause as a cover for evil.

In general, people think that by pointing at a “good side” in something, they’ve somehow compensated for all the bad. You get the natalists who say “but there’s so much good in life, surely that compensates for the suffering.” But again, this is not a mathematical equation. Good and evil exist in their own right and do not cancel out.

In the realm of pornstitution advocacy, good is seen as canceling out bad, too. Take the rhetoric of “good pornography.” Why does it matter that there is such a thing as “good pornography”? However much there is of this animal, it is still dwarfed by “bad pornography.” It could only matter if the “good pornography” somehow countered the “bad pornography” and made pornography itself acceptable.

But now here’s a deeper problem, which strikes at the root of the concept of pornography. If we had criteria for what “good pornography” is, I would assume that it would include things like “this pornography was not a product of rape,” “this pornography was not a product of coercion” and “this pornography was made by people who set out to do work in pornography.”

Woman after woman coming out of the pornography industry testify that they were coerced into performing specific sexual acts, or even raped on set. We know that around half of prostituted women have been filmed for the purposes of producing pornography. We also know that “revenge porn” is a new trend on the Internet, and that private videos which appear to be completely consensual are being reposted without consent.

Given all these known facts, the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no guarantee whatsoever that any piece of pornography actually fulfills reasonable criteria for “good pornography”! And this means that “good pornography” is a nonstarter as a concept. If something cannot be determined to exist, then it is a purely theoretical entity and there’s no point in assuming its reality, let alone using it in an argument.

i don’t trust men who ask “but what about ______ kind of porn?” when i point out how rampant rape and abuse is in the porn industry…

anytime you reblog, like, or watch porn, you are taking a chance that what you are viewing is rape…

every instagram account that you follow run by a porn company (suicide girls, pornhub, brazzers, redtube, crash pad) statistically, has hired rapists and abusers who knowingly violated the contracts of the women signed to their companies. these companies are run by misogynists who don’t care about women and surprise! they hire men who don’t care about women.

It’s important to note that a majority of men are conditioning themselves to orgasm watching women potentially being raped or abused. And, reinforcing this, the inferiority of women is the primary (although not the only) message encoded in these videos. Pornography and macho culture encourage men to think of sex as a process of domination, and that there’s something wrong (feminized) with you if you don’t participate.

It’s also important to note that even corporations which are known for their softer and more unconventional approach to pornography, such as Crash Pad and Abby Winters, are guilty of unethical practices (such as hiring underage actresses and male rapists). While such corporations may be more trustworthy than the big pornographic producers, who oppose basic safety laws and operate in criminal conditions, they still cannot be trusted to produce ethical pornographic videos (if such a thing can exist).

The other stereotype is that of the “happy hooker.” It is stunning to compare the claims made about representatives for the pornography industry and the claims of ex-actresses after they leave the industry. It is also stunning to compare what is claimed about prostituted women (the “happy hooker” myth) and what ex-prostituted women say.

This stereotype has become so pervasive amongst liberal pornstitution advocates that they are applying it to child trafficking. The entry, believe it or not, contends that children who are trafficked into prostitution are not badly off:

Using ethnographic research from Atlantic City and New York City, Anthony Marcus, Chris Thomas, and Amber Horning find that underage sex workers have much more agency in their relationships with pimps than many assume, and that sex trafficking discourses may serve to further alienate them from organizations to assist them…

There are, of course, violent and otherwise abusive pimps: approximately 5 percent of the pimps in the pimp study described such an approach to pimping. Among the 14 percent of female sex workers in the New York Sex study who had pimps, we estimate that approximately 10–15 percent faced such systematic abuse. In Atlantic City we were able to identify three such relationships between a young sex worker and a pimp. These findings suggest that roughly 2 percent of all the sex workers whom we interviewed, across both cities, were in a relationship with a predominantly abusive, violent pimp.

Overall, though, we found a clear pattern of increasing, rather than decreasing, levels of young sex workers’ autonomy over time. As the sex workers in our survey became more experienced, more mature, and more accustomed to the dangers of customers and law enforcement, their pimp’s authority typically receded and a more equal relationship developed, or the sex worker simply left the pimp. Similarly, most of the pimps whom we met were realistic about the limits of their authority and did not want to lose the source of their livelihood. At all levels, pimps were constantly faced with the danger of being abandoned for another pimp, an escort agency, or independent work.

You will note that in all the studies presented, there is one obvious factor that is not discussed: whether these children were coerced into prostitution. All that is discussed is “how youth got initiated” into prostitution, with categories of answers such as “friend,” “pimp” and “homeless,” which do not actually indicate the “how.”

The topic of the article is how the narrative of “young prostituted women abused by pimps” should be replaced by something closer to the “happy hooker” narrative, with an extra dash of “agency” into the mix.

It does not matter at all how much “agency” prostituted children have. It does not matter at all how the pimps are affected. To be clear, I have nothing against fact-finding, but I object to the political spin based on “agency,” which is a made-up concept used to blame victims of systemic exploitation. To paint children who were trafficked into prostitution as worthy of being blamed is especially heinous. To portray their exploitation as a source of freedom is laughable.

But most importantly, buying an underage prostituted woman’s “services” is, well, rape. Calling them “sex workers” reinforces the liberal narrative of the “happy hooker” and obscures the fact that they are human beings who are raped on a daily basis.

1.) Referring to underaged sex trafficking victims as “underaged sex workers.” Especially if they are immigrants; then they are referred to as “(underaged) migrant sex workers.” I can’t believe this even needs to be said: If a prostitute is discovered to be a minor, that makes her a sex trafficking/rape victim, no matter what.

The fact is that 71% of prostituted women were physically assaulted, 89% want to leave but cannot, and 68% suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, 70% say they were sexually abused in childhood and that this abuse had some influence in their entry in prostitution. That is the reality of prostitution worldwide. Yes, there are “happy hookers,” but they do not represent the experience of a majority of women in prostitution. The narrative is broken.

Where are the liberals when ex-actresses come out and expose the coercion and rapes during shoots? Where are the liberals when ex-prostituted women tell us about their experiences? They either hide their heads and hope the evidence goes away, or they support organizations run by pornographic corporations and pimps.

How to bungle up anti-genderism, with puppet “feminist” Noah Berlatsky.


Noah Berlatsky, the sleazy Playboy writer who calls himself a “feminist” and thinks women only matter when they give him erections.

Playboy writer and all-around puppet “feminist” Noah Berlatsky has written a contemptible article decrying anti-genderism, with all the usual straw men and hand-wringing. I am only interested in what Berlatsky has to say insofar as it reflects the commonplace “intellectual” views about anti-genderism, and if the conversation is to advance on this topic, we need to debunk this nonsense thoroughly.

The first issue that confronts us is, what is anti-genderism? What does it mean to abolish gender? In order to do so, we need to have a good understanding of what gender is. Unfortunately, Berlatsky, like most “intellectuals” who deign to discuss this topic, does not:

The problem here is a conceptual error. Radical feminists look at gender oppression and say, we must abolish gender. But it’s not the gender that’s the problem: It’s the oppression. Gender standards—and standards of genderlessness—are used to declare that certain gender expressions are wrong. Wearing heels, being gay, being trans, reading romance novels—if you perform gender in a certain way, you are unnatural or stupid or corrupt, and can be sneered at, or at worst, subject to violence.

This demonstrates a complete confusion on the subject being discussed, because Berlatsky thinks that 1. you can dissociate gender from oppression, and 2. that gender standards are about “expressions” (I assume he was grasping for the word “performance” and failed).

First, “gender” cannot be dissociated from “gender oppression.” Gender is a hierarchy and its purpose is the oppression of one class by another. The exploitation of women’s sexuality, labor, and dependence (by men) is tied with, and cannot be dissociated from, the dominant ideology which says that women can be objectified and silenced without any repercussions. Leaving this ideology untouched leaves only the possibility of fighting against specific forms of gender oppression.

Radical feminists reject this option because, as radicals, they seek to strike at the root of the problem, and that root is gender. Berlatsky can only say “it’s not the gender that’s the problem” because he believes in a fairy tale version of gender which is entirely, following Judith Butler’s postmodernism, framed in terms of performativity and subjectivity.

This leads us to the second point. Berlatsky’s worldview leads him to adopt a straw man view of anti-genderism where “gender expressions” are prohibited, things like “wearing heels, being gay, being trans, reading romance novels.”

But this has nothing to do with anti-genderism at all. Anti-genderism has to do with being against gender, which implies the association of certain traits or actions with superiority or inferiority. It’s not “wearing heels” that’s the problem, from an anti-genderist perspective, it’s the association of “wearing heels” with “being fuckable.” There is nothing wrong with “being gay,” but there is something wrong with associating “being gay” with “being an inferior man/woman.” Same for “being trans” or “reading romance novels.”

Berlatsky follow the common trope that a genderless society would be a fascistic society where everyone has to be the same. But this is pure projection. Genderist societies are the ones that put a great emphasis on gender conformity, and where people are socialized into that conformity from day 1. A hypothetical genderless society would be one where everyone can dress, act and love the way they want, without feeling like they have to conform to a gender role.

No female child would be called a tomboy and no male child would be called a sissy. No kid would ever be bullied for what we in our gendered world call “gender expression”…

And everyone would be free to be themselves without ever having to worry about gender expectations. Nobody would feel the need to repress certain parts of their personality and exaggerate others in order to fit into some gender role that is being forced on them.

Gender abolitionism is not about restricting people’s choices but about giving them greater freedom.

* Males and females will be able to act however the fuck they want (men might want to wear dresses, makeup, speak in a higher pitched voice; women might not want to wear any makeup, might not shave anywhere, might have short hair).

* The socialization of future generations will be a huge advantage. Males and females will not grow up with pre-determined interests, expectations, clothing, personalities, etc. there will be no more ‘what a cute little girl, let’s buy her baby borns and adorn her in beautiful little dresses’…

Getting rid of the box (gender) is the only way for complete liberation from gender’s shackles. Creating a million more genders (frog-kin, pixies, furries, candle-kin and shit like that??) WILL NOT end anything.

Genderless means no gender roles. Pretty simple, no? But to Berlatsky, this is unfathomable because everyone performs and therefore everyone always has a gender: so he equates a genderless society with a fascistic system where there’s only one gender role. Interestingly, he associates that fascist gender role with masculinity, which doesn’t make much sense for someone who outright rejects the gender hierarchy.

I think we’ve already seen why Berlatsky’s analysis fails: these two points are fundamental to understanding genderism (and anti-genderism) and he’s failed both. This has major consequences for the rest of his article.

Radical feminists often argue that we need to get rid of the “gender binary”—but in practice that seems to mean not getting rid of gender so much as getting rid of specifically feminine gender expression.

This is absolutely incorrect. I’ve never read any radical feminist advocating getting rid of the “gender binary,” for the simple reason that there’s no such thing as the “gender binary.” Gender is a hierarchy, not a binary. Berlatsky’s basic ignorance of the subject again shows through.

Gender is not some cosmic yin/yang; it’s a fist, and the flesh that bruises.
Lierre Keith

Radical feminism, and anti-genderism, are not about getting rid of any “gender binary” or of any “gender expression.” But I’ve already covered that part.

Genderlessness, then, isn’t so much different from the gender we’ve got—which makes sense when you think about it. Our current gendered system is based on a universal misogynist standard; maleness is good, everything not male is bad. The genderless ideal wants to abolish gender in the name of “no gender.” But when you do that “no gender” becomes the standard itself. And, since in our society, maleness—as the standard—is unmarked, “no gender,” by default, just ends up being that standard of maleness all over again.

Our gendered male standard says that femininity is frivolous and stupid and ugly and debased. And the genderless utopia standard says that femininity is frivolous and stupid and ugly and debased. “No gender” means don’t wear heels.

This is basically the culmination of all of Berlatsky’s very basic confusion and ignorance, which would have been easily solved if he had taken the time to ask just one radical feminist about their position.

This quote is truly mind-boggling. I think I’ve already identified the source of the blind confusion being displayed here: Berlatsky believes a genderless society means one fascistic gender role because he cannot actually imagine people living without gender roles; he cannot imagine people without gender roles because he equates gender role with performance, and everyone performs in some way or another.

Berlatsky’s irrational ideology has painted him in a corner, and he cannot get out of it. He is literally unable to understand the first thing on the very topic he writes about. It’s hard to take this whole thing seriously at all. Some people have suggested that Berlatsky is engaged in performance art demonstrating the irrationality of liberalism. Unfortunately that would require intelligence, a quality he has not yet exhibited.

Utopia, then, is not a world in which there is no gender. Rather, utopia is a world in which there are a wide variety of genders and gendered expressions, all of which are seen as equally true, and equally acceptable. Gender of all sorts would ideally be as unmarked, and unremarked, as whether or not you wear glasses or contacts. You’d notice if someone was male or female or both or neither, but it wouldn’t be defining, and wouldn’t carry with it a weight of expectations, anger, censure, and potential violence.

Again, this is a repetition of previous errors. There is no such thing as gender which does not entail conformity and expectations, because gender is a hierarchy and all hierarchies foster conformity. It does not matter if we have two genders, three genders, or forty genders: gender systems are all hierarchical, no matter how many genders they have (this is also why Berlatsky’s “one gender role” straw man makes no sense: you can’t have a hierarchy with only one group).

Liberal feminists have been pushing for diversity of genders and sexual orientations. They honestly believe that gender is not oppressive in itself, and that by multiplying the number of accepted genders they will bring about acceptance of all the kinds of people that are out there. But multiplying the prison cells is not the way to utopia, it’s only the way to more customizable prison cells.

When non-feminists or liberal feminists address the issue of gender abolition, they cannot confront the basic fact that gender is oppression and that they are supporting oppression. Therefore they have to use straw men and projections to get around that fact.

Gender serves two crucial roles in liberal feminism:

1. Gender is a part of arousal, especially for people who were raised on pornography. We can never expect pornsick men (since he writes for Playboy, it is very likely that Berlatsky is in this category) to accurately write about gender or genderism because they are addicted to representations of highly gendered sexuality.

2. Gender is a part of self-identification: we see our status as man or woman as an essential part of who we are. As their ideology is fundamentally subjectivist, liberal feminists use self-identification as their sole standard of how to label people.

But even from a subjectivist standard, self-identification is not, and cannot, be authentic self-expression because the way we identify ourselves is the product of socialization and indoctrination. For this argument to work, self-identification (including self-identification of one’s gender) would have to be irreducible, but it clearly is not.

If there’s any piece to the puzzle that they’re just completely missing, it has to be socialization. FETAs rarely address socialization, and when they do, it’s to simply deny its existence or minimize it. The liberal concept of gender completely denies the existence of socialization and starts from the premise that the experience of gender is irreducible and necessary.

A genderless society cannot be achieved without profound changes in the way we socialize children and the way we treat each other as adults. It’s much, much easier to play “multiply the genders” and “explode the gender binary.” But all we’re doing with this nonsense is customizing oppression to fit every mind, and reinforcing existing socialization by pointing out how necessary and important gender is, by making it into something that every person should be intimately concerned with and needs to connect with.

Berlatsky believes that conformity to the “binary” is the source of gender oppression. This is, frankly, a gross insult to all women who have actually experienced gender oppression. Conformity to the “binary” is not the oppression, it is the tool that makes actual oppression of women (gynocide, social and political control over women’s bodies, widespread rape and VAW, prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, workplace inequality, etc) possible.

Gender is not a performance and it’s not a binary; it’s the fist that hits and the flesh that bruises. Multiplying the variety of fists will not preserve the flesh.

Here’s a wild idea: what if, instead of creating 100 new genders and making people even more confused about themselves, we just get rid of this whole ‘gender-idea’ and raise boys and girls the same way and treat women and men the same way and just let everyone wear, do and act however they want, without making them think that something is wrong with them.

The rhetoric that the inferiors are “really” in control.

I’ve written a previous entry on the myth of female power, especially as related to “sex workers.” My main point there was that objectification is not real power.

This is all based on the justification that “the inferiors are really in control,” that the inferiors are “empowered” by being able to choose how and when to give away their freedom. As Huff Yupp (a male ally) says, “[t]he modern definition of empowerment seems to be ‘Give the oppressor what he wants before he can take it – that way, it was your choice.’” Some incredibly indoctrinated men may even consider rape as a form of empowerment.

I have progressively come to realize that this refrain is not limited to “sex workers” and other obvious cases of objectification but is actually a pretty common rationalization used across the board, insofar as gender and sexual activity are concerned.

So take the idea of women as sexual gatekeepers. Men innately want sex and women innately do not want sex, therefore women are “in control” of sex; by remaining celibate they are free to choose the best man to marry, and men have to accept that state of affairs. Under that framework, any woman who does not want a man is just aberrant.

Women are the victims of widespread sexual abuse and rape, partially on the basis of the gatekeeper belief. But according to that belief, women are really the ones in control because they can dictate the terms of sexual activity. So there’s the “inferiors have control” justification.

Now take weaponized femininity, the concept that got me started onto these connections. Weaponized femininity is a liberal feminist concept which promotes femininity, not as submission but as a weapon, that femininity performed within a feminist worldview can be “empowering.”

Weaponized femininity can serve to make libfems feel better about performing femininity due to the strong and constant social pressures they are subjected to, and I do not mean to attack that comfort at all. But it leads to a confusion between actual power and secondary gains: yes, being able to get the rewards, such as they are, for performing is a good thing, but it is a result of women’s inferior status.

It only makes sense to say that “Beyonce feminism” is empowering precisely because record artists like Beyonce can reap the rewards of fame and money from their feminine submission. Average women, let alone disabled or marginalized women, are not in a position to do so. Weaponized femininity is just a broader version of the “sex workers have power over their customers” rhetoric.

Now look at this belief, widespread amongst BDSM advocates, that “subs are really in control.” I think this also follows the same pattern of rationalization than the other examples. It’s all about the inferior (the sub) being “really in control” because they are the gatekeepers, in this case because they can use their safe word to stop the sexual acts at any time.

But this is a stupid argument. Everyone has the right to say “no” to a sexual encounter at any time, so safe words are merely window dressing, a reinforcement of the notion of safety to distract from what’s really going on.

A comparison may be useful here. Abused women can also “leave any time they want.” Of course they usually don’t do so because leaving is more dangerous for their safety than staying, but one could argue that they are just as much “in control” of the abuse as a sub.

Now I know that BDSM advocates want to tell you that BDSM is not physical abuse, sexual abuse or rape, and that it’s perfectly safe and everyone in BDSM is happy. While we know that’s a lie, and there are plenty of former BDSMers to confirm the failings of the BDSM cult, we also know that the actions performed are physically equivalent to physical and sexual abuse, and victims of BDSM exhibit the same mental damage as victims of abuse.

I realize that it may seem a long way to go from women as sexual gatekeepers to BDSM abuse, but they all partake of the same basic justification: that the submissive party is really in control either because they perform their submission well and get something out of it (“sex workers,” weaponized femininity) or because they have “veto power” (women as gatekeepers, BDSM).

What creates some confusion, I think, is that getting some money or having a veto over some interaction are, in the abstract, both forms of power. So it may seem as if they are both “empowering.” But if you don’t look at the situation in a purely abstract sense and instead look at it in its context, as part of a hierarchical system, then the illusion disappears.

FETAs and the false concept of “agency.”

I’ve stated that FETAs (Female-Erasing Trans Activists) don’t generally talk about socialization, because they know they don’t have anything to say against it except the lame excuse of “well, we’re not all socialized the same.” This is not true of all FETAs, as this entry from Ashley Allan testifies.

This so-called “trans lesbian” is out to debunk the concept of socialization as used by radical feminists. Her reasoning is not a surprise, since it’s the same lame excuse used by all other trans genderists who try to approach the issue:

[B]ut it also perpetuates the myth of shared girlhood, which has already been disassembled by women of color particularly along with fellow trans women. As [Natalie] Reed puts it, “There is no singular, universal woman’s narrative. There are as many stories and experiences as there are women.”

And she’s right. What experience of womanhood is experienced by all women? You probably don’t have to think very hard to see that this really is impossible, and for shared girlhood to be a thing, it needs to ignore that us women are multifaceted.

Keep in mind that she is referring admiringly to the same Natalie Reed who protested a day of remembrance for the women who were murdered in the Polytechnique Massacre, and who shames actual lesbians for not having sex with transwomen. All right.

The concept of gender socialization does not imply that all women experience the same patterns of indoctrination. What it does imply is that all children grow up indoctrinated in the concept of gender, that they are all keenly aware of what a “boy” and a “girl” entail, that men grow up with sexual entitlement and women do not. Gender socialization is for the most part social and not parental: the fact that genderless parenting has failed to prevent the acquisition of gender concepts is, I think, good evidence of that.

That’s the experience of “shared girlhood” that radical feminists are talking about, and which Allan must deny because it destroys the silly pretense that there’s no such thing as gender socialization.

She tries to counter this fact by stating that transwomen have somehow not internalized boyhood. How is that? Are transwomen magical creatures which do not go to school, watch television or read books? She does not explain exactly how this anti-indoctrination ability works, but it’s clearly magical thinking. But later on she does write:

In other words, I wasn’t raised as a male. I was a trans girl who had cis norms imposed on her. I was responding to these “you are male” messages as a trans girl. And because of that disconnect, I committed varying forms of violence against myself. I self-harmed, I abused drugs and alcohol, I starved myself, and more. Others recognized that disconnect and bullied me for “being a faggot.” I will not lie about how that disconnect also resulted in violence against others in the form of lashing out verbally and getting into fist fights with men who bullied me.

The fact that Allan felt like her identity wasn’t being recognized, was bullied, and became violent because of it, is terrible. It’s terrible that young gender rebels are forced to hate themselves because of the traditional genderist dogma. But it’s equally terrible that young gender rebels are forced to assimilate into FETA dogma in order to accept who they are. Both are the enemy of individuality and healthy maturation. The only healthy attitude is to love oneself, no matter the gender we’re supposed to be, and that love cannot be conditional.

But despite her claims, Allan was “raised as a male,” not as a transwoman. She knew she was male and received the indoctrination from her very first years of life, long before she started to rebel against it (children start applying gender roles as young as two years old). She was not yet a “trans girl” because she was too young to have a gender. Her despair is understandable and profoundly tragic, but it’s not the result of some magical immunity to gender indoctrination or some fantasy “innate gender,” it’s the result of her personality violently clashing with her assigned gender role and other people’s gendered expectations.

Transwomen love to play the Womanhood Game, comparing themselves to actual women and claiming that they’re performing better. In this entry, Allan turns that around and accuses radical feminists of playing the Womanhood Game. Her argument is that the exclusion of transwomen is done on the basis of the Womanhood Game, that transwomen are excluded because they’re not woman enough.

This is a ridiculous projection. No radical feminist I know blames transwomen for not performing femininity because radical feminists are against gender roles. In fact the stereotype of radical feminists is that they blame women for performing femininity, not the opposite! How uninformed or lying can she be to state this? Seriously, what world does she live in?

Now you might be wondering where the concept of agency comes in. Actually, it’s Allan’s alternate explanation for this supposed immunity to socialization:

Nobody internalizes all messages sent to them the same way (which is, again, why there are so many different expressions of womanhood). In fact, some are outright rejected, and that’s because folks know a message is not about them. TERFs often act like folks have no agency within these structures, that people, particularly women in this case, are more stone tablets to have their identities engraved upon them. That sounds pretty darn misogynistic, doesn’t it? Seems to be a pattern in TERF rhetoric. Acting like women don’t have agency over their own experiences sounds exactly like what patriarchy says about women. Which brings me to the next bit, another sociological concept TERFs seem to omit on the regular: Structure and Agency.

I’ve already addressed why this argument is factually wrong, but now I want to confront this “agency” business, because it shows us the dirty underside of trans genderism.

First she states that socialization works differently on different people because they reject indoctrination when they “know a message is not about them.” This is a bizarre claim when talking about messages about gender because we’re all indoctrinated at a young age to believe we have a gender. There are six year old gender rebels but no six year old gender atheists. That realization comes a lot later, if ever. So there’s no six year old out there rejecting gender messages because they’re “not about them.”

She then states that radical feminists reject the concept that women have agency within the socialization process. I certainly hope they do, otherwise they would hardly be “radicals”; radicalism means to go beyond individual behavior, looking at the institutions and constructs which mold people’s thoughts and actions, and trying to provide structural explanations to social issues. Using “agency” to explain anything would represent an abdication, much like a scientist explaining a natural phenomena by invoking God.

In her most outrageous claim yet, Allan claims that this refusal to attribute “agency” (a nonsense concept) to women is “exactly like what patriarchy says about women.” Again I cannot fathom how anyone could say such a thing with a straight face. Patriarchal reasoning attributes complete “agency,” and the resulting blame, to women (“her victimization was her own fault”) and denies “agency,” and blame, to men (“boys will be boys,” “they can’t help it!”). So the radical feminist rejection of agency in explaining women’s exploitation is exactly the opposite of “what patriarchy says about women.”

The straw womyn metaphor used by Allan, of a stone tablet being engraved upon, is actually fairly close to what real scientists say about the human brain. They portray the developing human brain as a block of stone which is constantly being chiseled by experience. So ironically, while trying to paint the radical feminist position as misogynist, she actually made a fairly accurate metaphor. Either way, the point is, the way our brain works, including the way our identity develops, is not up to our “choice,” despite what Allan wants to insinuate.

The nonsense concept of “agency” is central to this whole rationalization because, for FETAs, “agency” trumps biology. FETAs seek to erase biological sex, because biological sex is the basis of gender and the justification of gendered oppression. By denying the validity of sex, they hope to promote trans genderism without “outing” it as just another form of genderism, meaning, hatred against women. And then, in a blatant projection, they call radical feminists misogynistic for denying “agency.”

Allan does want to debunk biological sex. She points out that sex is based on a number of biological factors, and that intersex people are forcibly assigned a sex through unnecessary and profoundly unethical surgery. All of this is true, but the conclusion does not follow:

[G]ender is not based on sex assignment. Rather, the reverse is true: sex assignment is based on gender. The construction of sex is but one other way to impose gender roles upon people while denying the variance in bodies. Sex has been constructed so that it serves the ends of a white patriarchy. TERFs are then reinforcing this same exact structure when they police the borders of womanhood by invoking gender essentialism (by way of biology and socialization) to exclude trans women.

Note what is not being mentioned here: pregnancy, menstruation, differences in physical strength, all the biological traits which are typically used to justify gender. Transwomen cannot talk about those because they refuse to acknowledge the existence of female traits they cannot have, as this invalidates their self-identity.

Allan’s reasoning is bizarre because it assumes that gender arose out of nothing, and then sex was constructed around it. This seems very unlikely because we know of no social construct that arose out of nothing. Money arose because of the natural need for an efficient medium of exchange. Race arose because of visible physiological and cultural differences. But gender supposedly just… appeared, and sex came later.

It is true that sex is partially constructed by intolerance for intersex people, and that intolerance for intersex people was probably the result of gender role attribution being seen as necessary. That’s all fair, but FETAs don’t get to use intersex people as fodder for their arguments. The concept of gender has always been rooted in sex and the fact that intersex people have been an exception to this rule does not disprove the principle.

Furthermore, if sex has no relevance to the formation of gender, then how did gender become a universal construct? Why are there no known genderless societies in history? Why do gender boundaries always roughly (not exactly, but roughly) align with genitals? And why does it seem to always be the case that people with penises are assigned the dominant gender roles?

Human biology is real and the criteria for biological sex are all real things that can be measured. The interpretation of what they mean may be arbitrary, but sex itself is not a construct.

Allan also uses the term “gender essentialism.” You see FETAs use that term a lot, and they obviously have no clue what it actually means. Essentialism is the belief that entities fulfill specific criteria that establishes them as an entity a specific kind. Gender essentialism is the belief that men and women are fundamentally different (i.e. that “being a man” and “being a woman” entails fulfilling criteria which go beyond being assigned a gender).

I do not believe that men and women are fundamentally different, by which I mean that there are no criteria beyond assigned gender itself which can tell us who is “being a man” and “being a woman”; in short, there is no such thing as “being a man” and “being a woman.” There is no Womanhood Game because there are no criteria by which a transwoman may become “more of a woman”: “believing they are a woman,” “taking puberty blockers and mutilating their bodies” or “speaking in a high voice” are criteria which determine whether one can pass as a woman, but they do not make one a woman.

The main objective of FETAs is to elevate gender to the status of untouchable personal choice and to downgrade biological sex to the status of make-believe.

My perceived sex characteristics say nothing about my gender, nor is it already set in stone by an omniscient structure as to how I will receive certain messages that are hurled in my direction by folks who read me incorrectly. These structures are not so deterministic, and if they were, social movements would be mostly non-existent, because social movements are an acknowledgement that these structures aren’t working.

Again with the blind belief in “agency” and the slagging of determinism, as if determinism was a material entity or force that prevented us from doing things like starting social movements; not just that, but determinism is apparently “omniscient” in Allan’s mind! In the entry I just linked, I used the image of the Devil being chased in an old folk tale ironically, because I never thought anyone would actually be so stupid, but it seems Allan literally believes determinism is like the Devil. That is absolutely amazing to me. Again, what world does she live in?

Allan states that her perceived sex characteristics say nothing about her gender. But this is almost certainly false: we can say with 99.8% (the approximate percentage of non-intersex people) certainty that Allan’s sex characteristics (penis, XY, and so on) determined her assigned gender (man). We can state as a fact that in her first years of life she integrated all the indoctrination directed at boys, whether she liked her role or not. This is not the result of an “omniscient structure” which somehow defeats all social movements, but the result of normal human development.

This is the end of my analysis of Allan’s entry. I will not indulge her grandstanding, because it is itself based on the lies and misrepresentations I have debunked here. Transwomen are victims of gender, not of “cis” women, and when transwomen like Allan choose to become FETAs, instead of fighting against gender, they surrender the moral high ground and any sympathy anyone may have for their situation. Gender necessarily means woman-hatred, and anyone who promotes gender (or gendered slurs like “cis”) promotes woman-hatred.

Now, Allan insists on attacking the concept of socialization because she believes that it somehow does not apply to herself. I would reiterate that everyone is targeted by gender socialization and that there is no magical “get out of socialization” card.

But I would also extend this further in talking about trans socialization. Once the parents of a child (usually out of homophobia) have decided that their child is “trans,” they begin twisting everything that child says and does into the “trans” narrative, that they are stuck in the wrong body (i.e. a boy in a girl’s body, or a girl in a boy’s body). When the person goes into the wider world, this twisting becomes a social phenomenon, for the same reason.

Crucially, this socialization also consisted of a lot of positive reinforcement. That is, when people decided I was trans and treated me accordingly they were often at the same time trying to show respect or be friendly. I didn’t receive the same sort of treatment as a butch dyke…

This “trans” socialization consists of several components. One is deciding that certain actions, appearances, practices etc are signs that a person is trans/male rather than a woman, female, and/or butch. This is based off the assumptions that any perceived “masculinity” is maleness and that stepping outside the female role and temperament makes one not a female…

Another part is treating the presumed trans man’s behavior and self expression as more acceptable because they’re trans/male. This “masculinity” or whatever isn’t supposed to be present in a female body but being trans explains and makes it acceptable. What was unsightly, confusing or unnatural before is now something this person can feel entitled to.

That there are just as strong indoctrination mechanisms enforcing transgenderism than there are operating on genderism may seem obvious, but is something that people like Allan wish to ignore, because acknowledging it reduces transgenderism to just another expression of servitude, like gender itself. As I like to say, you do not become free when your jailors scrap your assignment to one of two prison cells and let you choose your prison cell instead. There’s no mental freedom, no physical freedom, to be found in any form of genderism, no matter how old or modern they are.

Kristal Garcia, an MRA defending PIV.

I stated in a previous entry that there was almost no response to the PIV criticism issued by radfem, with one exception I found. The exception is this entry by Kristal Garcia, a woman who professes allegiance to the MRA woman-hating crowd.

Now, before I get into the entry, I do want to point out the irony of a woman being the only person with the intelligence to write a response to PIV criticism. Even when they believe in an ideology that upholds the superiority of men over women, women still end up proving they’re better.

I do want to point out, in case anyone else wants to read it, that her response is very condescending. She also misrepresents many of witchwind’s arguments, and uses MRA propaganda to support her position. I am not interested in her condescension, her misrepresentations, or her MRA bullshit, but I am interested in answering the substance of her replies.

Why, yes little radfem, me choosing to have sex does make sense. It makes so very much sense. You see, I am a human being and I have a brain. With this brain, I create thoughts. I analyze and recognize what feels wonderful for me and what does not. I use this brain to make decisions such as saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

This was written in reply to witchwind pointing out that PIV is the main axis of female oppression, and that yet some women (like Garcia) willingly choose to be oppressed. Garcia’s reply is to use the concept of agency (i.e. blaming the victims) as a shield for oppression.

This is an inane reply, to say the least. The fact that Garcia chooses PIV is not merely a result of “what feels wonderful” to her, but also part of her indoctrination as a woman. Our preferences do not exist in a vacuum, but are the result of the combination of our personality and the way we are socialized. Men are trained by pornography to see PIV as the highest form of sex, and women are trained to want PIV in order to become “real women.”

As I’ve explained before, PIV lies at the center of the web of female oppression, in the middle of natalism, the abortion debate, and liberal feminism, which is the kind of feminism most women come into contact with. Behind every exhortation for a woman to follow her gender role lies PIV. So there’s nothing surprising in the fact that most women willingly submit to PIV: what’s surprising is that some women rebel.

The fact that any person approves or disapproves of anything does not make it the product of agency. All our decisions are conditioned by a wide variety of social constructs (including gender and sexuality) and their attendant beliefs. There is no place there for an agency “god of the gaps.”

[U]se that brain thing we women have in our heads and use a condom! Ta-da! It’s called taking responsibility for your sexual actions. Yes, when you have sex you can also get pregnant. Abortion is not something that comes from what you call ‘PIV’. That is a choice made by a woman to terminate a pregnancy she can also choose to keep the child. As for the rest of your prattle, sex can lead to death if you are not careful, yes. Both men and women have died from serious diseases and that is nothing to joke about. That is why condoms exist and being safe with sex is important.

Again with the irony: why is an anti-feminist using a liberal feminist argument (use protection and you can do anything! PIV is safe!) to make her point? Not to mention that the argument itself is simply wrong. The pregnancy rate with condoms over five years is 56%. Contraception used perfectly still has a pregnancy rate of 2 to 6% every year.

That may not be much for a single individual, but it does mean that millions of people experience unwanted pregnancies every year due to contraception failure. And that doesn’t even include STDs! Condoms are better than nothing, by far, but they are not the “ta-da!” solution to STDs or pregnancy, and it does not mean you “took responsibility” for your actions. Taking responsibility for your actions must include understanding the risks of one’s actions, instead of sweeping them away with one inadequate response.

Sex is not violence. A man putting his penis inside a vagina is not rape. Rape is rape. Again, you say intentional ‘sexual’ harm of a woman- RAPE IS NOT SEX! Now, a violent assault on a woman yes, is rape.

The issue of rape aside, it seems that Garcia believes that imposing the risk of harm on someone is not violent. That may or may not be the case, but Garcia obviously is not interested in elaborating any further, so there’s nothing left to discuss. All we’re left with is a woman screaming “RAPE IS NOT SEX!” Again, a liberal feminist argument being used by an anti-feminist (perhaps Garcia is in the wrong faction?). Yes, clearly rape is about power, but it does involve forced sexual activity as well. Most of the time, very specific forms of sexual activity… some form of penetration, whether PIV or anal sex.

PIV increases immune system function, boosts fitness, flexibility, happiness, increased productivity, lowers blood pressure, lowers heart attack risk, improves sleep, eases stress, lessens body pain, improves women’s bladder control. A man does all of that with PIV, how much more respectful can you get?

I believe one huge “citation needed” tag is needed on this one. But yes, I imagine feeling more fulfilled in your social roles in general makes you happier and more at ease with yourself. That’s not a specific argument for PIV but an argument for better assimilating into society, no matter how. But it’s no sign of health to assimilate oneself into a sick society, not to mention the deleterious psychological effects of having to live as a woman in a society which considers women to be inferior. Better to just reject gender altogether, including the PIV mandate.

Because of insane women like you treating prostitutes as if we are mindless morons suffering from Stockholm syndrome instead of seeing us as the healthy sexually expressive humans that we are, women are being raped thanks to fem-nazi’s like you. That’s right. Women in Myanmar and Cambodia have their brothels raided by corrupt police who rape them, take their children from their homes and jail them. In Cambodia these women are put in ‘rehabilitation’ camps where they are raped, beaten and have poor nutrition and are slave labor. Because of creatures like yourself who say women like myself are incapable of thought, you have created unsafe work conditions for sex workers.

I have no idea how Garcia interpreted a discussion of PIV as an incentive for her to bring up prostitution, but again she’s parroting the liberal feminist party line for some reason. She attributes the persecution of prostituted women to radical feminists, but no radical feminist has ever advocated laws against prostituted women or has implemented violence against them. Radical feminists advocate the decriminalization of prostituted women and the use of public resources to give them the possibility of living a life away from prostitution, which 90% of prostituted women want to leave. The fact that Garcia is part of that privileged 10% does not make her experience all-important, as she seems to think. Again she seems to imitate liberal feminists, in that they despise and attack all non-privileged prostituted women (unless “mindless moron” is a term of endearment for her, which I cannot rule out given how condescending her entry is).

You are so detached from your power as a human being. I am subordinate to no, one nor will I ever be controlled… Women are not oppressed by men.

There, I think, lies the central delusion of MRAs and the arguments for PIV in general. Most of the time they do not come out and say something so stupid, and merely wax poetic about how wonderful and sparkly-shiny it is to pound their girlfriend or wife, completely disconnected from any social or ideological context. Of course any action can be justified, including genocide, if you dissociate it from context.

It would take an MRA woman, however, to make such a delusional statement as “I am not subordinate.” Does Garcia not wear any makeup? Does she not wear any feminine clothes? Given that she’s an MRA, I doubt that she dares to go against the fuckability mandate.

Of course MRAs blame the victim whenever women (or men, for that matter) are subjected to any oppression, so they can simply ignore all the systemic factors which we group under the name Patriarchy. In their place, MRAs have weaved a belief system made of lies and half-truths which blames women as a class for everything they think is wrong with society.

I have to say that Garcia’s arguments were much better than I expected, but that’s because she stole so many of them from her opposition:

“I choose to be degraded, so it’s perfectly valid!” and
“Contraception makes sex completely safe”- these two arguments are copied straight from the libfem playbook.
“Rape is not about sex”- this is a standard feminist slogan.
“PIV has so many health benefits”- given the total lack of sources and the wild claims, she must have copied this from some copy of Cosmo.
“Feminazis are causing the jailing and rape of prostituted women”- this is a pretty standard line from the pornstitution activist crowd, who are not MRAs by any means.
“Women are not oppressed”- this is perhaps the only substantive MRA argument presented. Not convincing to anyone who hasn’t drunk the misogyny Kool-Aid, but it’s there.

If her arguments are representative of MRAs, then MRA anti-feminism can’t be very substantive if it has to run under feminism’s dress to get any sort of rebuttal going. So I don’t think we have anything new coming from those quarters.

“Cliff Pervocracy” wants you to know that BDSM is feminist.

A while ago I published a response to a bad attempt at defending BDSM by someone who may or may not be named Clarisse Thorn. Here’s an analysis of another attempted defense of BDSM, and this time the name of the author is definitely fictional.

“Cliff Pervocracy” (who’s surprised that abusers hide their real names?), author of a blog delightfully called The Pervocracy (a government led by BDSM abusers and rapists, presumably), wants you to know that feminism and BDSM are completely compatible.

In the real world, feminism and BDSM are not compatible at all. Feminism fights against Violence Against Women, BDSMers are for Violence Against Women (as long as it’s “consensual”!). Feminism fights against the gender hierarchy, BDSMers support the reproduction of all hierarchies, including the gender hierarchy, as “edgy” and “sexy.” Feminism supports examining how our sexual practices are impacted by social indoctrination, and BDSMers scream like banshees if you even bring into a conversation the shadow of doing such an examination.

So how does “Cliff” answer to this? Well, his first answer is to just ignore the issue:

My usual flippant answer–which also happens to be my most emotionally honest–is that it’s like asking how I can be a feminist and keep guinea pigs. What do my hobbies have to do with anything? Kink is just a fun activity that involves a different part of my personality

So already his “emotionally honest” position is revealed: “Cliff” gives so little shit about abusing women that he thinks this is an issue on the level of having guinea pigs. At least he’s honest about his woman-hatred.

And who else calls their sexuality a “hobby”? BDSM cultists usually take their sexuality very, very seriously. Perhaps “Cliff” hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid yet. But let’s continue…

A deeper answer is that it’s pleasurable for everyone involved. The things I think of as feministically troubling are things that harm someone.

You heard it here folks, BDSM is “pleasurable for everyone involved.” Everyone? Really? Including the 30% of BDSMers in the United States who have been violated? Including all the subs who suffer from the PTSD phenomenon that BDSM cultists euphemistically call “sub drop”? Including all the people in BDSM who re-create their past abuse or rape in a vain attempt to “deal with it”? Is this dudebro for real?

Look, I understand the desire to bury your head in the sand and ignore the sins of other people in your interest group. We all do it to some extent. But to be part of a community which uses violence as recreation (whether “consensual” or not) and pretend that it can’t possibly have any consequences to anyone is just laughable.

So “Cliff” fails miserably at justifying BDSM. How does he fare at addressing anti-BDSM arguments?

For one thing, a whole lot of those arguments could apply to plain ol’ sex. It can be used as a weapon of, and an excuse for, horrific abuse? People are sometimes unintentionally harmed doing it? It’s horrible when done nonconsensually? There are some really awful people who are into it? A lot of the narratives around it are sexist, hetero/cisnormative, body-policing, and glamorize unsafe and questionably consensual activities? The industries that sell media and services related to it are often nightmarishly exploitative? I don’t want to deny or minimize the fact that all these things happen in BDSM. I just don’t think it’s any worse in kink than in sex.

This is a logical fallacy of tu quoque: he’s trying to claim that sex is just as bad as BDSM, therefore BDSM can’t be bad. “Cliff” doesn’t seem to realize that all he’s done is point out how abusive BDSM is.

Besides that, “Cliff” is deliberately understating the abusive nature of BDSM. BDSM is not “an excuse for” abuse, it is abuse. BDSM is not “unintentional harm,” the harm is very much intentional: that’s the whole point of it! BDSM is horrible whether done “nonconsensually” or not, because there is no consideration for consent in BDSM apart from symbolic gestures which do not, and cannot, indicate consent. BDSM does not just have “awful people” in it, it is the perfect environment to attract awful people who want to groom and subjugate victims. BDSM does not just have some sexist or heteronormative nerratives, it has narratives of (amongst other things) incest, rape, slavery and genocide.

In all of these ways, BDSM is definitely worse than sex. This is not to say that “plain ol’ sex” cannot lead to abuse, harm, and so on. Obviously “Cliff” is assuming that we’re all sex-positive in order for his argument to work: as I am not sex-positive (see: sex-negativity), it makes no sense to me at all. I already think sex is not a great thing, and therefore equating BDSM to sex only confirms what I already believe. Yes, I agree that BDSM at least as bad as sex!

Not realizing his complete failure, “Cliff” keeps going:

Actually, I’ll go a little further than that. While “kink is always consensual!” is facile white-washing, on average kinksters are more aware than the general population of what consent is and why it matters. We talk about it a lot more, and we (at least try to) socially normalize the idea of negotiating it.

I’ve already commented on this on my entry about Clarisse Thorn’s rationalizations: this is complete doublespeak which ignores the facts about harm I’ve already cited. The BDSM cult mentality is a violent mentality and it is one which assuages its anxiety about consent by performing rituals which have nothing to do with consent.

Conflating consent with liberation is the business of those who do not know that oppression cannot operate without it.
Rachel Moran

But equally importantly, “Cliff” involves the specter of “negotiating” consent. Although he doesn’t expand on that, it should be a huge red flag. Sex and consent are not things to be “negotiated.”

I think it’s important to talk about the negotiation model of sex, because it not only lies at the core of the pretense that “BDSM is all about consent,” but it also underlies other anti-feminist worldviews. For example, the “sex work” concept, which is anti-prostituted women and pro-VAW, relies heavily on it: it assumes that prostituted women have to negotiate sexual encounters with their johns, and that anything that goes against such negotiations is therefore undesirable. Likewise, many men (including MRAs) believe that sex is a process of negotiation, and that men who “pay the price” are entitled to sex.

What all these frameworks, including BDSM, have in common is that they replace actual consent with a list of codified gestures or rituals which are supposed to represent a transaction (see: transactional model of sex) that supposedly secures consent. And they then turn around and argue that concern with these symbolic gestures or rituals represent concern for consent.

But these gestures or rituals are completely arbitrary and have nothing to do with consent. The BDSMer’s belief in contracts and “safe words” as tokens of consent is no more valid than the MRA’s belief in paying for dinner as a token of consent or the liberal’s belief in exchanges of money as consent in “sex work.” And none of these are any more valid than the statist belief that paying taxes signals consent to the laws or State authority, or the Christian apologist’s belief that committing “sins” means you consent to being thrown into Hell.

But in the case of BDSM, I think we can narrow it down some more. Who else is obsessed with contracts, formal or informal, as signals of consent? Free market fanatics. And BDSMers’ logic seems to mirror market logic on consent issues: their complete refusal to look at the context of actions, their reduction of ethics to subjective feelings, and the contradictory belief that a system of inequality can engender consensual actions (I’ve discussed these points against voluntaryism in this entry).

Leftists are very well aware that contracts and the possibility of leaving do not nullify the abuse inherent in capitalism. They have no qualms arguing against corporate hierarchy, profits, wage inequality, lack of workplace safety measures, and so on. And yet many leftists turn around, use the exact same argument in favor of BDSM, and don’t realize they’re contradicting the very foundation of their political positions. This tells me that the BDSM cult mentality is extremely dangerous, in that, unlike most cult mentalities, it is easily able to penetrate society and pollute people’s minds, even the minds of people who would oppose it otherwise.

I also think a lot of “BDSM is sexist” arguments wouldn’t long survive an encounter with a female dominant or a male submissive.

I think this point goes back to the BDSM cult propaganda line that all opposition is merely misguided and misinformed about what they’re “really about.” If only they knew there are female doms, they would change their mind!

But no, this blatantly obvious (and widely publicized) fact has not escaped our attention somehow. The existence of female doms does not prove that BDSM is not sexist any more than females raping males proves that feminism is wrong about rape being a tool of gender oppression.

Like all radical positions, radical feminist analysis looks at institutions, not individuals. BDSM as an institution is sexist, amongst a lot of other things, because it puts a stamp of approval on abusive sexual behavior that is, by and large, used by men against women. Does that mean all men in BDSM are abusive and all women in BDSM are victims? No, clearly not. Just like how women can internalize misogyny and turn against themselves or other women, women can be doms and men can be subs, but that doesn’t prove anything about the institution itself.

In this answer there is also a whiff of the repugnant sex-positive dogma that women want to be abused because they take part in an abusive institution. No, the fact that there are women doms does not mean it’s okay to abuse women.

And finally, our ending:

How can I be a feminist and do BDSM? Because I trust women to know their own desires. Because BDSM does not stand apart from the world at large, and if we have to live in this world anyway, we might as well do what we love. Because I love and respect my body, my mind, and my potential as a human being–and all three are going “hell yeah, I totally want this.”

You can’t have a defense of BDSM without some doublespeak, and this is another good example of it. We are seriously supposed to believe that a person who supports an institution in which human beings are abused, tortured and raped also loves and respects his body and mind.

This conclusion also echoes the bizarre anti-feminist sentiment that feminists really deep down hate women, because they fight against women’s “choices,” “agency” or desires. But no one on my side of the divide is blaming women for being in BDSM, or arguing against any individual woman’s desires. That’s completely missing the point, and demonstrates that “Cliff” does not know what feminism is.

Feminism does not exist to validate every woman’s “choices,” “agency” or desires. Feminism exists to criticize the context in which we live and how that social context guides our personal decisions and personal desires. “Trusting women to know their own desires” in a context where people’s desires, men and women alike, are constantly being manipulated through indoctrination and the media (including, notably, pornography, which is similar to BDSM in that they both reproduce violence against women) is not sound reasoning or feminist analysis.

This naive view of desire is in line with the ethical subjectivism of BDSM. If the individual lived in a vacuum and was not influenced by society in any way, then we’d have some kind of a case for stating that whatever the individual feels is valid, including about their own sexuality. But this is not how reality works. If society was totally egalitarian and power relations were purely imaginary, then one could perhaps make some kind of case that BDSM is not abuse. But this is not how reality works.

As I said in my rebuttal to Clarissa Thorn, I welcome anyone to give me URLs to similar attempts at rebuttals. These are the only two I’ve found without having to actually read BDSM blogs, which is really not something I want to get into. So unless you know of any others, this is probably the last analysis I’m going to do for now.

Clarisse Thorn tries to refute an argument against BDSM.

It has occurred to me that, while I do get BDSM people wasting my time while trying to defend their abusive sexuality (see for example the comments section on this entry), I don’t really engage with the more serious BDSM arguments out there. That, I think, would be a lot more productive.

Therefore I wanted to start by addressing the words of one Clarisse Thorn (probably not her real name, but who knows), a self-professed “S&M feminist,” a contradiction in terms. In this entry, she intends to address the anti-BDSM argument that “BDSM legitimizes abuse” (despite labeling the entry #1, it seems she wrote no more, perhaps weary of the cognitive dissonance she was triggering in her own head).

I want to make clear, first of all, that BDSM does not only “legitimize abuse,” it is abuse. BDSM is a cult-like framework and, like all other such frameworks, it is highly concerned with reframing language and concepts (“consent,” “sex,” “play,” “toys,” “power,” “dominance,” etc). The peculiarity of this ideology, however, is that it has managed to get its reframing accepted by society at large. It has gone on to the point that now we see BDSM sexual abuse as “edgy” and “sexy.”

BDSM is not only an ideology of abuse which twists language, it also concerns itself with the constant reproduction of abuse, all the way from spanking and caning to “rapeplay,” “breathplay,” “knifeplay,” and all the gamut of so-called “play.” Based on the sexual charge people can get out of them, they have reframed these forms of abuse as “sex.”

Thorn presents the anti-BDSM argument we’re discussing as such:

1) When two consenting people do a BDSM scene together, it can look like abuse to outsiders who are not aware that the scene was worked out ahead of time and that the bottom can opt out at any time. That is, outsiders can’t know the difference between BDSM and abuse by looking at it.

It does “look like abuse,” because it is abuse. The fact that the abuse was “worked out ahead of time” and that one can “opt out” does not make it any less abusive.

Much of the reframing in BDSM has to do with “consent.” I’ve already discussed the problems they have with consent. Within the cult mentality, they believe that purely symbolic gestures like signing contracts or establishing “safe words” turns an act of abuse into a sexual act. Not only that, but they call it consent, as if consent is established by contracts or magic words.

2) If the outside world becomes more accepting of BDSM, then outsiders who see signs of violence will become more likely to assume that it is BDSM and not abuse. Therefore, they will be less likely to interfere with a violent situation, or help a victim.

Yes, obviously it is a huge problem when abusers use BDSM as a tool to portray themselves as innocent of any wrongdoing. Not just because outsiders may be fooled into confusing the sexual abuse brought about by BDSM with “normal” sexuality, but because it means our concept of sexuality has been hijacked by a dangerous and abusive cult mentality. The problem is BDSM itself, the belief that codified abuse can be a healthy sexuality, not just its consequences.

3) Thus: legitimizing BDSM puts people in danger. It means that abusers will be more likely to abuse, because they will think that they can get away with it. Or, alternatively: it means that abusers will be more likely to abuse because they don’t learn the difference between abuse and consent. It also means that people who are actually being abused will have a harder time getting help.

I completely agree with this point. It does mean all that. It also means a lot, lot more, but at least we have a good starting point. So what does Thorn reply to all this?

The argument assumes that people cannot learn to tell the difference between abuse and consent… I can say that, in my experience, there is very high pressure in the BDSM subculture to ensure that all partners consent.

Here we see the doublespeak inherent in the BDSM cult mentality: getting people to submit to abuse means “ensuring that all partners consent.” It also aims to project the image that the BDSM community is ethical and non-violent despite the abusive actions done in BDSM, and even though 30% of people in American BDSM communities have had their “consensual” limits violated and 64% of people in Dutch BDSM communities have reported the same. A community that is so violent that it engenders in its victims a PTSD-like state euphemistically called “sub drop.”

Despite their constant protests and attempts at reassuring the gullible that they follow strict standard of ethics, any community that not only legitimizes these practices but encourages them cannot be an ethical community.

Anti-BDSM people argue what they do precisely because they understand the difference between abuse and consent. And, unwarped by the BDSM mentality, most people can generally make the difference between abuse and consent as well. They can tell that a person is getting roughed up, beaten up, or tortured. And that’s a big problem for the BDSM community, even though they make a good show of sneering at the “vanilla” peons who just can’t understand how “edgy” and “cool” they are. A cult must always have enemies, and that’s what feminists are for (Thorn calls herself a “feminist,” but we know it’s a lie).

If BDSM is legitimized — if it “comes out of the closet” — then the community’s attitudes towards consent will come out of the closet with it. It’s not like legitimizing BDSM means that everyone will start thinking it’s a great idea to beat other people without their consent.

But that is precisely what everyone is thinking: that by using some official, symbolic mumbo-jumbo, you can beat other people with their “non-consensual consent.”

Arguing that accepting BDSM will lead to accepting abuse is analogous to arguing that accepting human sexuality will lead to accepting rape. In other words — telling me that I encourage men to abuse women by having consensual BDSM sex is like telling me that I encourage men to rape women by having consensual vanilla sex.

Even if you repeat it twice, this is still a horrible analogy that Thorn should be ashamed of writing. The core of the argument is that BDSM is a system of thought which legitimizes abuse because it is itself abuse. “Vanilla sex” in itself is not a system of thought. So there’s no comparison to be done here.

But if we interpret “vanilla sex” as a larger heteronormative context, then Thorn’s analogy is, ironically, a fairly good one: BDSM legitimizes abuse like heteronormativity legitimizes rape. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s closer to the truth than anything Thorn can muster.

As for our “S&M feminist,” her blog is inactive, but she still operates as a mouthpiece for BDSM. At any rate, she is no feminist: feminists cannot be pro-BDSM for the same reason that they cannot be pro-VAW, pro-rape or pro-sexual abuse. People like her portray opponents of BDSM as uninformed and their criticism as superficial, as she does in her entry. Systemic criticism must be silenced or dismissed as the nattering of “bitter apostates” so it never penetrates the cultist shield.

But it’s hard not to laugh at Thorn portraying her opponents as naive and uninformed when her understanding of feminism is so trivial and silly, given that she seems to believe feminists oppose BDSM because they are somehow confused by the difference between abuse and consent (as if that was a hard thing to figure out). Silly befuddled feminists, they just don’t “get” it, so you see this is all very reasonable!

If any of my readers, or BDSM trolls, have another entry like this for me to look into, I would welcome it. But I don’t expect much.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 354 other followers