And bxz’s objections to the Asymmetry.

Commenter And bxz has pointed out a number of objections to the Asymmetry. Since there are a number of them and they are more developed than most objections to the Asymmetry, I thought I would write an entry discussing them instead of debating in comments (which I am trying not to do these days).

1)The presence of pain is bad


A) Pain is not inherently bad. Pain is but a state of mind, and because we can modulate our subjective experiences through practices of meditation, we can achieve a “happy” state of mind while in abject agony. One of the extreme examples of such practice manifests as self-immolation practiced by Buddhist monks (imagine burning alive without screaming and running around but meditating in jubilee). Ignoring the religious backdrop, this still shows that we are capable of changing our subjective experience of pain at will. Studies back this up.

Whether studies back this position up or not is not relevant, because this is not a scientific issue. I fully accept that the points stated may very well be true. I doubt that they are true, but it doesn’t really matter, because they do not prove that the presence of pain “not inherently bad.” What they prove is that the presence of pain combined with a certain practice can end up being not bad.

Let’s make an analogy. A guy gets stabbed. He’s taken to the hospital, they operate on him, save his life, and while doing so discover that he also has cancer. So they are able to remove the cancer early. The entire situation is, on the whole, a more desirable outcome than the guy eventually dying of cancer. Does that prove that stabbing people is good? No, it doesn’t. All it proves is that stabbing someone who has an undiscovered cancer might be a good thing, but the stabbing itself was still bad.

This is similar to the fallacy used by Absurd Being: to equate “the presence of pain is bad” with “the presence of pain, and badness, are synonymous.” These two statements are wholly different. The fact that a situation involves pain does not thereby prove that it is necessarily bad, if other elements or principles are also part of the situation (like the perennial example, a visit to the dentist). The Asymmetry does not imply that the presence of pain is synonymous with badness.

B) You say: “If your two options going into a long and painful operation is to bite a literal bullet or get anesthetized, which would you choose? Unless you are an inveterate masochist, the pain of the operation is not what you seek.” This justifies masochists as an exception to Benatar’s argument because suffering is a boon for them, hence better than not existing. I think this means that the logically consistent position isn’t antinatalism, but anti-non-masochism.

The point was not to make masochism part of the logic of the argument, but if you’re going to do this, then you ought to do it right and know what you’re talking about. First of all, being a masochist is not something we choose, it’s not like we can decide to be masochists tomorrow and seek out pain. Secondly, masochists do not respond positively to all pain. Sexual masochism, for example, is an expression of giving away control of one’s body to another person. A person can be a sexual masochist and still feel bad about stubbing their toe. Thirdly, there is a threshold of pain, in any kind of pain, beyond which even masochists cannot deal with.

So to say that the Asymmetry leads to “anti-non-masochism” (which I presume means: being against people who are not masochists or who don’t want to be masochists) is to ignore the reality of masochism and how masochists relate to pain. Yes, a masochist might experience pleasure at experiencing a long and painful operation. This does not therefore prove that pain is not bad. All it proves is that some people, in certain contexts, can ignore the badness of the pain.

Again, this is an argument pretty similar to the previous one: the fact that some people are masochists in certain contexts does not prove that the pain itself is not bad, it proves that, for some people, bodily or psychological reactions can compensate for that badness. But if you’re going to go down that route, why not argue that the Asymmetry proves that we should all have congenital insensitivity to pain? But, again, we don’t.

C) There are many other ways to get around pain.
1) Drugs (painkillers, MJ, LSD, etc.)
2) Cut off our part of the brain that is responsible for pain and suffering.
3) Genetic modification of human life to create negative emotion-free and pain-free organisms.
4) The future wonder drug that puts benefits of meditation on a pill
(Many of these are out there, but I’m just spitballing alternatives to preferring non-existence)

We already use painkillers, but they don’t change the fact that suffering is bad. As for cutting off the sensation of pain, congenital insensitivity to pain has shown us why that’s a terrible idea: pain is a signal our body needs in order to react to damage, and people who don’t feel pain also tend to die young precisely because of that.

Is it possible to imagine a world where we can safely eliminate suffering? Sure. And that would probably trivialize the Asymmetry as an argument. But we do not live in such a world. The fact that we can imagine living in such a world in the future does not mean it’s possible, let alone that it proves we should keep procreating in the meantime. The suffering of people born right now is more real than an imaginary world.

3)The absence of pain is good even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone,

A) Not if pain itself can be good or mitigated altogether, see objections to claim 1
B) This at least seemingly contradicts premise #4. You say: “The absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom that absence is a deprivation.” A corollary of #4 is that non-existing beings do not suffer the absence of pleasure. #4 is logically true because people that do not exist cannot mourn not having ice cream (a non-existing ‘fetus’ person says, “it is bad that I do not get to enjoy ice cream”). In other words, (Statement 1) No one is actually suffering, so it isn’t immoral. Yet in premise #3 you say: “The absence of pain is good even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone.” In other words, you are saying that despite the fact that (Statement 2) No one is actually soothed, but it’s good. How can both of those statements be true at the same time? You dismiss the morality of discussing non-existing human’s suffering based on their non-existence; yet ascribe morality to the pleasure of non-existence. It’s like you imagine non-existing beings enjoying the fact that they aren’t suffering (saying, “it is good that we do not suffer since we do not exist”) and then scoff at people who imagine non-existent fetuses being condemned to the “equivalent of deliberately starving children.”

This is a mess. I have never argued for any attributes of non-existence, because non-existence has no properties. The statement:
(3) The absence of pain is good even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone.
clearly and directly excludes the position that it is about the absence of pain being enjoyed. That’s what the “even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone” part means. So no, it’s not like I “imagine non-existing beings enjoying the fact that they aren’t suffering.” There is no such thing as non-existing beings, and no such chimera is necessary to understand (3). All that (3) means is this: in the case that a hypothetical person X does not exist, the fact that there is some pain absent from that scenario is a good thing, and it is a good thing apart from any subjective experience. Likewise, the absence of pleasure is not a bad thing, apart from any subjective experience.

The last point in the comment was the old “why don’t you kill yourself,” which I’ve already discussed, so I see no point in going through that again. The general point here is that antinatalists are against procreation, the creation of new lives, not the end of existing lives. People who are living also have desires and values which would be frustrated by their death, and we all, as individuals, evaluate whether our future suffering is worth tolerating in order to fulfill those desires and values. Most people arrive at the conclusion that it is worth tolerating, and therefore they don’t kill themselves. Whether each person is correct about that evaluation is their own business.

What I learned from camgirls

I used to have a bunch of camgirl mutuals (on an account I no longer use) and what I learned from them about the realities of being a camgirl couldn’t be farther from the glamorized image of the fun/happy camgirl who makes a living (or at least a hefty amount of spending money) by just showing off her body.

“Body positivity” that encourages women to take nude pictures and post sexual content online as proof of “feeling good” about their bodies has led to many young girls thinking being a camgirl would be fun. I’m thinking specifically of several 16-17 year old girls I’ve seen post about how they can’t wait to turn 18 so they can be a camgirl. Or women around 18-20 who post about wanting to start camming soon. It’s not the glamorous life you’ve been told it is.

Most of the camgirls I followed struggled with bills. Being a full-time camgirl was not enough. They were either in debt, or being supported by someone else. These were women of all different shapes and sizes; including thin white women with sharp noses (who would be considered the epitome of beauty by western beauty standards). So no, it’s not that these women weren’t “hot” enough.

The money was not fast nor easy. The ones who were remotely successful had to purchase professional lighting. They had either a separate room in their homes set up and decorated for camming, or they’d make their bed their studio. They had to buy lots of lingerie and sexy costumes. Guys aren’t interested in seeing the same nude woman (or woman in the same 2 sets of lingerie she owns) over and over. They want to know that you’re spending money and effort to please them. Camgirls would have to regularly post on multiple social media accounts (most had at least 3, including Tumblr and Twitter). They’d post their cam schedules for the week/month. They’d make several posts in the hours leading up to their cam show, advertising that they’re about to go live, complete with teaser pics. This was all in the hopes that men would see the posts and be enticed enough to pay to see their show, or order videos. The men were lazy and entitled. They wouldn’t do research to find the *perfect* woman they wanted to see, they’d order women up like delivery. You’ve gotta keep making posts, every hour on the hour, if you want men to see you and notice you. It also requires being on-call, constantly. They don’t care what you’re doing or where you are, you’d better be ready to immediately engage in cyber sex or respond with glee to their sexual harassment. Many men would demand women send them pics immediately as well (whether or not these guys would pay for that is another story). That was the point; they wanted these women to be their virtual sex dolls, women they could control from miles away, for free or dirt cheap. Oh, you’re out shopping/at work/at a friend’s house? They’d tell you they don’t give a fuck, you better send them a picture of you pouting while spreading your labia like the insatiable slut you are, right now, or they’re never buying any content from you ever again. Many camgirls would try to do it quickly (while noone’s looking or noone’s in the room), or sneak off to the bathroom to do it so they could appease these guys, and hope they buy from them in the future. Many would say that’s not good enough, they don’t want an exposed picture from the safety of a bathroom. They want you to spread your legs or expose a breast where you might get caught. They wanted these women to be in danger of being caught exposing themselves, and they wanted the fantasy of the insatiable slut who was so money hungry and wanted dick that she didn’t care, and would do anything to please him. (That was another thing, camgirls were regularly posited as money grubbing gold diggers for asking for anything for their content. The men expected it for free.)

This gets to the hosting sites. Even if you had enough money for your own site, who’s gonna find it? Who’s gonna know about it? It’s better to use a well known site that men go to for camgirls. Most cam girls would use cam girl hosting sites which would act as pimps. The one that gave women the highest percentage of revenue I could find at the time was one that kept 60% of the profits from every sale. These sites were always designed for the benefit of the men, not the camgirls. It would be “against the rules” to show full nudity in preview panels (you have to pay to go into a camgirl’s “room”) but the sites would do nothing about camgirls who did show full nudity for free. Why is a guy gonna pay to get into your room, when another girl is doing it for free? That’s another thing. Samples. It was a constant struggle, with camgirls trying to convince men to pay for their services, and men trying to convince camgirls to do it for free. They’d harass women for “samples” (i.e. free shows/videos/photo sets) before paying. Many men would pose as promoters or pretend to have camsites of their own, and demand you send them free content for “exposure”. Some men would promise to pay for services after receiving them, under the guise of not wanting to be ripped off…and then never pay. A camgirl had done a custom show for a John through a camsite, and he complained to the camsite that he never received the show (despite it happening live on their servers). The camgirl was required to give him a full refund, or be permanently banned from the camsite. It was also “against the rules” for Johns to record cam shows, but they did it all the time. They’d record the shows, upload them to their own sites, and profit off of these women without giving them a penny. There was no recourse. Being exploited and having videos and pictures of your nude body in sex acts resold was just “part of the job”.

Men would dissect every part of you. They’d talk about how parts were too big, too small, not the perfect color, not wet enough, not narrow enough, not wide enough, etc. and camgirls would be told by others to “not take it personally”. How are you not supposed to take it personally when it’s every crevice of your body being scrutinized? As though you are somehow detached from your body?

Camgirls would speak glowingly of men who bought them “gifts” (although these gifts weren’t usually free, they’d be in lieu of payment for a custom video or camshow). The men who did seem to buy camgirls “gifts” would be regular customers. So after paying $5 a pop for 10 videos that involved penetration in every orifice, giving you a couple bucks in your camshow room while you moaned about how much you wanted his dick, and sending you sexually harassing emails for months (that you’re obligated to be nice about if you want to keep him as a customer), he decided to be generous and buy you a $20 Lush item from your Amazon wishlist. Big whoop. And yes, camgirls would be forced to sell their vids/pics/shows for dirt cheap. Men were consuming them like products, and as products, they wanted the most value for the least amount of money. Again, why would he pay you $50 when there are hundreds of other camgirls he can buy content from for $5? Camgirls would often offer “rewards” for gifts (like a custom vid/pic set), and men would come out of the woodwork to double dip. Declaring that they’d treated the woman and “gifted” her money already – the money they spent buying content previously. After paying $5 for that full-length video, he’s now demanding free custom content as a reward…for “treating” you with that $5. Those guys didn’t see it as paying for a service. They felt entitled to these women’s bodies for free, and viewed any money they paid as overly generous donations that they should be further rewarded for.

Men didn’t want to see lots of different dynamic women in sexual situations. What they wanted was a fantasy. Regardless of how a camgirl started out, most would eventually gravitate toward the fantasy persona that sells – the happy insatiable woman who craved dick constantly, from any and every man. That’s what got them more views and responses on social media, because that’s what men wanted to see. Another “part of the job” was regular sexual harassment from men and dick pics. Whenever a camgirl would complain, she’d be told that it was “part of the job” and if she didn’t like it, she didn’t belong in the industry. Being a camgirl meant being a ragdoll for men to use and abuse, even though they couldn’t touch you. You weren’t a person. If you wanted them to throw some money your way, you had to dehumanize yourself into a dick crazed nymphomaniac who enjoyed rape threats.

Mild sex or normal masturbation didn’t get much attention. You had to be creative. Do weird and degrading things. Men seemed to like when camgirls would do a “show” together, especially if they looked incredibly uncomfortable. I remember one camgirl in particular getting lots of attention from men after she had injured her vagina during a show. They loved it. They loved that she had internally hurt herself for the pleasure of the men watching.

Men wanted to consume these women. All of them. Their entire lives. While the Johns would be communicating from anonymous accounts (or accounts with male profile pictures that were most likely not them), the camgirl was completely exposed (no pun intended). They’d demand to know more information, and camgirls would go to extreme lengths to try to keep the rest of their lives private (where they live, their friends, who they’re in a relationship with, etc). They were all trying to toe the dangerous line of men who were infatuated enough with their sexuality to give them money, but not infatuated enough to stalk them. Many had stalkers, endured violent threats, and men would threaten to send video and pictures of their shows to friends and family. They got off to “exposing” these women as “filthy sluts”, knowing that she would be the only one facing scrutiny, not him.

A camgirl got a bunch of backlash from Johns and unfollows once she made a post about having sex…that wasn’t on camera. They hated that she had sex for her own pleasure, off camera. They wanted the entirety of her sexuality to be a performance. For them. She said she couldn’t wait to save enough money so that she could delete all her profiles and her camgirl persona would no longer exist.

Absurd Being tries to disprove the Asymmetry.

A blog called Absurd Being, by Nathan Hohipuha, attempted to disprove the Asymmetry, in an entry called Axiological Asymmetry and Anti-Natalism. Unfortunately, this attempt falls strictly into the “the Asymmetry pertains to non-existing people, which is impossible, therefore the Asymmetry is false” sort of argument, but at least it’s slightly novel.

Hohipuha begins by quoting my quote of Benatar’s formulation of the Asymmetry, so at least he knows what the argument actually is, which is nice. Unfortunately, the niceties stop here. He begins by distinguishing between a personal preference (“It’s (a) good (thing) that I arrived in time to catch the bus”) and a moral statement (“It’s good to tell the truth”). Then he states that statements (1) and (2) in the Asymmetry must be about personal preferences, because:

If you object that morality is nothing more than pain/pleasure, then you are committed to notions as absurd as that a dentist putting me through pain is acting immorally, or that the pleasure children take in teasing a classmate is moral.

But this is a bad counter-argument. The following statements are not at all equivalent:
(A) The presence of pain is bad, and the presence of pleasure is good. (statements (1) and (2) of the Asymmetry)
(B) Morality is nothing more than pain/pleasure.

Hohipuha is arguing that statement (A), in order to be a discussion of morality, must entail (B). But this is obviously and clearly false. Morality is about pain and pleasure, and also about other things. Saying that “the presence of pain is bad” does not logically entail that nothing else is bad. To use his example, the presence of pain is bad, but so is, for example, taking pleasure in teasing a classmate. But the fact that the perpetrator is experiencing pleasure is not, in itself, the bad thing. What is bad in this situation is that the perpetrator is not respecting the feelings of his classmate. This is a consideration that has nothing to do with pain or pleasure directly. But, absent of those other moral considerations, the pleasure is still good and the pain is still bad.

The purpose of the Asymmetry is not to give a complete accounting of morality, but to use certain intuitive features of it in order to make an argument against procreation. I don’t know why Hohipuha thinks the Asymmetry needs to give a complete accounting of morality, unless he thinks that arguing anything is good or bad necessitates a complete and total understanding of morality, but this is something he needs to prove.

Then he moves on to (4), the proposition that pleasure that does not exist is not bad:

This proposition asserts that the absence of pleasure could only be bad if there were somebody to be deprived of that pleasure. Since we are talking about a non-existent being, there is no one ‘losing out’ and we can’t say the absence of pleasure is bad. The important question is whether we are talking about badness or just about it being bad for a particular being.

Clearly, Benatar is using the word “bad” in the latter sense. If the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom that absence is a deprivation, then it would be bad if there was someone to be deprived, and this means we are talking about it being bad for someone; i.e. we are not talking about (moral) badness.

We are not talking about a “non-existent being,” whatever that means. As I have repeated many times on this blog, Benatar himself points out in his presentation of the argument that he is talking about states of affair, not of states of individuals. So this is just plain wrong.

The second half of the Asymmetry is about a state of affairs where a person X does not exist, as opposed to the first half, which is about a state of affairs where a person X does exist, and experiences pain and pleasure. The fact that the pleasure they would have experienced is not present is not a bad thing, morally. It has nothing to do with there being a person who is deprived or not. There are already people who are deprived of pleasure right now, in the real world, and that’s a bad thing, morally, not just as a matter of preference. For Hohipuha to state that this is merely an issue of preference is astounding: does he seriously believe that depriving human beings of pleasure is an act of no moral status whatsoever, and just an issue of preference? I sincerely hope he does not have children.

And now, his final argument:

What about (3)? The absence of pain is good even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone. Now, here “good” is clearly no longer merely good for someone (a preference). Benatar explicitly says as much. “Good” here means goodness; in other words, a moral pronouncement. Since I have already claimed that pain and pleasure aren’t moral in themselves, it follows that the absence of pain and pleasure also can’t be moral. (3) is false.

Again, Hohipuha commits the exact same mistake as above: equating his rebuttal of the position that morality is SOLELY about pain and pleasure, with a rebuttal of the position that pain and pleasure have to do with morality AT ALL. Hohipuha has most definitely not proven the latter proposition, and I don’t think he can, because it’s a ridiculous claim. Either way, he hasn’t proven it, and since his argument here relies on it, the argument therefore fails.

In his part called “Analysis,” Hohipuha says that he finds Benatar’s failure ironic because the real asymmetry is one between good actions and bad actions:

I don’t want to examine morality in detail or attempt a robust definition of it here, so let me just say morality primarily encourages us to think unselfishly and consider other people’s interests in addition to our own to avoid harming them or causing undue suffering. On the other hand, morality isn’t about ensuring the happiness of other people or maximising happiness in general (sorry, utilitarians).

He thinks that’s ironic. I, on the other hand, think it’s ironic because the asymmetry he discusses here is one of the very asymmetries discussed by Benatar as an argument for antinatalism! I have discussed this argument, the Duty Argument, in this entry. I’m not sure if Hohipuha supports antinatalism or not, but if he doesn’t, then he has to explain why he supports a different argument which leads us to antinatalism just the same.

Did you know med students may perform unconsensual pelvic exams while you’re under?

Some articles and videos on the subject:
Conversations We Shouldn’t Still Be Having: Pelvic Exams Under Anesthesia
At Your Cervix

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal on: Faith Healing, Simulationism, Vacuous “Ultra-rational” Ideologies.

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (1, 2, 3).

James Randi: Thoughts About God

The Onion on: politician’s outdated beliefs.

From The Onion: Archaeologists Discover Fully Intact 17th-Century Belief System In Ohio Congressman

COLUMBUS, OH—Marveling at how well preserved the archaic opinions were, a team of archaeologists from the Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday the discovery of a fully intact 17th-century belief system in Ohio congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH). “It’s just extraordinary to come across a perspective that dates back to the the mid-1600s and shows absolutely no signs of decay,” said Dr. Claire Goedde, explaining that while it’s not uncommon to encounter partial remains of convictions from that era, it’s exceedingly rare to recover a specimen this pristine. “All the 400-year-old viewpoints remain almost completely untouched, from religion’s place in society to the rights of women to the attitude toward science. I can only imagine the insights this single sample will provide as to how people who lived centuries ago saw the world around them.” Goedde added, however, that the congressman’s belief system was fragile even in near-perfect condition and could deteriorate rapidly if examined too much.

What does actual female power mean?

Actual female power:

RESOURCES – having everything you need for survival and socializing without ever having to depend on men, having a secure place to live, source of nourishment and heat without ever having to consider marriage, sex work, or any kind of catering to men in order to establish mere survival on this planet.

AUTONOMY – full control over your own body. Not ever having to be touched against your will, or have another person control any part of your body, especially your reproductive abilities, deciding on your own and for your own benefit what happens with your body, knowing what’s good for your body and exact risks you take if you’re willing to subject it to pregnancy, sex, or any other condition, not ever taking a bigger risk than you feel safe taking.

COMMUNITY – Bonding, sharing, belonging, participating, being protected by a community of women with the same interests, same experiences, and same goals as you have, knowing that all or most of your experiences are common and normal in society you live in, receiving support, validation and help in all of your issues, knowing that no matter what happens, women will have your back, as you have theirs, standing united against threats that hit us as a whole.

KNOWLEDGE – receiving the formidable knowledge women of history have created and achieved on this planet, knowing that women created everything and everyone, knowing the role your sex has played on this planet was vital and immeasurable, knowing your history, knowing what we had to fight for and what we still have to fight for, having a conscious mind about the endless achievements and labour women preformed, as well as the endless violence and crimes committed against our sex, and the danger we’re put in from day to day.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH – our bodies are created strong, and the stronger we get, the more chance we achieve for physical safety, having the ability to beat the crap out of anyone who tries to assault you is a real power, looking too physically intimidating to even be attacked is a real, big asset, not being threatened physically by men is a luxury most women don’t have due to social pressure to keep our bodies small and fragile, so aiming for body as strong as possible is a real power, and it’s a power men don’t want us to have.

AGENCY – acting in favour of your own interests, knowing what those interests are and knowing how to take action that will bring you to your goals, never wasting time on representing the interests of a group that works against you, never wasting your energy, labour or time on those who see you as less than a human, fighting for all that you know you deserve, and know you can get, never letting someone else speak for you or decide for you, never putting your human rights on hold for the sake of other’s goals.

SAFETY – this is a power we have to fight for the most. Safety from psychological and emotional terror society enforces onto us in order to change our bodies, to give up on our strength, looks, bodily autonomy, confidence, freedom. Safety from falling into traps men have created in order to exploit us, safety from our bodies being sold, safety from abusive marriage, safety from physical violence, sexual violence, safety from having our autonomy taken away from us, from the credit of our intelligence and our labour and our creations taken from us, safety from having to spend our entire lives catering to predators in mere hope they will spare us the pain they’re inflicting on any woman who isn’t doing what she’s being told. We deserve to be protected from all of it. We deserve to have full lives without the epidemic of psychological, physical and sexual violence ever touching our lives, much less dictating them.

Note that men already have all of these, it’s given to them by default, resources are available for them in much greater quantity, autonomy of their body is achieved, they receive plenty of validation and community from their male peers, male authority, and male directed media, their stories and achievements are over-represented in every single history course, their physical strength is celebrated and they’re encouraged to get as strong as possible, they wouldn’t dream of representing anyone’s interests but their own, and they’re safe from a big chunk of emotional, psychological and sexual terror women are going thru every single moment of their life, even if other men still from a physical threat to some of them.