MUDU 2018: Why Is Port Pirie So Metal?

Thirty-odd years ago as a sprog down in Port Lincoln, I used to listen to Mal host the Metal Show on the then MMM-FM – a community station that broadcast in Adelaide, but that I could pick up over the Spencer Gulf on a good day. Mal played a number of South Australia bands, including Outrage, who had a presence in Port Pirie of all places (check them out here, at the Port Pirie YMCA in 1988).

We didn’t have metal gigs in Port Lincoln, and I was given the impression that Pirie had to be huge compared to Lincoln; it was closer to Adelaide by road; it was more industrial by far, and it was a part of the Iron Triangle. Traveling along Three Chain Road at night on a Stateliner bus, and passing by on the wider highways helped the image grow in my mind to no end. Lincoln was comparatively countrified; we had fish, grain, smaller roads and not too many smoke stacks.

Around the time it turns out, Pirie’s population was around 14,000, while Lincoln’s was just north of 11,000. That’s not too big a difference, even with a sizeable margin of error – I was expecting Pirie to be twice the size.

So back in the day South Australia was having a thrash explosion, Port Pirie featured, and I was too goddamn young to go. Fast-forward to this past month, and there’s a Metal United Down Under (MUDU) event to look out for, and Pirie, again, is in the frame.

mudu flagMade it. And just before the first act kicked off too.

Continue reading “MUDU 2018: Why Is Port Pirie So Metal?”

Social justice and storytelling

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer not to have sexist or racist tropes in my stories, it’s just that from a creative standpoint, my primary objection is to tropes themselves; they should be subverted, satirized or better yet, avoided altogether. Tropes, racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic or not, are creative minefields.

For this reason, representation in-front of the camera, or in-character, is important to me creatively, not primarily for social justice reasons, but because it makes the story more real. The umpteenth visit to “The Planet of The White People” should become tiresome for anyone, left-wing or otherwise.

But I don’t see story telling as an exercise that should be undertaken by committee. What this means is that consultation has it’s limits; yes, a white writer can for example go into various Asian communities to ask questions (and should seriously consider paying consultation fees – there’s no reason why this information should just be free), but this doesn’t automatically make members of those communities part of the writing team; they may get a credit, but unless specifically hand-picked for the task from the beginning, they don’t just get editorial authority.

Creative integrity excludes like that.

From a social justice perspective though, there is an obvious if difficult workaround: representation at the writing/production level. Publishers can seek out members of a community or social group to write about that community or social group. Universities can review their admissions policies to check for institutionalized biases that arbitrarily exclude various social groups. Hollywood could be more thoughtful about which producers it supports, and be more pro-active about inclusion at that level. And people who care can campaign for these things.

I think it’s a little conspicuous though, that given how much attention has been given to representation of minorities in casting decisions, just how little the staffing of direction, production and writing positions have been similarly considered. A hundred and one hot-takes, with most focused on the limelight when their stated problems run a lot deeper, speaks of a culture pathologically attracted to celebrity.

The cogs and wheels behind the edifice may not be as glamourous, but they’re no less fundamental to increasing representation. Any cultural obsession that obscures that fact can reasonably be considered a political obstacle for anyone seeking progress.

Social justice is a consideration for some, creatively. But so is creative independence. There is a limit to what critique by third parties can contribute, and social justice doesn’t magically extend these limits. Unless you’re living in a totalitarian state, neither does any other political imperative.

From the misogynist nerds who think they own Rick and Morty, to woke-acting narcissists who think they get to provide directorial input on Doctor Who via social media, to any number of vain social media didacts who just can’t butt out, there’s no shortage of jerks online who’ll co-opt any political cause – left or right – if they think it’ll enable them to insinuate themselves into someone else’s creative process. A little bit of professional courtesy wouldn’t go astray here.

I could probably think of a thing or two about Cleverman that I’m not 100% behind, and I could probably go on to offer a critique. But there’s a huge leap between that and going on to pontificate about what Ryan Griffen needs to do with his work, as if he were obliged to listen to me in the first place. Well he’s not obliged, so I’ll not bother. Obviously white fellas are pretty apt to shoehorn their way into other people’s expression because on balance we’re raised with an implicit, unrealistic sense of our own importance. But as a general rule, ideally nobody should be doing any shoehorning.

I don’t see this being any different if the creator in question just happens to be conservative, either.

Perhaps if something was so far-right that it literally incited political violence, there’d be a Millian corn-seller argument there to stop the expression in its tracks – but that’s an extreme that goes well beyond mere critique. Similarly, if a particularly right-wing text defamed, there could be ethical and legal grounds for a demand of cease-and-desist and possibly compensation. Again though, that kind of injunction goes well beyond the realm of critique.

Litigation and indictment aren’t creative or analytic tools. (They’re not necessarily ethical all the time either).

Short of these kinds of injunctions, critics have very limited entitlements. They can critique. They can boycott. They can sulk. They can devise their own creative visions and attempt to build upon them. Ideally such creative visions can get a fair hearing, although often they don’t. The arts world can be rough, and is rarely ever fair.

But critics can’t just magically front-up via viral media and magically expect to be made a de facto part of an existing production or editorial team. And any critique undertaken with that sense of entitlement is bound to be self-indulgently bad. Any creative process that caves in to this kind of entitlement is likely to break – its reason for being being necessarily watered-down.

Maybe any given work of art, free of intrusion, will still turn out to be garbage. No political persuasion has ever been substantially represented without multiple failures occurring, and there’s still a role for critique in documenting these failure after the fact. Entitled didacticism still isn’t going to make this any better though.

Want to critique Star Wars to make the franchise better? Tough. It’s not your franchise to make better. Someone else may find your critique useful though.

Progressive or not, good critique is primarily for the public interest. It’s not a means of grasping control for one’s self. Professional boundaries matter.

So where does that demarcation leave white, male, heterosexual, left-wing creators who do have a care about social justice, but also a regard for professional boundaries? Hopefully nowhere too self-pitying. Hopefully nowhere crying and moaning that a woman has won out. Hopefully somewhere getting used to seeing other ethnicities on occasion being promoted above and beyond them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that while straight male left-wing creators may or may not have had ample experience at getting used to the success of gay male creators, the prospect of successful lesbians may still cause resentment. This is pathetic if true.

Beyond these realizations, good faith, a respectful curiosity regarding humanity, and an aversion to group-membership tropes are to my mind, if not ideal or all-encompassing, sufficient. I certainly have no intention of ticking off every box on some officious blogger’s checklist-for-wokeness, and unless somehow brainwashed, I doubt I ever will.

There will always be conflict occurring between these concerns every now and then, and I think creators need to resign themselves to that fact. When given the chance, I probably will consult with others that I trust, in private, if it’s not an imposture upon them. And I will peruse critique on an ongoing basis.

Unsolicited edicts from self-appointed editors though? Nope. Not a part of the process.

~ Bruce

Connotation creep

Something I’ve been noticing increasingly with the rote use of political/civics language, is a curious, somewhat sneaky attachment of connotations to otherwise unobjectionable terms or phrases. The “creep” comes into it, not because it’s creepy (although it sometimes is), but on account of something akin to mission creep; an array of new connotations starts to steer the use of the phrase away from it’s original purpose.

Consider the pair:

1) “You’re free to speak, but you’re not free from the consequences of your speech”.

2) “You’re free to speak, but you’re not free from the consequences of your speech” *Taps baseball bat in hand/[insert implied retribution]*.

The first is often deployed in response to bigots of various stripes who think their public speech acts are immune to criticism – I.e. as a rebuttal to authoritarians who think they’re entitled to be viewed as liberal and to have their critics gagged at the same time.

The second I’ve actually seen deployed by people who’ve tried to pretend that they’re being oppressed by another on account of a speech act, and therefore that a retaliatory threat (or act) of violence is justified – E.g. what boils down to InCels warning women that they reserve the right to violence should they hear the word “no” too often. There are obviously other possible instantiations of the corrupted form as well.

I use the above example not because I’ve seen the connotation deployed recently, but because in its more extreme state, it makes what I’m talking about relatively clear. The difference between the furthest extremes in meaning is stark and hard to forget, but only once you’ve had the opportunity to see it. The creep is usually more subtle in the wild.

You get to wondering, once you’ve seen the creep and then the uncorrupted meaning being used again, just who a person’s been talking to. Have they borrowed the phrase without thinking it through? Do they know how else they could be read? Are they, somewhere, unwittingly co-operating with someone who’s got an investment in the creep? Do they on some level sympathize with these motives, or have a bias that prevents them from seeing them in the first place?

***

This corruption isn’t like the right’s overt co-opting of language (particularly the co-opting of terms that the left has used to criticize itself). That’s usually pretty blunt – more of a connotational lurch, than a creep. If they weren’t jacking our shit, I’d almost respect their openness.

But no, the creep is a worry too. It’s insidious, especially among bros.

“You’re denying her agency!”

A phrase meant to highlight how a women’s role as a decision maker and interest holder is being sidelined from consideration is relatively apt to creep towards something that serves the bros. Just remove power from the analysis, and treat all the current options on the table as the only ones logically possible, and all that’s left is to smear the people criticizing the situation as “denying her agency”. Never mind that the bros may be actively restricting the options she has to choose between in the first place.

Consider the bro who’s gaslighted and socially isolated his partner to the point where she’ll accept any crummy choice from a list of crummy choices. Consider the bro who’s deliberately selected and “helped” a partner with body image problems. Consider the bro who’s rendered his partner deliberately vulnerable through a hundred ratcheting steps. Then consider her modelling on social media to impress bro’s friends, submitting to injurious sex acts, you name it.

“Maybe she likes performing ass to mouth for his gurning bro friends to watch and laugh at! You’re denying her agency!” There are other examples along the continuum both less and more extreme, and if you line them up in graduations you can creep, creep, creep your way along them – if you’re that kind of asshole. If you’re really good, and have the aid of a compliant crowd, you can pass your shittiness off as woke in no time at all.

***

It’s practically a law of the Internet that as a phrase or term goes viral in social justice circles, it’s meaning will creep towards something more regressive. The corrupting agents are plural; marketing departments, MBA speak, narcissists, aspiring social media cult leaders, hipster brocialists, and on and on; the usual eaters of meaning.

It didn’t take long for the “spoon theory” disability metaphor to be used by “good allies” without disabilities who were just looking for a convenient term to express their exasperation.

“This thread is tiresome. I’m all out of spoons”.

“WTF Byron? You don’t even have a disability!”

And fark. “Good ally” itself doesn’t necessarily connote what people think it does anymore (if ever). I’m sick of getting a pat on the head for that one. Don’t be shocked if you call someone a “good ally” only for them to ask you what you mean, and to quiz you on your expectations.

“Safe Space”: That’s been creeping since the 80s at least. It used to be the product of women’s officers on campus, and it had little to do connotationally with “trigger warnings” or “no-platforming”, both of which have had their own substantial creeps as well. Think better lighting, women-only spaces, security guard patrols/escorts during the late hours, intercoms, anti-harassment policies and so on and you’ll be closer to the “safe space” of yore.

I’d ask you this, a favour: If you consider yourself progressive, travel in progressive circles, socialize enough, and still wonder what the fuck I’m on about here, keep an eye on something for me. When you see a designated “safe space”, keep an eye out to see how lesbians are catered to.

Lesbians – lesbians of colour especially – have often been the first to go under the bus in ostentatiously progressive spaces. As a social group in political circles, they’re easy to isolate and then exploit, attack or easily exclude.

***

The examples of connotation creep aren’t lacking if you pay attention. There are things that I suspect, though, that could be of help in keeping conversations from being corrupted. If the thought of my offering advice seems too didactic, feel free to ignore me and skip the rest of this piece.

Don’t reward or encourage people for rote-repetition of cant. This just encourages people to say the words more, but without encouraging them to really think about what they’re saying.

Don’t be quick to dismiss things as “semantics”. Possibly there are few better climates for the corruption of meaning than those where people have decided to deride discussions of meaning.

Do avoid political cant when plain language will convey your meaning with economy. This way you can keep your meaning without edgelords wanting to pervert it – and you’ll be more easily understood. Orwell was right.

Get to really know political language if you can, especially its etymology. I keep seeing people saying that etymology is irrelevant ala the genetic fallacy, but this strikes me as wrong-headed in much the same way as the “why are their still monkeys” creationist argument. Old meanings can still be in play in every day language, if not the foundational literature. Knowing what’s out there as best you can helps you get your point across without participating in the corruption.

Don’t let people guilt you about being careful with words, especially if you’re a writer. You don’t have to be self-flagellating, but writers are supposed to give a shit about words. Allowing others to manipulate you is often tantamount to giving editorial control to people who aren’t entitled to it.

Be fair on yourself and adopt the lexicon at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to ask someone to explain a neologism clearly, although give them a little leeway for pace as well.

If people are quick to anger with you, and accuse you of being obtuse, reconsider whether they’re worth having a discussion with. You can’t have an honest discussion with someone who doesn’t want an honest discussion.

Try to preference publications that take a care with these issues. Personal choice isn’t the world-changer some people think it is, but you may be able to positively influence discussions in your own space if the media you take to it is more carefully selected.

***

I doubt there’s more I can say on connotation creep at this point that’s not redundant, vague or boring. I’m trusting that people reading this can get my point. It’s not that hard.

I’ll confess this is all somewhat shaped by the kinds of conversations I’d like to have – but if you’ve got this far then possibly you’re similarly inclined.

I hope this has been helpful.

~ Bruce

Babysitting Grown Men

In less than seven days, I’ve managed to witness on two separate occasions, two separate “Nice Guys” stating openly in person what I’ve only ever seen them too coy to state explicitly online; that sub-cultures (particularly gaming and science fiction in this case) are refuges from the world, especially for men, and in particular from women and/or feminists. This is, to put it plainly, pathetic.

‘Gatorboi

Last week, while preparing to upgrade someone’s computer, I lost my shit with a possible InCel/definite Gamergator. If this was a care situation, or a campaigning context, it’d be unprofessional. In reality, it was after hours and I was still dieting before my upcoming operation, so having some guy I don’t know trying to impress me with his take on Anita Sarkeesian, and with his thoughts on Internet subcultures was the last straw.

This was my time off and as it was I was spending it trying to help someone else to begin with. I’m going to cut myself some slack here.

“Anita Sarkeesian is sooo corrupt. Have you heard about her husband? She’s taken so much money! And all those balding middle aged beta male feminists who are white-knighting to get feminist pussy. [Insert pouty sulk].” – I paraphrase, but the sulkiness is pretty much spot on.

Why the fuck am I supposed to be impressed by or able to empathize with this shit?

I know the conspiracy theories are just that. I don’t care about her husband. I’m a balding middle aged man who’s been feminist-supporting for a long time, and while neither you nor ‘Gatorboi are in a position to verify it, I know for myself that I haven’t used this as an angle to try and get laid. Trying to convince me otherwise is a worthless exercise.

While yes, I occasionally play a game (Solitaire, Bejewelled, Civilization, and a number of DOS games from time to time), I don’t bother to self-identify as a “gamer”. It’s not something I’d aspire to. The technology behind the games is far more interesting if you want a topic on which to expend any serious mental effort (e.g. considering the historical development of floating point performance, running through implementations such as various first person shooter engines before widening the scope to include the implications for non-gaming applications like protein folding modelling and CERN’s ATLAS software stack), but the gaming experience itself? Not so much.

Further, beyond the technology, if I was going to go to any great length considering my use of computer games above and beyond what’s required to waste time and unwind, I’d be more interested in cultural critique than in mounting a fevered defense of the virtue of some gaming franchise, or clique of Cheeto-gobblers. Brand loyalty isn’t worth the effort. I’m not a fanboi. Of anything.

If this excludes me from being a True Gamer, I don’t give a shit.

Before the rant about beta males, of course, there was an implication by ‘Gatorboi that the influx of outsiders was destroying sub-cultures – a point ‘Gator wrongly extrapolated from my own point about social media, smart phones and a sudden influx of people unfamiliar with the concept of netiquette – which obviously he refined to the point of singling out feminists and non-compliant women in general. Quite a long bow to draw, that. It was in this context that he framed sub-culture as his special refuge, and outsiders as trespassers.

Why on earth would anyone want to be stuck as this guy’s babysitter, patting him on the head and telling him it’s alright? Wouldn’t “gamers” rather game? And what’s he hiding from? Culture’s going to be subject to critique. Get over it. Critics don’t need your permission.

Afraid of the specter of gnashing vaginas, and want a Daddy figure to hold your hand? Please try therapy instead.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of whining about beta males trying to get some – a pretty obvious example of projection that, incidentally – how about considering whether or not they’re being put off of being your Bronie because of your suppurating self-pity.

Fake Numbers

So yeah, another day another whiny man. I don’t know how women put up with this shit. Where do they get the energy?

“Women keep giving me fake numbers!”

No shit.

“It’s like they look at me and see “Loser”.”

That’s clearly how you see yourself. But go right ahead and blame women who haven’t done anything wrong. What are women for, if not to make you feel better about yourself? Just look at your mother – she’s a woman ergo. These ones not giving you there number must just be broken.

“That’s why I like science fiction. It takes you away from the cruelty of mankind. Or in this case, womankind.”

The cruelest thing here is a Fake Number Guy’s sense of entitlement. Even if you strip away the implied threat, and the whiff of angry resentment, you’re still left with behaviour better suited to an Amway salesperson/cultist.

Learn some boundaries guys. Learn the social cues. It’s a part of maturing. She doesn’t want to give you her phone number and she doesn’t want you pestering her by asking for it in the first place.

Some of us learn it later than others – too late – but if you’re past 40 and you’re still not getting it, then… fark. People can reasonably and fairly write you off.

That aggrieved sense of entitlement. That sulking self-pity. You do realize that it permeates your behaviour in general, right? It’s not just the asking for the number. Even your ums, ahs and agitated twitches at the slightest hint of frustration tip people off. People get an off feeling around you because… well, you are off.

In the first instance it makes you a wet blanket. A real party pooper. Even if you don’t squeal “whaaaa”, people can still hear it. It wafts off you like bad cologne. You’re killing the mood like a shit in a punchbowl and that’s before you’ve started badgering women for things you’re not entitled to.

It’s also something pathological you have in common with stalkers, spousal abusers and date rapists, so it’s unreasonable to expect that complete strangers are going to welcome you with open arms and just give you the very means to pester them on an ongoing basis.

Women don’t exist to alleviate your poor self esteem. Generally speaking, science fiction communities don’t exist to alleviate your poor self esteem either, even when marketing departments tell you otherwise. Science fiction communities exist for people who are interested in – surprise! – science fiction, for the purpose of – hold on to your hats – science fiction. Odd that.

The people you need to see about self esteem are called therapists. Again, please try therapy.

“Aww. Therapy? But then the guys will think less of me. Only beta cucks go in for therapy.”

The opinions of guys who think like this aren’t worth respecting. Guys like this are why deep down you think of yourself as a “beta”, subsequently feeling a need to make every other guy the “beta” just so you can feel a little better about yourself. Thing is, if you think “beta males” actually exist in Homo sapiens, you’re a sucker – The Guys have played you for a fool.

Tip: Make like The Guy’s wives and ditch them.

(Yeah, the thought of breaking off makes you feel fear, doesn’t it? You worry about angering your “alphas”. Maybe they’ll yell at you. Maybe worse!)

No. You’re not a nice guy. You’re an asshole, lickspittle servant to bigger assholes, and probably a coward, too. The good news is that unless you’re a psychopath, you can always stop if you choose.

I still don’t get it

Science fiction communities being for science fiction, gamer identity not being worthwhile, certainly not to the point of getting angry at perfectly anodyne critique, and aggrieved, self-pitying entitlement being a buzzkill: Mad, I know.

But there you have it. Clearly I don’t have a clue. It’s that blue pill I guess.

All the same, clueless or not, I still don’t want to be around this bullshit, much less coddle the grown men who indulge in it. Save for ulterior motives subject to cost-benefit analysis, I don’t understand why anyone would.

~ Bruce

What a week in Australian politics

After two leadership challenges in one week, I expect the Australian public are quite fatigued with the state of our federal politics. That is if they haven’t managed to switch off entirely already. It takes a morbid kind of fascination to keep a laser focus on this unsightly mess.

“I don’t want to talk about it! I’m pissed off!”

This could be the public’s anthem, I suspect.

And yet we’ll have another federal election within months. Do you think the public will have enough patience for a long campaign? Do you think it’ll be able to make an informed decision with a short one?

Earlier in the week, when it was just Dutton versus Turnbull, a friend suggested that the media didn’t have their eye on the ball, and were ignoring Morrison moving in the shadows. Just days later, we now have Morrison as Prime Minister.

Dutton was just an agent of disruption. A political cluster bomb encouraged from a safe a distance, while those who’d personally wield the scalpel waited to see what would result, and how best to respond. The result is ScoMo.

Not that a many of us can be enthusiastic about the bloodbath at the moment. If we haven’t written all the leadership candidates off as horrible – ineffectual Malcy, police state Dutton, asbestos Bishop and “This is coal” Morrison – the din of the circus music emanating from Canberra is making it hard to concentrate.

“I can’t keep up or even remember half of it! Leave me alone!”

This is a dangerous state for a modern democracy to be in. It’s not like Morrison’s new government – nor anyone else in parliament for that matter – are going to take a break from making plans that will influence people’s lives.

A thought: Rather than opponents of the – ugh – Morrison Government running around absolutely independently, telling all and sundry why to vote a certain way because X, Y, Z, perhaps they could drip-feed their messages in a more organized fashion, and otherwise respond to the Government’s assertions, primarily with questions geared to remind the public of salient matters?

The government is likely to be replete with contradiction, presenting all sorts of opportunities for raising short and succinct hold-on-a-minutes. And if that pisses the public off, well, the government raised the matter in the first place. Otherwise, empathizing with the public’s frustration, and doing one’s best not to replicate just what frustrated them in the first place, seems like the way to go, at least until the election.

Needless to say, as pissed off as people are with the current mob, overwrought moral indignation is probably not going to appeal to swing voters still experiencing disorientation, and raises its own contradictions.

“Oh my god. Government is taking a day off again! At a time like this!? How selfish!”
”Get off your high horse Black Wiggle. You didn’t caterwaul like this the last umpteen times Government took a break, and those times were no less important. You aren’t relating to me!”

I make no attempt to disguise my loathing of this current federal government, and I wish the more humane and sane all the best in taking them down. But if you lot could start by toning down the affectations, it’d be a nice start. We’ve already got headaches around here without any additional drama.

~ Bruce

Slow News Day: Woman Dumps Man For Watching Pr0n

Unless things have changed dramatically since I last paid attention to the mainstays of the atheosphere, it must be a slow news day for Hemant. Woman calls off marriage!

“This goes on for a while. Dalton goes on and on about how her life is ruined — ruined — for the dumbest possible reason.”

That reason: Porn. Underwhelming. Apparently dumping men for using porn actually is a big deal. Who knew?

I have a hard time working out why it’d even be notable if she dumped him for wearing the wrong colour hat, or for his discomfort with her being walked down the aisle by Uncle Cletus the Iguana, let alone something as anodyne and intuitive as ditching a guy for ogling porn. Maybe it’s the idea of rejection by a woman that’s so salient with Hemant’s base? (I don’t know what his readership is like these days, so really, it’s not a purely rhetorical question).

Okay, so maybe a dislike of porn and its users isn’t the most popular position on the topic in existence, but as preferences go, it’s not so alien as to be from another planet either. Hell, not liking sex at all isn’t even as odd as Hemant makes porn-aversion to be.

Part of Dalton’s reason for objecting to her ex’s porn use is given in her clickbait article, including, among other reasons, “sick and twisted ideas of what women look like”. Thankfully, what “sick and twisted ideas” she’s referring to aren’t fleshed out, but it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to suspect that stereotypical tropes have to be involved. I mean, come on, porn may (or may not) have moved on from stories about horny housewives paying for pizza deliveries with sex, but are you actually going to credit it with properly fleshed-out character development and realistic plot twists? Of course it uses tropes. Are those tropes likely to be sexist? Derr. Are people going to universally find this desirable? Of course not. And that’s okay.

Dalton also mentions the matter of how her ex lied directly to her face, blaming another dude for his antics, so it’s not just the porn anyway. Deception’s not really great in a marriage so you can’t expect her or anyone else to be comfortable with that. Maybe you could go into a forensic analysis of why she doesn’t focus on that aspect as much as the alleged porn addiction, but we are dealing with clickbait here, folks.

“In short, the 21-year-old Mormon (a presumed virgin who’s saving herself for marriage) had her life shattered — shattered — by a man who dared to fantasize the same way pretty much every other guy does.”

Dalton’s prose may be overly dramatic, but it’s hard to see why Hemant is bothering to get all worked up about it. And “pretty much every other guy”? “Pretty much every other guy” fantasizes about the same old sexual clichés? Sure.

Years ago, a friend of mine uploaded a song to YouTube with the title “Red Hot Ejaculate”. He relayed to me at the time that it was conspicuous how his hits showed a distinct preference for views from ultra-conservative theocracies. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the more conservative and religious states in the United States that see higher subscriber rates to online pornography services. (Hemant touches on this in his post himself.)

There’s real world difference here, and if we’re going to frame this in a religious versus secular context as Hemant has done, clearly not “every other guy” can be magically assumed to be the same, including when we break those guys up into religious categories. (I’d rather not even try to imagine what porn gets a Mormon’s rocks off – the hackneyed scripts, the surgical alterations, the fake orgasms and magic underwear.)

Here’s a hypothesis: Perhaps Atheists, more-so than Mormons, prefer their sex to have actual human interaction, and less screen-bound trope. Perhaps for some of them, more-so than for Mormons, their idea of enticing sexuality doesn’t involve porn, but rather just entails being better in the sack. Perhaps for some of them, the idea of a listless women faking arousal while being penetrated by a Cialis-driven desperate, all captured in a plot that even Uwe Boll would turn down, isn’t actually arousing.

Based on what is already known, would it even remotely surprise you if this turned out to be true? And how – aside from argumentum ad populum – would the “every other guy” argument sit with you then? Do Atheists in the US want equality in opportunity and law, or just equality in access to crappy sex tropes?

***

Hemant goes on to state that Utah’s number one ranking in porn subscriptions is both hypocritical and the most Mormon thing ever. I have to agree. I also have to state though, from a non-American perspective, that all this panic about porn being demonized – a “they’re comin’ to take away mah porn!” panic if you will – seems like the second most American thing ever, right behind “they’re comin’ to take away mah guns!”

I’m not even going to deal with the boilerplate sex-positive part of his content. It’s basically pamphleteering and if you want something more analytic there’s ample debate about that kind of thing elsewhere on the Internet – perhaps at a price. JSTOR is your friend.

So… someone criticized porn. Gasp. Someone – a young, naïve and not particularly powerful someone writing at a clickbait cesspit from Buttfuck, Nowhere – has a low threshold for what constitutes porn addiction. So what?

I mean, I’ve authored some frivolous shit before, but I’ve never sold it half as hard as Hemant sells his writing. Hemant doesn’t write clickbait himself, so you have to wonder, especially if you’ve been absent from his readership for a long time like I have, why he’s bothering to wrestle with it at all.

The dude always seemed savvy with marketing himself too, so with the benefits of analytics tools, maybe he knows full well better than any of us just how this appeals to his usual crowd. Judging by the reactions on a few Facebook pages, this at least includes a few men from the “can’t handle sexual rejection” demographic. Classy, if true.

Hemant’s supplementary allusions concerning Dalton’s capacity to remain in a healthy relationship would certainly appeal to bros looking to see an opinionated woman taken down a notch. And while not having quite the cynicism of a wink-wink to it, his mention of the abuse she’s copped over the post does come across as just covering his bases – a small, politically necessary side-note if only for the sake of plausible deniability.

Her partner may be better off as well; better to break off an engagement than deal with a divorce, especially when something that’s so commonplace outside Dalton’s bubble was eventually going to push her over the edge anyway.

“…over the edge”. Choice words in those tricky situations where you can’t call a woman “hysterical bitch”.

You have to question why anyone would knowingly float even a sanitized version of the she’d-be-a-shit-wife-anyway hypothesis into a context where a woman has been targeted with misogynistic abuse by thin-skinned sexists – which as noted, Hemant is aware of. That shit’s like chum for sharks, especially when the target is online and seen as ultimately powerless to retaliate.

Is he that gormless, or is it deliberate? There’s an ongoing debate about how clueless Dawkins is with these things, versus the notion of him being adept at plausible deniability dressed up as cluelessness. I still lean towards genuine cluelessness in the case of Dawkins*, and I’ve noticed something similar in Hemant’s output, albeit not so much. It’s hard to square naïvety in this respect with someone so seemingly good at self-advancement.

Maybe there is precisely zero malice in Hemant’s effort here. But in as far as Mormonism is simultaneously puritan and hypocritically pornography consuming, it’s also incredibly fucking patriarchal, overseen as it is by a bunch of leering old men with a good deal of institutional power. It’s probably a bad sign then, and possibly symbolic of the direction of organized atheism in the US, that Hemant is instead investing his energy in going after a young woman who writes clickbait.

It is, in any case, off-putting.

From where I’m standing, all this does is remind me of why I read so few atheist blogs anymore. It’s possibly a bad spot for me to have randomly dipped my toe back in – it’s a small sample and possibly not representative – but geez, I think I’ll go back to hanging with the normies a bit longer.

~ Bruce

* Not that I’m proffering this as some kind of exoneration.