Still waiting for that bus (to fall under)

In October of last year, I wrote that metaphorically, I’m waiting for a bus to fall under. I made a few assertions that I honestly believe, but which have got other people – particularly women – in trouble when expressed.

By rights, at least by the standards of a lot of the discourse I’ve seen over the past couple of years, someone should have called me a transphobe, but nobody has. It’s not like I went out of my way to be inconspicuous either.

While I may have avoided inflammatory rhetoric, or strong claims that I’m not sure I can commit to, or statements that serve as answers to questions that I think are malformed, the post from last October was shared on social media by “known TERFs”. I saw the traffic come in, and yes, some of it may have been channeled via social media “bubbles”, but there was enough traffic from either open circulation or sources that have been ideologically policed, for me to be able to suspect an impending “TERFening”. And yet it didn’t occur.

I’m not actually intending to make a habit of harping on about transgender politics in future. This isn’t my gig. I’m not a stakeholder and I have other things I do want to write about. I’ve only got involved this far in because I think some of the elements that are pathological within trans-activism are generalizable, present in other forms of activism, and it’s these generalizable problems that I’m particularly interested in. While I’ll address these problems again in future, I can’t and won’t guarantee that it’ll be in reference to trans activism.

I’m nobody’s soldier in this, and all the blame here is my own, just so you know where to lay it.

However, because I didn’t get any tar, nor so much as a single feather the last time around, and because I want to be quite clear about where I stand for anyone who harbors any suspicions, I feel I should re-iterate. Allow me to repeat, re-phrase and add a few assertions more bluntly this time around:

  • Having an interest in dolls or the colour pink does not make a child a girl. Boys can and do like these things on occasion too, and would more often, only they’re discouraged from doing so.
  • It’s not bigotry for people to refuse to have sex with someone else, irrespective of whether or not that someone else is a member of an oppressed group. Sexual intercourse is not a part of the commons to be dolled out via social justice campaigns.
  • Nobody is obliged to find penises sexually attractive. Nobody.
  • “Women have a right to abortions” is a legitimate political statement.
  • The concept of the “cotton ceiling” may not have originally been intended as rape-cultured, but it’s at least acquired that status.
  • Telling women on social media to suck your cock because they disagree with you makes you a misogynist.
  • Without assuming gender essentialism, “cis” doesn’t mean anything.
  • Sexual discrimination, as distinct from gender discrimination, exists and is enforced by implicit and explicit gender roles, sexist laws and institutional biases.
  • Intersex people exist.
  • The violent individuals who bash trans people in public toilets are far more likely to be men who don’t read Germaine Greer or Julie Bindel than women who do. They’re far more likely to be men who are far more likely to pay attention to the likes of Jeremy Clarkson and Sam Newman (i.e. not feminists).
  • Whatever their mistakes, laying blame upon radical feminists for the actions of violent men they have no influence over is disingenuous at best.

Each of the above statements has met at least two of three selection criteria to be listed, the first two criteria being necessary, and the third optional; I actually believe the statement; I have seen people castigated by purportedly liberal-left or radical-left individuals for expressing the statement , and that I have seen a good number of my reflexively GLBT-supporting friends essentially making the same statement themselves.

If the above really does make me a transphobe, and you happen to be one of my lefty friends reading it, the odds are that you’re a transphobe too and I’ve seen you being it. Congratulations. Although I suspect the odds are that you’re less likely to be called on it if you’re a man, you never know. I’ll leave you to ponder what you’ve done wrong, because obviously I’m not going to be able to enlighten you, what with thinking all of the above is just lemon-peachy.

Trans acquaintances reading this will likely already know about this far better than I could articulate, possibly having been told that they’re self-loathing transphobes for expressing similarly verboten sentiments. (From where I’m sitting, this kind of condemnation looks an awful lot like calling vanilla-gendered men “misandrist beta cuck mangina” just because they happen to believe in enthusiastic consent, personal boundaries and so-on.)

As for those who I’m not acquainted with, I suspect either you’ve got enough here to judge me by, or you’re not inclined to judge. If you are inclined to judge, but can’t find anything objectionable, I’m sure you can copy and paste something from somewhere that makes you feel suitably righteous. Either way, it’s your call, and I can leave things at this point knowing that I’ve been forthright and open.

If it comes to it, please be decent to one another in the comments. I’ve seen this stuff get nasty before. Now if you’ll excuse me, a bus has got me to catch.

~ Bruce

Waiting for a bus (to be thrown under)

Okay, so I do have a low profile in the remnants of the Oz blogosphere these days, and I’ve got a block list on Facebook that’s over a hundred-and-fifty-strong. Still, it’s not as if a few people of (largely self-constructed) virtuous standing don’t know who I am, or how to find me.

And it’s not as if I haven’t made comments that should rile these people. Yet, I’ve been left alone. People haven’t got the message that I’m persona non grata. Allow me to make a few more inflammatory comments that I regard as true, in one convenient place so as to incriminate myself. As I’m not trying to convince anyone, but rather trying to get them to condemn me, I’m not going to put too much effort into justifying myself.

***

Not all oppression is based on identity. Do you think the oppression suffered by pigs entails their identity as porcine? An organism doesn’t need to be self-regarding in order to be oppressed – it doesn’t require an ego, just nerve endings and oppressive surroundings. Oppression can be and often is arbitrary and indifferent to people’s inner states. Sure, the likes of fascists can and do attempt to author the identities of the people they oppress, and it’s even possible to harmfully foist an identity on another inadvertently, but while often relevant, identity isn’t a necessary criteria of oppression. The humans who oppress pigs aren’t trying to get the pigs to identify as tasty, they’re just trying to eat them, and indifferently going about a lot of cruelty in the process.

Women have a right to abortions. Among atheists who still read anything I publish, and wonky sorts from the Australian blogosphere of ten years ago, this statement probably reads as a repudiation of right-wing misogyny and/or religious fundamentalism. But if you think this is all a-okay, and that’s all there is to it, then congratulations, you’re probably a bigot like me too. The transgression here is that the statement says “women”. If you don’t make like Planned Parenthood and erase the mention of “women” from your references to abortion, then you’re probably a “TERF”.

Oppressed people can still be bad people, and their oppression doesn’t justify it. There are a hundred and one reasons why this is true; even in Nazi concentration camps, some Jews turned on their fellow oppressed, and collaborated with the guards; some politically motivated workers treat other workers like useful idiots, while yet other oppressed workers willfully scab off of the labour of the rest of their class. Some folks go further. Some canny members of oppressed classes realize that Good Sheltered People have a propensity to downplay the bad behaviour of members of oppressed classes, and exploit this failing to help prey on their own. Keep your eye out for this latter variety when dealing with spokespersons who provide a few too many bromides for their benefactors, but little in the way of benefit for the groups they’re speaking for; they’re a dime a dozen at some arts festivals.

And then there’s vengeance; a fantasy in the hearts of some that after liberation, a whole new category of oppressed people will be manufactured for the delectation of hungry sadists, often involving walls folks will be up against after a good scapegoating, Animal Farm style.

If your purported sympathies for trans women go so far as to be even equivocal in your condemnation of the concept of the “cotton ceiling”, then you’re fundamentally not competent to protect anyone from rape culture; trans or otherwise. I’ll just let you Google “cotton ceiling” (warning: probably NSFW).

Everyday Feminism is a pseudo-leftist publication. Really, the tip-off for anyone politically-minded, over 40, and hailing from countries further left than the US, should be terms like “social entrepreneur”. The editorial direction is also loose to the point of being unprincipled, and enables some of the worst navel-gazing solipsism to ever be dressed up as social justice activism. And how do you work against rape culture while also trying to create an accepting and nurturing climate for apaths and cluster-B personalities, un-partitioned, in the very same sphere?

The Huffington Post can climb into the same bin, on account of its habit of not paying interns and writers. Sharing “progressive” articles from these sites is like sharing “science” articles from The Mind Unleashed.

Solidarity matters. Apparently solidarity entails telling people to suppress their interests to better serve the alliance. Call me odd, but I don’t think you have to break solidarity in order to combat things like racism and sexism within the left. Rather, combatting things like racism and sexism in the left actually buttresses solidarity, because racism and sexism are some of the most effective means of divide and conquer tactics ever deployed against oppressed populations.

If you’re a Vegan because of the way the dairy industry handles bobby calves, but you embrace the sex industry despite its involvement in human trafficking, you’ve got one hell of a blind spot. I can’t believe how often I’ve seen Vegans failing to generalize this kind of analysis, all while managing to be condescending to people who do. (Disclosure: I don’t eat meat or dairy).

“Not In My Name” is a shitty slogan used by self-absorbed people. I thought the purpose of opposing things like offshore detention was the welfare of refugees, not the status of sheltered white people’s reputations. The self-focus is caustic to solidarity, if not annoyingly vain, and centers discussion away from the purported cause. Apparently holding this view about the phrase makes you a right-wing hawk, so be careful not to sympathize too much, here.

Pole Dancing Doesn’t Seem Very Feminist. Just because it’s athletic, and  you have a right to it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cater to the male gaze by design. Maybe feminists will devise a new form that’s more feminist, and it may even turn out to be an erotic performance of sorts, but it won’t be without the kind of subversion that does away with catering to the male gaze (and a whole lot less “#SundayBumday”). Call me an obtuse “whorephobe”, but I can’t help but think that a pole dance, or any expressive dance that aims to be feminist, would not render women as objects, but instead express their subjectivity in some manner.

Validation isn’t respect. How many women have failed in their attempts to leave an abusive relationship, at least in-part because their partner has psychologically whittled them down to the point of becoming dependent on a drip-fed supply of validation? If something is truly liberatory, in respect of validation, then it’ll let you validate yourself. It won’t get you hooked on affirmations, click-bait memes, shallow compliments, crappy products, feel-good subscriptions, quick-fix “self-help” gimmickry, and the phony respect people get out of things like “#SundayBumday”.

A lot of the affirmation given by, and on occasion expected from “good allies”, is validation dressed up as respect. Be wary of it.

“Brand-conscious narcissism” is a thing. This is a part of the supererogated “identifying” that’s a problem for the left, above and beyond the whole becoming-yourself egoist shtick better suited to fans of Nietzsche and Ayn Rand; it’s great for selling values in the marketplace. Selling them after watering them down, that is, and packaging them with other superfluous, or even pathological commodities. “Here, buy some pole wear and show everyone just how validated you are on #SundayBumday by thinly veiling your sphincter for the boys on Instagram. #SexPositive #Feminist”. If you want to see where the narcissism comes into it, just point out to these people – especially the guys on the sidelines – that “sex-positivity” is just a brand, whereby people get to perform the ordinary as if worthy of attention and praise.

People like sex.  Look at the human population of Earth. Yes, some folks are sexually repressed, and that’s bad, but it’s telling just how often you run into the slur of “sex-negative” being fired off at people who aren’t at all ashamed of their sexuality. If you’re a narcissist surrounded by people who like to fuck and are unashamed of it, and you need to stand out, then you need to brand yourself better; you’ll need to identify; “Sex Positive!” Never mind the similarities to calling women “prude” for not fucking you.

The commodification and debasement of left-wing values doesn’t require a conspiracy of capitalists, although people in advertising very well do take advantage (e.g. Greenwashing, Whole Foods, etc.) All it requires is the appearance of a progressivism desirable to people with egos, money and a willingness to publicly identify with the product, and the market will do the rest. Resemblance to actual left-wing values is only necessary in as far as required to sell shit, and beyond that, is purely coincidental.

There aren’t “boy brains” and “girl brains”. There isn’t a sex-based preference for blue or pink. That’s neurosexism. More on that here. (Warning: Watching the linked video may make you a “TERF”).

If your feminism “will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”, and you haven’t read Crenshaw and/or Dorothy E. Smith, then you’ve admitted your feminism is bullshit (and probably culturally appropriated). I’m just going to leave this one here for the irony. No analysis. Sorry (not sorry). Google is your friend.

***

Normally I wouldn’t be so ‘splainy, but for quite some time now I’ve been waiting for the bus I’m supposed to have been thrown under and it still hasn’t arrived. I belong under that bus. I’ve said The Things.

So go ahead and call me a “TERF” or a “whorephobe” or a “shitlord”, just don’t address me personally if that’s your take; I don’t owe you that. Shun me if that’s the case. Add me to your block-lists. Unfriend or unfollow me on social media. Dis-approve of my person. Don’t put me on your Christmas list. I’m not “woke” or “with it” or one of the cool kids, and I don’t care to be. I will insist though, if you’re going to consider me at all, that you give me the same degree of smear you’d give to women for writing what I have. I’m rather over this particular form of special treatment I seem to be getting.

If on the other hand, you think any of what I’ve written above is even defensible, but you still treat claims of “TERF” status, “whorephobia” and crypto-right-wingedness as self-evident, semantically obvious and unchallengeably evil, well, you may want to consider the possibility of contradictions in your political view, or that there are definitions of “TERF”, “whorephobe” and “right-wing” in circulation that  you don’t actually agree with. I’ll leave dealing with that up to you.

Honestly though, I have no idea just how representative these people are. I don’t know how they poll in their constituent groups; I don’t know how common their views are, statistically speaking. They could be a loud minority within their respective populations, or they could very well be the majority. I’ve seen dissenters within these groups get abused and dehumanized on the basis of having said some pretty anodyne stuff, but I don’t know what proportion of their community these dissenters make up. Maybe the dissenters are a silent majority.

My beef is with the people adopting these contortions and absurdities, whatever their number, not with their communities as a whole. If you don’t like that, well, you don’t like it. I’m not here to be liked, I’m not obliged to be, and I’d rather that we not waste each other’s time pretending otherwise. Now please do throw me under that bus.

~ Bruce

“The Left”, Capitalists and Identity Politics

I’m not entirely sure where to start on this one. I’ve got all the parts, but they are many, the order in which they should be arranged is largely dependent on what I’m responding to, and what I’m responding to seems muddled and riddled with contradiction. I’m pretty sure that after assembly, I’ll have bits left over ala post-Ikea nightmare.

Bringing the summary to the introduction, I’d say something along the lines that the left has been entered through sheer declaration, by folks who seem too at-ease with the profit motive, and too unfamiliar with history of arguments and political camps within the left.

I’m not entirely averse to profit myself I’ll confess, especially when the alternative is loss and potential subsequent malnourishment and homelessness. I’m not overly happy with the system, but I’ll comply with the economic coercion – I can’t deny being complicit in that respect.

This isn’t about ideological purity so much as it’s broadly about the nature and purpose of left-wing politics in light of newer ideological developments. I’m not so sure where I fall into the scheme of things myself anymore, although I do still cast a wide net when defining “The Left”. My definitions, while still showing some resemblance to the “New Left” of the 20th century, may also seem at least a little obscure. People may wish to exclude me from the Truest of True Lefts, and I’m not sure I’d have a problem with that. This isn’t a pissing competition.

Before I directly address what I’m actually responding to, as a form of confession and calibration, I’ll disclose a few potentially contentious assumptions, positions and attitudes relating to the topic in general. I can be dismissed up-front on that basis, if you so please.

This will be wordy. The funnier bits are towards the end.

***

A Few Assumptions About The Left

Technology: In some cases technology is essential to left-wing progress, while in other areas merely beneficial. There’s no point in simply changing people’s values if after such alteration, they still don’t have the material means to bring about subsequent social change. In other instances, people may have the means, but not the inclination to alter their values and practices, technology sometimes offering an lazy way to get things done; green electricity is easier for a lot of people to live with, than no electricity. I’m not about to stop blogging to go live in some candle-lit Luddite commune. Some folks would shit-can me out of the Left as a liberal-technocrat for this reasoning, if not the conclusion. Maybe they’re right.

The Market: Along the lines of a lot of the “New Left”, I’m a mixed-economy advocate. I don’t seek the absolute abolishment of the market in my lifetime. I don’t even see the mixed-economy as a political compromise – I see it as an improvement over the traditional socialist state-controlled means of production, albeit as a solution that may not always be optimal in the future. Swinging back the other way, again, I’m agnostic about the future possibility/practicality of abolishing of the market – it’s all a bit Star Trek to me, and at any rate, it’s something for future generations to decide upon without my ignorant input or intercession.

Late Capitalism: I can’t even get on board with Late Capitalism as an idea, other than as the idea of an era that can only ever be described after its passing. Serious devotees of the concept of Late Capitalism come across as fundamentalists to me, parsing the contradictions and catastrophes in capitalist economies into fateful signs of Revolution, all much the same way that devotees of Harold Camping would look for omens of The Rapture. Too often this comes bundled with fantasies about people being lined up against the wall and the like, which echos the kind of violent fantasy that has vengeance and hellfire awaiting unbelievers following the final return of Jesus – I really don’t like this kind of vindictiveness.

Even when people describe Late Capitalism more casually, without the secular Rapture and the lining-up of enemies before firing squads, it still comes across as unwarranted triumphalism flirting with disappointment. So un-restrained capitalism is dying, and you’re gloating about it? What happens if it doesn’t die? What happens if it’s always dysfunctional, but still long lived? What if it reaches a compromise that forestalls revolution permanently, while not substantially resolving oppressions? What then?

History as a Force: In much the same way that the belief in Late Capitalism is akin to belief in the Rapture, the idea of history as a force functions too much like a God hypothesis for my liking. If Late Capitalism heralds The Rapture, then History as a Force delivers the end-times, hellfire and damnation. ‘Nuff said. Well, almost. There’s this too.

Queer Politics and Change: You only need to look at the history of Cuba to see how queer folk can be thrown under the bus by revolutionaries. Too often in history, things like homosexuality has been viewed by left-wing agitators as bourgeois excess – a perspective bringing with it all the deprivations, violence and human rights abuses you’d expect to follow. That being said, queer activism (not queer qua queer) can be regressive, reactionary, and utterly capitalistic. You only need to look at the unpaid labour used by a number of popular clickbait sites sporting a leftish veneer; they earn a wad by establishing a marketable, commodified version of progressivism, all while queer writers and interns can expect to be left with nothing more than “exposure” and “experience” – things which do sweet fuck all to help vulnerable people counter the risks of homelessness, or any number of the other problems GLBTIQ folk are more likely to encounter. I’m gob-smacked every time a purported GLBTIQ activist on the one hand makes the entirely reasonable objection that too much emphasis is placed on the relatively cute issue of marriage equality, at the expense of issues like homelessness among gay and gender non-conforming youth – all before then going on to laud clickbait slave-drivers as Good Allies.

I don’t have a stake in it, but cripes, the contradiction seems pathological, and I’m not looking forward to a day when queer writers end up blowing the whistle on the editorial policies of outlets like The Huffington Post and Everyday Feminism – not because I don’t like whistle-blowers, and not because I hold high expectations of these media outlets (I don’t), but because if it happens, it’s going to be a fucking sad story to have to read.

Liberal versus Radical Critiques (of Gender and Sex Work): I’ve never really seen liberalism and radicalism as entirely distinct – probably because they’re not. While the camps who overtly identify as either can and often have become incredibly polarized, the history of the ideas don’t seem nearly as divorced. Resultantly, at least because it seems that way to me, you can expect that I have some potentially weird and impolitic views on gender and sex work that could alienate me from, well, everyone.

While I view gender identity as non-intrinsic, and not by itself a valid basis for welfare concerns, I view identity politics as generally being somewhat inevitable; people are going to have identities, so unless you live in a box, you’re going to run up against them at some point. Any comprehensive system of civics has to allow for this, but this doesn’t mean that identity is all their is, or that all identities need to be cared about or even tolerated. Steve who identifies as “Steve: Crusher of Fags” can get in the fucking sea.

I don’t have a problem calling sex work, “sex work”, which isn’t saying much because I don’t have a problem calling scabs “workers”, or slave-work, “work”. I find the idea that “sex work” is liberating, incredibly sad, and even if actually liberating for some (e.g. sheltered but horny ex-Baptists), that doesn’t negate its status an imposture for others (e.g. trafficked sex slaves). Remember when women who said they didn’t have a problem with harassment from Skeptic Bros, and that other women just needed to shut up, harden up, get some perspective, don’t feed the trolls, and so-on, were criticized for being dismissive of the concerns of women who did have a problem with harassment? A lot of the people I saw fight that particular fight – ostensibly in defense of friends, allies and otherwise useful people – have since abandoned this logic in order to dismiss women’s concerns about sex trafficking, on the grounds that such concerns are disparaging towards the sex workers who apparently feel perfectly fine. The sheer hypocrisy would be more galling if it weren’t so mind-numbingly muddle-headed.

Still, I don’t care so much if the state can superficially be described as analogous to a pimp, if the substantive result is that less women are raped, assaulted and trafficked, and I’m sceptical of whether or not it’s empirically true that the Nordic model actually achieves what it sets out to, at least not on a meaningful multilateral level. But I’m not going to fall into the dangerous and disingenuous practice of dismissing feminists as “sex negative” for their being concerned about the sex industry status quo. The status quo is an ethical ruin. The status quo is objectification, rape, assault, trafficking, addiction, engineered dependency, abduction, extortion, blackmail and all the affiliated evils of organized crime. If the Nordic model doesn’t in actual-fact work, it still doesn’t follow that there isn’t still a massive problem to be addressed, nor does it follow automatically that other solutions do work.

Pretending that sex work is actually all hunky-dory isn’t going to solve a fucking thing, other than the PR issues faced by Johns, brothels and pimps. And god, watching wealthy “feminists” who’ve never been economically coerced into anything in their lives, not just adopt pole dancing, but the attitude that they’re “honoring” sex workers of yore with their performances – that’s just patently absurd. You wouldn’t “honor” a native American like that, buy donning a feather bonnet for Halloween.

Now, colour me a mansplaining whorephobe, if you will. I surrender on that front; white flag; no contest.

***

After Such A Long Rant, What The Fuck Is All This About?

So yes, I identify as being of the left. Does this actually make me of the left? No. Self-identification is insufficient, even if what is sufficient is unclear. Even if you adopt the provisional charity of taking people at face value for certain purposes, identity is still insufficient when it comes to the matter of the actual fact. It’s one thing to unquestioningly accept a person’s identity for the purposes of naming their coffee, and another proposition to accept it for the purposes of banking.  And how many racist whitebros on the Internet have identified as “non-racist” as if it mattered? In – suff – i – cient.

According to the criteria of a number of the old left, I’m not of the left at all. I’m not even going to contest that. I’m not sure I can honestly reject their criteria. Wanting to and identifying don’t even enter into it.

Now I’ve focused on my own perspective far too much already, and there’s been a lot of words typed only for their importance to be downplayed, except that downplaying personal perspective and identity as demarcation criteria is to quite some extent, the point. This brings me to what I’m responding to.

Apropos of nothing, a bunch of personalities of an at-least vaguely social-justice flavour, have recently released an open letter identifying themselves as “The Left”. Not “leftish”, not “left-wing” nor “of The Left”; we’re talking capital-T, capital-L, “The Left”. And they’re making demands!

These aren’t simply personalities who’ve collaborated with the market because they have no choice here either. We’re talking about people who’ve embraced it and to varying extents, thrived. I’m not at all happy – fucking livid, actually – with the abuse and threats thrown at Brianna Wu, but c’mon, adding a treatment of social issues to private-sector commercial game design is left-wing? The objection my incredulity is based upon doesn’t make Brianna Wu an evil person, nor Giant Spacekat a Bad Thing, it’s just that it’s all a bit hard to swallow having a commercial game designer, and others of a similarly capitalist background, asserting themselves as if they could ever actually self-appoint anything tantamount to delegate status among the left. It’d be incredibly fucking bold just for unelected trade unionists to do that, but representatives of business?

I mean, my own leftism is up for questioning, but this?

There are a hundred names on that list, and the ones who stand out at a glance to me are people who’ve I’ve seen treated poorly by Internet knuckle-draggers, and who’ve at least earned a modicum of respect from me on account of standing up to said knuckle-draggers. Only, this current act of supreme bumbledom is really wearing that wafer of respect down an incredibly thin slice.

As Meghan Murphy points out, scathingly, it’s quite a galling proposition for the left to be told it needs to include capitalists for when the revolution comes. The left will need them for that push up the hill, apparently. What self-importance. (My own concerns about Late Capitalism, History as a Force and violent ideations come into play here – revolution may not come at a discreet moment, and please, leave the fantasist analogies about charging up hills to re-enactment societies, thanks.)

Beyond the less-than-astute appropriation of Firestone’s rhetoric which Murphy also acidly notes – rhetoric taken from a movement with a basic premise inimical to the project of the authors of the open letter – the project falls apart at the first demand.

***

Identity

“1) We call upon progressives to acknowledge that all politics are identity politics.”

Aside from failing to even clearly define the terms of the demand, the demand is followed with further declarations likely to induce a “huh?” from the open letter’s intended audience; the rest of the left.

Evidence of the allegedly identarian nature of politics is loosely detailed through a roll-call of obviously bad things;

“That sexism and racism exist cannot seriously be in doubt for any progressive person in the year 2016. Everyone has an identity; every identity is political, whether because it is marginalized or because it benefits from the marginalization of others. It is not “enlightening” or fresh or radical to ignore identity-based oppressions, or minimize them, or demand marginalized people stop talking about them. Oppression is not a “debate” or a “discussion.” It’s a fact.”

Look, I’ve already ceded that identity is a thing, that with other premises can constitute the basis of a social justice concern, and that this kind of conflict is inevitable. If some faction wants to ban books authored by marginalized groups, purely on the basis that the identity of these marginalized group members are gaining expression, then you’ve probably got a good case for a social justice campaign. There are obviously other examples. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m not sure the left – the actual left being addressed – have a problem realizing this.

However… People’s interests don’t always entail identity to a substantive degree, or at all. People are so much more than identities, and framing the discussion as being about the marginalization of identities, rather than the marginalization of people who happen to have identities that may or may not be involved in the marginalization, is something to be incredibly wary of. Some people are simply marginalized for having wombs – their sex – gender identity never coming into it. Some people are oppressed or simply exterminated because of their locale of birth, irrespective of whether or not they actually identify with that locale.

Back to that first demand though. Even the basic logic is invalid, by affirming the consequent – while all identities may be political, it doesn’t follow that all politics must therefore be identity-based or involve identity. All cats are mammals; Fido the dog is a mammal; Fido the dog is a cat? Bad logic right there.

This is also to say nothing of an implicit, yet glaring contradiction; if all politics are identity politics, then why use the phrase “identity-based oppressions”? To distinguish these oppressions from the non-identity-based oppressions that supposedly don’t even exist?

But the real fuck-up in terms of silly-arguments in this case, its magnum bogus, is this implication that rejecting identity politics is tantamount to rejecting the existence of the problems of racism, of misogyny and of the whole fucking mixed-bag o’ evil. I mean really, literally, what we have here is a bunch of people with a substantial representation of capitalist interest, who seem to think they need to write an open letter to the left of all people, to inform that very left that oppression is a fact.

What do they think the left has been focused on up until now? Organizing bathroom snorkeling trips? Yelling poetry at rocks? Trying to beat custard at chess?

It’s as much of a concession as I can make to observe that yes, some right-wing trolls, pundits and know-nothings have thrown the term “identity politics” around in the motivated defense of racism and sexism and everything else nasty under the sun, and that not all terms thusly appropriated by the right can be salvaged. But “identity politics” has been a term in left-wing critique for much longer than I’ve been on the planet, and it’s not clear that despite ample talent in this area, the right have debased it beyond repair.

And “identity politics” is only one in a long list of terms used by the left to critique the itself from within, that’s then been appropriated by the right to be thrown around with thoughtless abandon, triumph and perversion. It’s been happening observably in real-time over the last year or so with the right-wing appropriation of the term “regressive left” – a term originally meant to be used against actual relativists, enablers and authoritarians – the own-goal contingent of the left – not against the feminists and mere critics that chauvinists have recently used the term to flog.

***

The authors of the open letter purport to be critiquing the left from within themselves, so they may wish to reconsider these kinds of issues with a little more seriousness, and a lot less self-importance. What if their own language was co-opted and semantically mutated by the right, before being re-purposed as a stick to beat the left with? What if this was already happening via capitalists in the new media?

And how many years will it be before another hundred people calling themselves “The Left” come along to demand that the left cease, desist and acquiesce to a grab-bag of demands, because self-regard, myopia, and a poor grasp of political history and logic, leads this bright one-hundred to over-emphasize the observation that right-wingers can use the same words as older generations of leftists? Call me a fool, but I think it’d be a good habit, that if instead of taking the right’s use of these terms at face value, and blithely acting as if lefties mean the same thing, some folks just familiarized themselves with a bit of left-wing political history. This way they may even manage to not fuck up their Firestone references too.

~ Bruce

“Vanilla-gendered”

I’m not going to claim any kind of ownership of the term, as it’s sort of evolved out of a discussion where the component terms were uttered by someone other than myself. I put forward a notion, briefly, which appeared to resonate, so I’m fleshing it out here without the flippancy.

Some folks don’t like being referred to as “cis-gendered”, and also aren’t particularly inclined to want to identify as anything, gender-wise. Gender labels come with gender expectations, and these constitute impostures of one form or another.

The objection is more than simply wanting not to be pigeon-holed (as the trope goes), or otherwise classified without consultation for the purposes of political engagement. “Cis-gendered” does come with more connotations than just “not-trans”, and these connotations don’t always gel well with what purportedly “cis” people actually think about gender, or with how they experience it.

The definition of “cis-gendered” that asserts that “cis” is simply not “trans”, doesn’t often stay simple for very long under any degree of scrutiny. Further discussion will often end up with the explanation being delivered that while trans-gender folks have an internal experience of gender identity that doesn’t line up with their physical sex, the internal experience of gender identity experienced by “cis-gendered” people does. This presupposes at least two things that are contentious; that you can just assume that “cis-gendered” people have an internal, intrinsic experience of gender identity at all, and that this gender identity can line-up with their physical sex.

The first of these two assumptions will present itself as a problem to you if you try to reconcile it with the convention of not telling people what their internal experience of gender is like. While this convention shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule, and while there certainly should be discussion of what gender is, and is like, generally, it’s another prospect entirely to address an individual directly to declare to them what their personal experience of gender is. I’ll leave the discussion of the epistemology of this kind of thing aside – but given the pretty standard objections to calling people things they don’t self-identify as, there’s potentially quite a few people flinging “cis” around who’ve adopted an inconsistent standard somewhere along the line. (And don’t get me started on the self-identified “cis-men” who’ve broken their own “shut-up and listen” rule to tell “cis-women” what’s what).

This however, isn’t necessarily the biggest, or at least, deepest-rooted problem.

The second of the two assumptions – that internal experiences of gender can line up with biological sex at all – raises questions. Particularly, by what criteria does a person measure how gender lines up with sex? Where do these criteria come from and are they arbitrary? Are they reasonable? Are they sexist and are they harmful? To the point; how does one assume that gender can line up with sex without also assuming gender essentialism?

This is to say nothing of who and what powers are deciding upon these criteria – media concerns and other vested interests come to mind. If gender is innate, and personal and important for some people, do they really want to have a taxonomy imposed upon them by clickbait media outlets or the sex industry?

(I’m not going to go into DiQuinzio’s 1993 criticism of how non-intersectionalist feminism uses essentialism to exclude transgender women – I’ll spare both you and I that – other than to say that it makes pop-intersectionalist forays into essentialism seem ironic).

I’ve not seen anyone answer this. Maybe someone has, and maybe I’ve missed an implication in the bits and pieces of theory I’ve skimmed over. It all seems like warring essentialisms to me (pop-intersectionalism included).

At any rate, here’s why this pans out as a problem; the people in my circles who’ve been objecting to the label “cis-gendered”, who are happy to say they’re aren’t trans, don’t exhibit an affinity for any brand of gender essentialism – broadly they’re either explicitly against essentialist gender politics, or they express sentiments in that direction. Without forethought, and without serious modification of the connotations of the term, expecting people to happily accept that they are “cis” is also to expect them to implicitly accept the term’s inherent gender essentialism.

In practice, what I’m seeing is people who’d either never admit to being gender essentialist, or who’ve never shown any visible signs of giving the problems of essentialism a single thought, expecting anti-essentialists to adopt an ill-defined form of gender essentialism, all without further discussion. This is, in addition to a bunch of other things, incredibly absurd.

“I don’t even know if I accept the idea, but you must!”

I really didn’t have a problem with the term and used it amply myself until this particular penny dropped, and it’s not as if I’ve ever really given a shit about whether or not it’s a slur (one of the perks of male privilege, I guess). It’s just that I can’t affirm the assumptions it comes bundled with. I’d be lying if I did. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this last respect.

Maybe folks should just learn to love gender essentialism, or at least accept it as inevitable. Maybe this can all be settled. I doubt it, but if it can it won’t be before a lot of open, intelligent and honest discussion. Until then we could insist that people use “not-trans-gendered” instead, but to the credit of “cis-gendered”, “not-trans-gendered” is as clunky and unusable as all fuck. Go down that road and you may as well demand people only address you when they have a mouth full of marbles.

Enter “vanilla-gendered”; so bland you can’t fucking taste it. Not a default; just tasteless.

If ever there’s a t-shirt of “this is what vanilla-gender looks like”, the text will be in the same colour as the shirt. It’s not meant to stand out.

Identifying as “agendered”? Too outré. Identifying? Missing the point.

Vanilla-gendered people won’t put “vanilla-gendered” on their profiles except when being ironic, and then only as a response to questions or assertions they’d rather not have been bothered with in the first place. It’s gender ambiguity, but not in a David Bowie kind of way because that stuff’s exhausting to pull off – it’s more of a “you can’t tell because I’m hiding behind the curtains doing something else I actually care about” kind of ambiguity.

But most importantly, “vanilla-gendered” doesn’t assume the need for essential gender criteria. “My what lines up with my biological sex?”

Zero. Gender. Expectations.

I’m not going to aspire to identify as either “vanilla” or “cis”, but if there has to be one or the other, it’ll be the former – I’d prefer to be called that, if either. I have to say though, I’m growing increasingly inclined towards avoiding conversations where I’d have to choose at all.

Increasingly. Fucking. Tedious.

~ Bruce

“Real men”, plus “hyper” and “toxic” masculinity…

rmdbg A few weeks ago on my birthday, after watching Godzilla with a friend, downing a few drinks and engaging in critique of the movie’s gender politics, discussion turned to the assumptions underlying, or inferred by, a number of terms. Specifically we discussed the terms  “real men”, “toxic masculinity” and “hyper-masculinity” (all while my friend’s copy of “Demonic Males” slowly emerged from her handbag). First, I’ll briefly address the “Real Men Do/Don’t…” meme that’s recently been going around.

***

Don’t get me wrong, “buying girls” is shitty behaviour of a high order, and should be strongly campaigned against even if only because people are not objects to be bought or sold. View just technically, before suffering gets taken into consideration, this is a compelling justice concern.

My objection isn’t with this side of the equation at all, rather my problem comes from the part that ascribes the relevant agency to “real men”. What the fuck is a “real man”? (That’s a rhetorical question).

Others have made critiques on the basis of the inferences the “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign makes about gender roles, and they are critiques that I generally agree with, however I’ll be addressing another problem.

It’s pretty obvious that most people using the term “real men” aren’t arguing that the concept of “men” is more than just a useful fiction in the philosophical sense, nor, obviously, are they arguing that men who buy girls don’t have existence. What they are implying, if not plainly stating, is that objectively “this (not buying girls) is an essential criteria for being a man”.

This is more or less true for all the other instances of the “real men” meme. You can perform a Google image search to find that other essential criteria of “Man” are argued to be the ability to grow their own scarves, to be able to shave with chainsaws, to abstain from quiche, and other such nonsense. Adelaide band The Beards, performs a line in pseudo-ironic, hipster sexism along much the same lines…

Because it’s original and edgy, because sexism hasn’t been around since… the dawn of history… (3:49)

***

You can see how this kind of terminology is a problem with only a little thought experimentation.

Say you have before you, an adult randomly selected from the population of people who have been arrested, charged and sentenced for buying one or more girls. Picture them in your mind. Is it conceivably possible that their sex is “male”? Is it conceivably possible that they self-identify, gender-wise, as a man?

If it’s even logically possible for the answer to these questions to be “yes” (and it’s pretty obvious that this is highly likely to be the case in the “real world”), then we have problems when it comes to the wording of the campaign in question. The statement “real men don’t buy girls” is in contradiction with the evidence presented by these scenarios; here you have men who buy girls.

Either we are in error about the offender’s gender and sex, or we are wrong in assigning certain characteristics to the class “Men”; i.e. either “real men” do on occasion, buy girls, beat wives, and so on and so forth, or they don’t, and the people who do these things are… who or what exactly? If they aren’t Men, then what are they?

More importantly, how do you decide, in a non-arbitrary manner, what constitutes an essential gender criteria, or do you instead, like some folk, avoid trying to objectively define other people’s gender all-together?

Speaking practically, this issue can be side-stepped if different rhetoric is chosen by the people designing these campaigns… “Men who buy girls should be policed more aggressively” or “children should not have to live with the threat of being bought by men”, for example.

The fact that all this mess can be side-stepped with so little effort on the part of campaigners, all without compromising on the message of the campaign, means that there’s really no excuse for getting it wrong.

Admittedly, not all men may find this language comforting, unequivocal as it is about the acts of particularly rotten men. But I’m not in the business of consolations. If you want that, I’m sure Alain de Botton probably has a bromide of one sort or another to sell you.

***

(Now if at this point, you’re complaining that this is all just an exercise in semantics, it’s possibly because you’re bigot, or at the very least, the kind of person who doesn’t like to consider the consequences of what they communicate to the world around them. Why you’d even be reading this post in the first place then, is a bit of a mystery.)

***

The problems associated with essentialism and gender don’t stop there though. Earlier, I mentioned the “Real Men Grow Their Own Scarves” iteration of the meme.

Taken only a little bit seriously, this is clearly ridiculous. Are you really going to suggest, that because someone cannot grow a beard sufficient to function as a scarf, that this, and this alone, disqualifies them from being a man?

No, you wouldn’t? Perhaps it’s just a harmless joke, right?

Allow me to extend this further with another small thought experiment.

You encounter someone who identifies as a trans-gendered male, who may or may not have been designated the sex of female at birth, and they are unable or unwilling to grow a beard sufficient, by your standards, to act as a scarf. Are you going to acknowledge and treat them as a man?

If your answer is “no”, you’re a transphobe. Congratulations.

Of course, being precisely this kind of asshole to transgendered folk isn’t the worst kind of bigotry they are subjected to, and somewhat less so is naively enjoying Internet memes about “real men” and beards. However, you’d be hard pressed to find an instance of harsher forms of transphobia that aren’t also based on gender essentialism, whether that essentialism takes the form of tropes about “real men” or “real women”, or not.

By using the language and logic of gender essentialism, the “Real Men don’t buy girls” campaign feeds into transphobia. Indirectly, perhaps, but almost inevitably once the logic and language of essentialism takes a hold of the way we talk about gender.

***

This brings us back to the matter of “toxic” and “ultra” masculinity.

Given events like the recent Isla Vista shootings, back to the less-recent serial killings of the Hillside Stranglers, or the all-too-familiar skews in statistics like those for domestic violence, and all the chest-beating, pigeon-strutting,  violence-signalling, late-night-posturing bullshit that goes along with it, it’s hard not to view the terms “toxic masculinity” and “ultra-masculinity” as pointing to substantive cultural phenomena. And without entirely discounting the role of the biological, I don’t have any great problem in acknowledging that these phenomena exist as cultural phenomena, and that they, as cultural phenomena, present obviously serious social problems.

However, both of these terms do more than just point to the phenomena they are primarily intended to. They carry other inferences, and baggage, in much the way “real men” conveys more than anti-child-exploitation campaigners may intend.

The concept of toxicity is one where something specific, at a certain level or concentration, becomes harmful – what then, about masculinity, is specifically the part that becomes toxic?

Similarly, “ultra-masculinity” implies the ability to measure a quality, or qualities of masculinity, such that their exaggeration can be noticed above and beyond “normal” levels. What exactly are these qualities, and what makes them a part of masculinity, such that masculinity in general, necessarily infers them? Or put more succinctly, why are these qualities essential to masculinity?

“Toxic” and “ultra” masculinity don’t come out and say it, quite as much as does “real men”, but gender essentialism is implied by the choice of words.

If you’re not a person who has a problem with gender essentialism, the problems posed by its logic, or the consequences of its ideological offshoots, then you’re obviously not going to have a problem with these terms. Again, one wonders why such a person would even be reading this.

And I guess that in addition to this, if you’re also feminist, that having these words in your lexicon still isn’t going to be an issue. In this matter at least, you perhaps count yourself as being ideologically in the company of the likes of Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer. It’s not my place to tell you who or with what ideas you must affiliate, but I can make observations.

***

I’m not asserting that the phenomena that “toxic” and “ultra” masculinity point to entail gender essentialism, but rather that through baggage and inference, the language does. If you’re the kind of person who seeks to avoid gender essentialism (i.e. not a “TERF”), while criticising misogynistic culture, then I think you’d possibly be the kind of person who’d want to keep the concepts, but ditch the language.

Examples of how the rhetoric of “toxic masculinity” could contribute to transphobia don’t immediately come to mind, but the logic would seem to leave it open to such a possibility. The idea of “ultra masculinity” on the other hand, through the simple idea of men being able to be more objectively belonging to the class “Men” than others, present obvious exclusionary potential I don’t even want to speculate about.

(It shouldn’t need pointing out that the logic in all of this sets a precedent for/necessarily implies essentialism along the lines of “toxic” and “ultra” femininity, and “real women”, with all the potential for re-enforcement of archaic gender roles and trans-misogyny that comes with it).

Stated outright, “toxic” and “ultra” masculinity, like “real men”, despite what people’s intentions may be, are still rooted to varying extents in patriarchal language*. How much of a problem you take this to be is up to you, but for my part, I’m not ambivalent about it.

As of yet, I don’t really have a handle on any neologisms that could act as substitutes for “toxic” or “ultra” masculinity that wouldn’t also generate a good deal of fruitless confusion. I’m stuck with expending extra words each time I want to talk about “harmful interpretations of masculinity” or “patriarchal culture” or “misogynistic ideations” or “rape culture”.

Usually this entails just being clear, at length, about the matter at hand, but the loss of useful-if-problematic terminology isn’t something to be overlooked either; conversations can get bogged down or driven into rhetorical side-alleys without specific technical language. The word-smithing continues.

~ Bruce

* Patriarchies, and patriarchal cultures, being essentialist themselves.

“Stupid feminists…”

At much the same time, but aside from the whole fallout following the ‘ElevatorGate’ non-controversy, has been a curious little phenomena I’ve seen over the past few years on the Australian blogosphere/Twitterverse. It’s not something I’m going to generalise to the wider population – it’s more a case of who’s been saying it that makes it interesting.

It’s too far out to name names – to dredge up something say three years old, for what at best would be a shit-storm, but I’ll provide a few biographical details when and where it’s relevant.

***

The phenomena; “…stupid feminists…”.

Taken at face value, logically, the phrase refers to feminists-who-are-stupid. You could, if this was as far as you wanted to go, write this off as another reference to stupid people among the whole range of walks of life; stupid lefties; stupid right-wingers; stupid arts students; stupid accountants; stupid brick layers and so on.

You could be forgiven for simply concluding that as a concession, the phrase implies the existence of feminists who aren’t stupid – I mean, why point out that a given feminist is, or a group are, stupid, if they’re all stupid?

I’d be lying if I said I thought every feminist I’d ever encountered was a genius, or honest, or sane. In fact, I find some of what I’ve come across that’s been passed off as serious, worthy of harsh parody. Luce Irigaray’s drivel about E=mc2 being gendered (‘Sujet de la science, sujet sexué?’, 1987), and fluid dynamics being underprivileged on account of being feminine (‘The “mechanics” of fluids’, 1985), come to mind as being particularly bankrupt.

(I was once told, by someone trying to advance a particularly weird epistemological argument, that intellectual clarity was masculine because clear delineations resemble the sheer outline of an erect penis. This was served up to me, in all seriousness, as academically sound feminism.)

It’s not just amongst academic feminism – Laurie Penny, in line with a series of other criticisms by feminist authors, lambasts the recent writing of popular feminist Naomi Wolf for being particularly silly. I’m inclined to sympathise.

My subjective impression though, is that most of the feminists I’ve encountered are on average, smarter than average, truthful in as far as human nature allows, and perfectly sane. Ditto for the feminist literature I’ve read (I tend to find authors like Laurie Penny quite reasonable).

This is, I repeat, a subjective impression; I don’t have a statistically sound survey of feminist thought, and neither do the people using the mentioned phrase, “…stupid feminists”.

***

Now back to the curious phrase…

Again, we could take the logic at face value, and it would at least be a charitable way of taking it out of context. But context matters.

During the last three years, in addition to the repetition of the phrase, I’ve witnessed a relatively high-profile Australian “Skeptic” swear off the night’s QandA on the ABC, on account of having had to have put up with too many “stupid feminists” at university. Incidentally, it was one of Leslie Cannold’s appearances on QandA that night, that got the fellow all riled up.

I’d liked to have asked two questions at the time, questions I think it’s worth revisiting now, albeit with less heat.

What proportion of “stupid feminists” at university warrants being considered intolerable, such that a reasonable person would avoid future contact where possible?

And…

What exactly was the fellow’s objection to Leslie Cannold, and his familiarity with “stupid feminists”, such that he could dismiss her in advance? (Put another way – “how is his data predictive?”)

Answering the former, if you were being charitable, you could suggest was due to a generally low tolerance to stupidity – he’s just sensitive.

But the “Skeptic” in question engages with creationists on a semi-regular basis, all without affording them relief from a single drop of his vitriol. Even if you assume he’s right about “stupid feminists”, why can’t he engage with his feminist opponents equally?

A low tolerance to stupidity clearly isn’t the answer.

As for the second question… an honest “Skeptic” should be able to point out the error in attributing such significance to subjective impressions. Surely as a “Skeptic”, he’d seek an opportunity to be proven wrong?

Bloviation and a beard does not a rationalist make.

***

Leslie Cannold seems to have a knack for bringing this out in some of the guys. This is especially the case Twitter, and it’s a kind of response that’s always another disincentive to using the technology.

I can recall in 2010, one chap who will also go unnamed, placing scare-quotes around “ethicist” and going on to call Cannold a “cunt” (as a supposedly more apt job description). This apparently in response to this article at Crikey.

At no point did he actually address the substance of the article. Rather he simply treated the conclusion as if it was self-evidently wrong, and proceeded to engage in sanctimony.

“So what?” you may ask. It’s Twitter after all!

I’ll tell you what.

The guy in question was (and I think still is) a respected tech-writer, who’s been published at the ABC, and has in fact had more articles published at Crikey than Cannold. He’s also often re-tweeted by a clique of journos from the ABC – a crowd he is in with in the material world.

He’s not exactly a nobody. (He’s also not an ethicist.)

And back on topic, he does seem to float in the same wonkish circles I’m reading this “stupid feminists” meme in. Albeit, with a little more standing than most.

While I haven’t seen him deploy the phrase himself, instances of it do seem to be captured in his orbit like space junk around a suitably massive object.

There’s something to be said about a sub-culture where a semi-prominent journalist can slag off like this at another media figure, without much in the way of a response. This is the culture I’m seeing the phrase deployed in.

***

“…Stupid feminists…” has been doing the rounds of wonk circles for a while now; “Stupid feminist…” doesn’t understand X. “Stupid feminist…” called me a misogynist just for criticising her ideas. “Stupid feminist…” etc.

No, the phrase itself, in isolation, doesn’t logically connote a sexist generalism, but there’s always something iffy about the context. It’s never just a criticism of a feminist’s argument, if you’re also calling them stupid.

And it seems a rarity that anyone wants to discuss the points of contention at length, in essay form, or even as a blog post –  even if they’re willing to call someone else stupid on account of their disagreement.

You know who else doesn’t understand the points of contention? People who can’t articulate the points of contention, that’s who.

Sure, there’s the complexity-stifling aspect of Twitter. It’s never a good forum for a detailed discussion. But these wonks having trouble with “stupid feminists” often either contribute to popular blogs, or have the option of articulating themselves via the established media.

They express their vex so strongly. Surely if it’s all that important, they could go to the lengths to spell it out in detail?

“X accuses people of misogyny with as much discretion as people throwing rice at weddings.”

We’ve all heard the story about the boy who cried wolf. Nobody’s going to balk at someone crying “Naomi Wolf”  if it’s a fair cop, save perhaps the occasional, random troll.

I find some people’s actions in all of this, to be at odds with their expressed or apparent motives.

~ Bruce

The flip-side of the ‘woman as sex dispensary’ attitude

Preamble: My apologies in advance for apparent hetero-cis-centrism – the discussion I’m adding to is largely hetero-cis-normative in as far as I can see, and in as far as I feel qualified to comment. This post focuses on a specific attitude of heterosexual men and their enablers, with bad attitudes towards women and sex, although there are permutations of the issue that could involve other, broader and/or less defined ranges in the gender/sexuality continua. A lack of explanation in these respects is not intended as exclusion or detraction (snippets of non-cis-hetero anecdotes and wisdom are welcome in the comments).

Allow me to wax cod-philosophic, folk-theoretic about sex.

There’s an attitude that goes by various guises, names or none, is usually espoused by self-pitying men and their enablers, and has features and flaws that would seem obvious except for the myopia of said self-pitying men. It often manifests in opinions such as…

‘Women have all the power in sex.’

‘She only has sex to get what she wants.’

‘Ladies deliberately attract men, then rebuff them capriciously.’

‘You have to do X,Y and Z to flick whatever switch it is in her brain that makes her serve-up sex.’

‘I’m not going to be bullied by a woman who wants to control me through sex!’

‘I wouldn’t “obsess” about sex so much, if she didn’t obsessively withhold it from me!’

‘She just wants me for my money/assets/status, and not my mind [nor apparently, for fucking’s sake].’

In short, women ‘dispense’ sex for whatever (usually Machiavellian) purpose.

There’s a lot to take issue with in this attitude. First and foremost – in as far as women ‘dispense’ sex, they’re free to; it’s their body.

However, in addition to the more obvious objections, there’s a flip-side; a double standard to this bizarre attitude towards a woman’s supposed ‘sexual capital’; we see men viewing women’s sex as being withheld with a purpose, in a sense, to increase its purchasing power – more diamonds, more money, more men grovelling, more control, more man-pain. We don’t see these same men applying the same logic to men who withhold sex from women, as if sexually active women couldn’t possibly desire sex for what it is.

This, beyond any kind of Puritanism that views female sexual desire as somehow dirty.

These men view a woman’s sexuality as a commodity of a sort, but are slow to place a value on their own, presumably because it’s an uncomfortable prospect just thinking about thinking about it. When it comes to what women want, sexually, a back-handed defence of the male ego metastasizes into some kind of categorical imperative.

***

When women turn down sex with a man, they deny themselves a sexual interaction just as much as they deny their prospective partner. In as far as refusal can say anything about what women bring to the bedroom (such as the ‘price’), it also infers a value for what men have on offer as lovers.

Fellas, perhaps she just doesn’t want your sex, now, or ever. Perhaps she’s not holding out for a new necklace or a set of earrings.

Maybe she doesn’t trust you to be around her drinks. Maybe she doesn’t trust that she’ll be safe around you. Maybe she doesn’t trust you’ll be a good fuck.

Hell, maybe you’ve got a six-pack, a nice smile, and all the moves and stamina to boot, but the prospect of it being you makes the sex unattractive. She’s not objectively bound to realise all of your allegedly profound qualities, even if you think that makes her ‘shallow’. (Perhaps you don’t know a thing about what she likes, ‘shallow’ or not).

Maybe she doesn’t like small (or average) cocks. Maybe she doesn’t think your hands will spank well. It’s her paraphilia if she’s got one, and she can like what she wants. It’s her body. It’s her.

(And guys, please. Don’t wrinkle up your nose, or complain about your sore jaw at the mere mention of cunnilingus. When you do that, you look like the archetypal man-child who won’t eat his broccoli or the crusts on his sandwiches.)

***

I don’t care so much, just how biologically predisposed we may be to this kind of attitude – how bound up in culture is it, that women are seen as the dispensers of sex?

How big is the challenge, if people are to take this issue on?

Aside from objectifying women more generally, specifically, the ‘dispensary’ attitude denies their sexual desire. The flip-side of this downplays (or doesn’t) what men have to offer (and in a sense, is implicitly sexually degrading for men).

Any comprehensive challenge would seem to entail telling self-pitying hetero guys to stop whining, and to start considering what they bring to the table (bedroom/loungeroom/kitchen floor/etc.), sexually speaking.

Yeah, maybe it is too small – for this one lady. There’ll be others. No harm, no foul.

Perhaps guys, you’re unattractive to her. Again, there’ll be others. (Although health and hygiene are worth considering on their own merits, as is personality).

Maybe, men, you do cum too fast. Perhaps you should learn to deal with your anxieties more productively, or perhaps just be less selfish.

Or maybe, guys, you’re selling yourself short. Why wallow and mope if this is the case? That’s just sabotaging yourself (and leads to a future, if you’re not already there at the end of the journey, where you only become more unbearable an asshole). Indeed, why wallow and mope if you’re not selling yourself short as a lover?

How often is self-pity a good, healthy thing, or attractive?

***

Is the idea of a heterosexual woman, just one, someone, somewhere, seeing a guy’s cock for the first time as she unzips his pants, and finding it beautiful, such that her eye’s light up like she’s unwrapping a present at a particularly happy Christmas, so unbelievable?

Is the idea of women, losing themselves physically in the company of a man, almost ingesting him in a rhythmic, intoxicating embrace, so beyond imagination?

Is the idea of a mutual sexual consent, where beyond just saying ‘yes’, both lovers have sexual treats on offer for one another, so bizarre or counter-intuitive? How could it be so? Isn’t just the prospect of anything else being the norm just a little bit insane? Isn’t the status quo as it stands on the matter, just a little (or more than a little) bit balmy?

***

Looking at the population of the planet, patriarchy not withstanding, shouldn’t it inspire just a little bit of scepticism in people when it’s universally (or near-universally) alleged that everything but sex is a motive in women’s minds when women have sex?

I’m more than a little sceptical of the intellectual honesty of men who make these claims, I feel sorry for people who truly believe them or have to deal with the consequences, and I’m opposed to the unthinking  perpetuation of the belief, either as the direct, universal discounting of the extent of heterosexual female sexual desire*, or as its corollaries.

~ Bruce

* Or the extent of non-hetero, non-cis sexualities.