Selling Shame: How Christians Profit from Porn

As everyone knows, porn is big business. To cite just one example, ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, recently approved the creation of an .xxx top-level domain. ICM Registry, a company that plans to sell the new domain names, says it already has more than 110,000 pre-reservations, and expects to make over $200 million annually from selling them.

But strangely enough, it’s not just godless sinners who are turning a profit off porn. Believe it or not, Christian conservatives have gotten into the game – not to produce or sell porn, of course, but to sell cures for porn. And to judge by the number of groups that are doing this, it’s big business for them too.

Of course, ridiculous claims about the health effects of masturbation, homosexuality, and non-monogamy – ranging from hairy palms to insanity and death – have been a longstanding part of religious puritanism. So have pseudoscientific “cures” for human sexuality, from corn flakes to clitoridectomies. In that respect, these modern snake-oil sellers are just perpetuating a long, if ignoble, tradition. But two things set them apart from their predecessors.

First is their insistence that the free and open expression of sexuality is harmful, now that we have ample evidence proving that claim false. Same-sex marriage is a reality in several U.S. states and other countries in the world, and those places have experienced none of the dire consequences that religious fundamentalists predicted. Meanwhile, states that exclusively teach abstinence-only sex ed continue to have far higher rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and STDs than states that teach a comprehensive approach including contraception.

Second, and more importantly, is the fundamental dishonesty of their approach. Puritanical crusaders of past eras, whatever else we can say about them, were straightforward and clear in their objective: they thought sex outside a very narrow range of limitations was evil and wanted to stop people from doing it (see also).

By contrast, today’s anti-porn preachers, probably recognizing that this would no longer fly, take a subtler approach. Most of them claim to only be treating pornography addiction – a real problem, albeit not as common as they claim it is. But once they get you in the door, their real agenda becomes clear: to promote an archaic, shame-based view of human sexuality which excludes all forms of sexual expression except the very narrow, restrictive ones grudgingly permitted by fundamentalists, for obvious practical reasons. You can notice it in this article from the Times, profiling one such group: it calls itself “Victory Over Porn Addiction”, but teaches its members to abstain from all forms of non-procreative sex, including sexual fantasies and masturbation.

These deceptive tactics are used by religious proselytizers across the board. Consider the “crisis pregnancy centers” which don’t offer abortions, but which string pregnant women along as long as possible to keep them from recognizing that, all the while bombarding them with religious propaganda; or the religious conservatives who claim to only be opposing abortion, when their actual agenda includes the banning of all forms of birth control.

This isn’t to say that mainstream pornography and free sexual expression is always healthy, of course. As Greta Christina points out, there’s plenty about porn that deserves a legitimate critique – in its own way, it promotes a conception of sexuality every bit as shallow and harmful. But the fundamentalist solution – restoring archaic, constricting gender roles; promoting ignorance, shame, and secrecy – is not the answer. If anything, it feeds the attitudes that cause sexuality in society to express itself in harmful ways.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • L.Long

    As every good parent knows the best way to get a teen to do anything is to tell them it is ‘sinful’, ‘forbidden’, ‘for adults only’, ‘save yourself for marriage’, and many other lame arsed BS. The religious CLAIM to hate sex but they are programming their teens to be ravenously curious about it and turning them into sex machines. They are doing this to help them make their ‘quiver-fulls’. This may not be true but it makes more sense then ‘SEX is BAD’ while they are buying all the porn and prostitutes they can find. If you consider that the evil atheists are only 16% of the population, we would not be able to keep the porn business going!

  • AnonaMiss

    I think everyone can agree that deceptive tactics are wrong. I once visited an XXX Ministries site from a Facebook ad, assuming with a name like that it would be satirical. Unfortunately it was not. Actually, I notice that there’s a lot of stealth evangelism on Facebook, not only from the ads, but also the Facebook equivalent of chain-mail: tagging people in ‘Notes’. There was a particularly enraging one making the rounds a few years ago entitled “Love vs Sex” which exhorted the reader to share it if they weren’t embarrassed of the lord, and wrapped up with an accusatory “Bet you only clicked this note because of the title, didn’t you!”

    I’m glad this article didn’t go the way I thought it was going to based on the title. I’ve recently been rereading Slacktivist’s Left Behind commentary, and the phrase “How Christians Profit from Porn” comes awfully close to L&J’s assertion that “abortionists’” biggest concern after the rapture is getting women to have unwanted pregnancies again, so that they can get back in business.

  • TommyP

    It’s funny, porn actually taught me to broaden my horizons and to take time for the other person when in a relationship. It gave me some valuable starting points in making love. Although when I’m in a relationship, I’m really more interested in the person. I guess that’s pretty healthy, right? I consider it entertainment, education, and even at times art. I don’t see how such an approach could be bad at all. Religious folks kind of need to mind their own business. Just because some people get addicted to things, does not mean that all people get addicted to them, and even those that do get addicted, not all of them are abusers. I’m sure there are many people who are nuckin futs over porn but still have fulfilling, real world relationships. And heck, at least they value passion, which is sorely lacking among the pious.

  • http://paulsoth.livejournal.com Paul Soth

    The schools I went through offered a pretty comprehensive sex education program at the time. We were taught contraceptive techniques, their various effectiveness, the risks of disease, and ultimately that it was our choice to have sex, but to be aware of the risks.

    Until recently, I was working for that same school district. Looking in some of the classrooms and work spaces, it became clear that a number of conservative Christians have become teachers and are taking control of the programs. In a classroom reserved for “family sciences,” a cabinet contained abstinence-only videos staring Kirk Cameron and others from various ministries. Along with that, there were all number of pro-life items, including material from one of the local “pregnancy help” centers. Also the office of the teacher in question had other right-wing Christan items, including objects concerning the perceived “War on Christmas.”

    And it’s not just sex education. I could go on about the things I saw in the history, science, sports, and even math programs. And keep in mind that this is all in a public school system. So if anyone ever goes on about the perceived notion that schools are becoming more and more hostile towards Christians, I can tell you from first-hand experience that they’re full of crap.

  • bbk

    This is strictly my opinion: being anti porn is just a way that religion feeds off of jealous, insecure women. They’re more than happy to stifle their own sexuality and demand that their men aren’t allowed to so much as look at another woman the wrong way. That’s why 65% of church goers are women. I know, they have an entirely different message directed towards men. But after decades of societal outcry against deadbeat dads and wife beaters, there isn’t an appealing gender role for religion to offer men that’s socially acceptable. That’s how Christians profit from porn.

    These days, there are probably more atheist porn stars than atheist, anti-porn feminists. The feminist theory of objectification is a case in point. It’s not just a theory about some women who receive more sexual attention than they feel comfortable with. It’s about some women who get offended even when men look at other women. Even women who enjoy and thrive on the sexual attention they receive. So, the theory goes, supermodels make other girls bulimic and anorexic because some men like to hide away in their rooms and watch porno. It’s not the New Age woo and fear-mongering about nutrition section of women’s magazines, it’s really the stuff things that men look at. Basically, it’s still socially acceptable to degrade male sexuality.

  • Alex Weaver

    in its own way, it promotes a conception of sexuality every bit as shallow and harmful.

    Overgeneralizing. You’re doing it. >.>

  • Thumpalumpacus

    For disclosure’s sake: earlier in my career, I managed for six years the largest adult shop between LA and SF.

    Now to a point or two: Ebon is not overgeneralizing regarding the shallow and harmful conception of sex purveyed by pornography, at least in my experience. I could, I thought, see the effects of such in both the starlets doing signings in my store, and the customers lining up to pay $20 for a signed Polaroid. While it need not be that way, and I don’t think that pornography is intrinsically “shallow” or “harmful”, at the same time, in our culture, with its cross-current of licentiousness and prudery, pornography tends to create an atmosphere of shame around sex, and so in that sense it is certainly harmful, so far as I can see.

    Second, AnonaMiss in #2 is absolutely right. “Every cop needs a criminal …”

    Thirdly, the religious right who so often tilt at this windmill also peruse it. I had the hilarious moment of seeing a semi-regular customer of mine, marching in a picket outside my store organized by the Salvation Army. I gave him a wink, made sure the demonstration was off store property, saw them off at the end of the day, and took his money the next week.

  • 2-D Man

    But after decades of societal outcry against deadbeat dads and wife beaters, there isn’t an appealing gender role for religion to offer men that’s socially acceptable. That’s how Christians profit from porn.
    [Emphasis added]

    Someone help me out here, because I’m sure I didn’t read that right.

  • Zietlos

    I believe the implication, 2D, is that Christians can only offer two gender roles to males that males would find “appealing”: deadbeat dads and wife beaters. Other “appealing” roles, such as the *overloving* father, are not socially acceptable. A not-so-subtle tinge of misandry in labeling these as appealing roles perhaps, though more likely meant to be a stab at the misogyny of the churches.

  • Lion IRC

    Puritans oppose drug use.
    Puritans defend traditional marriage..
    Puritans oppose pornography.
    Puritans oppose child abuse.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah – we get it.

    Since its open season on strawman arguments….

    I wonder what the Puritans would make of a drug addicted single mother selling her body to pornography producers in order to make enough money to buy heroin while her malnourished child was locked in an apartment? Still not enough money to make ends meet? Why not sell the child’s body to the pornographers as well!

    (Oh no Lion IRC, the child can’t give informed consent!)

    Really, who says 13 years old is too young?

    Oh yeah – that’s right! Now I remember – The puritans!

    Lion (IRC)

  • MissCherryPi

    Overgeneralizing. You’re doing it. >.>

    I think he meant that porn gives an accurate portrayal of sex the way that sitcoms give an accurate portrayal of American family life.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Lion,

    Or, you know, decades of research into adolescent development.

    Jackass.

    ETA: was in response to “who says 13 years old is too young”

  • Alex Weaver

    I think he meant that porn gives an accurate portrayal of sex the way that sitcoms give an accurate portrayal of American family life.

    This is extremely dependent on the porn in question.

  • javaman

    Interesting questions- Did Jesus die a virgin ? As a teen did he have normal sexual desires like all humans, and did he act on them? Did he masturbate? Did he have a teenage girlfriend or boyfriend? Did he wake up in the morning with an erection the way that most men do? Did he think about sex hundreds of times during the day? Did he entertain sexual fantasies, which is self-produced porn that you create and direct in your mind? If none of these things ever happened to Jesus (assuming that such a person existed), how could he understand the human condition?

  • bbk

    2-D Man, you read that right. Religion, much like a virus, spreads by subjugating human weakness for its own benefit. That’s why religion can never hope to offer healthy gender roles. Instead, it offers gender roles rooted in jealousy and hate. The traditional gender role that the Abrahamic faiths offer up to men is one where women are worthless and submissive. These religions offer up a world view where a man can kidnap young girls and rape them in front of his family in order to force them into marriage. When this kind of behavior is no longer socially acceptable and doesn’t appeal to men anymore, men stop going to church.

    It’s not that there aren’t any positive gender roles for men that religion could convey to its followers. It’s just that religion has nothing to gain from it. Positive gender roles have been developed almost exclusively by secular movements.

  • bbk

    Zietlos, you’re right about what I meant – it was a stab at the misogyny of the church. The fair-minded, over-loving father is a great example of a gender role that appeals to Western men. And that’s why only 35% of church goers are men. No tinge of misandry there, IMO.

  • Zietlos

    Very true, Alex. With the large variations of style of pornography (an ixquick search for “porn” says over 266 million different results), as well as the huge number of movies, books (both in “real” and artistic depictiong), and magazines, the odds of something approaching normalcy approaches 100%. I would imagine, however, that through the component parts of “taboo” and “familiarity”, the more comedic pornography productions would be more likely to be accurate to the real world.

    Also, the Puritan branch, exiled from protestant clergy in the 16th century from Britain shortly after Elizabeth the first got into power, made much of their impact in the “new world”, the Americas. These same places, I should note, had mandatory marriage laws in that a girl over 14 or a guy over 16 who was unmarried had to pay additional taxes and fines. A system the puritans, and other religious folks, set up. So no, the puritans did NOT say 13 was too young; they almost said it was too OLD to still be a virgin.

    As for your strawman argument, here’s a response Lion:

    The Puritans would say “oh no, how horrible. We know she left her husband because he beat her half to death in a drunken rage, and raped their underage daughter (with our implicit blessings, of course), but we must place blame on her for leaving holy matrimony, had she access to that wonderful Puritan’s tough love, nothing would have gone wrong in the public eye. Why can’t more women just agree to fall down the stairs and NOT try to make it better for themselves, staying beaten in the mud where they belong?” And then would bring in some alter boys and have some fun playing “hide the cross”.

    Yeah, I’d say that about covers for an equivalent strawman in the opposite direction to yours. You know, since you said it was open season and all, I’m only playing by your rules here.

    Oh my, I’m starting to sound snippy, aren’t I? I do apologize. However, you sort of hit a sore spot, I know some porn actors: They are STRINGENT on who they let even near their sets. A large clearance zone requiring at least 3 forms of photo ID, a 2:3 ratio of security to the rest of the staff. I am sure there are bad apples in the industry who would use 13 year olds, but there are McDonalds restaurants that would use your pet dogs and cats as well. Yet I haven’t ever gotten a collar in my big mac. The much more likely situation for your example strawman would be prostitution, not pornography, and yes, the difference SHOULD be made… And the users of those prostitutes would likely be the religious, anyways. And of course, for the girl to not complain about her treatment, she would need to feel fear about reporting negative things about her parent, another religious placement: “Anyone who curses his mother or father shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:17).

    And really, I think you misjudge the intelligence and maturity of 13 year olds. The only people who want to believe them stupid and incapable are some adults. Most children aren’t even virgins by the time they are 13, know plenty about morality from news stations, and have the instincts of an adult, throwbacks from when 13 WAS an adult.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I feel bad quibbling about relatively small points since I agree so wholeheartedly about the overall point of this piece. But since you’re citing me, I feel like I have to make a correction.

    I don’t, in fact, think that mainstream porn promotes a conception of sexuality that’s shallow and harmful. What I think is that lots of mainstream porn promotes a conception of sexuality that’s fairly shallow and can do some harm. Those qualifiers are important. Yes, a lot of porn is shallow and sexist. A lot of a lot of things are shallow and sexist. We live in a sexist society, and a lot of our culture reflects that sexism. Porn is no exception… but it’s not a special case, either. And while 90% of porn is crap… well, Sturgeon’s Law applies here. 90% of everything is crap.

    I also think that porn — and that includes mainstream video porn, even the shallow stupid stuff — can have a very important, positive role to play in sexuality. More on that: Why Does Porn Matter? (Sorry for the self-linkage, but it really is relevant.)

    I also think “addiction” is not the right word to apply to compulsive behavior around porn or other sexual activity. “Addiction” is a fairly specific term with a specific pharmacological meaning. “Compulsion” is better. And it makes it clearer that the problem isn’t with the porn or the specific other sexual activity — people can be compulsive about just about anything.

    All that notwithstanding: Yes. You hit the nail on the head. There’s big money to be made whipping up people’s shame about sex, and promising to relieve it. And when you can make both the shame and the promise of its relief seem like they come from the unfalsifiable sky daddy, you can keep dangling that carrot and brandishing that stick pretty much forever — without ever coming across on your promises. Still feeling bad about your sexuality? Still behaving compulsively around sex? Your faith must not be strong enough! Pray harder, dammit!

  • Kennypo65

    I happen to like porn, it’s entertainment. I worked in an adult book store and a gentlemen’s club for about six years. The end result being that I find a clothed woman more attractive than a naked one.(keep a little mystery going)Especially if she’s wearing a nun’s habit.(Probably because I went to catholic school) If it’s made by consenting adults, for the consumption of consenting adults, then who gives a damn. Pornography is the consequence of free speech, so is being able to say,”Shove that fucking bible up your ass, I’ll watch whatever I want to.”

  • jane hay

    As for Jeebus’ sexual habits, he was probably one strange dude. Just think – most biblical scholars discount all the tales from before he was ~30, when his ministry started. An unmarried working-class Jewish male? At that age? Probably unusual, even in an economically downtrodden place like Galilee. He was a late convert of John the Baptist’s, found religion late in life, his family thought he was crazy, never mentioned homosexuality (though his being an orthodox Jew, I guess the Torah said it all for him) in any of his preachings (a big rock in the road for fundies); the only family mentioned anywhere were his mother and siblings. I imagine the “true story” would be pretty interesting.

  • DSimon

    So, the [feminist theory of objectification] goes, supermodels make other girls bulimic and anorexic because some men like to hide away in their rooms and watch porno. It’s not the New Age woo and fear-mongering about nutrition section of women’s magazines, it’s really the stuff things that men look at.

    Bulimia and anorexia are definitely related to the social pressure for women to be very thin.

    Your conception of what “objectification” means seems really skewed, please ask some sex-positive feminists. Executive summary: Porn does not inherently imply objectification. However, a significant amount of if does objectify women, by presenting them merely as bodies rather than as people. Objectification is problematic, but it’s a separate problem from that of unhealthy/unrealistic body images.

  • Lion IRC

    Hi Zietlos,
    Good strawman comeback!
    I was hoping someone would want to play-on.
    So…let me see if I have you right.
    You “know” some porn actors. *wink*
    You don’t think 13 is too young to give informed consent.
    So a 40 year old porn actor together with a 13 year old porn actor wouldn’t violate any moral code you can think of.
    I notice you mentioned cats and dogs in there as well. I sincerely hope that when you said “use” you meant “eat/food/cook”
    Lion (IRC)
    P.S. – Good to see you tipped your hat to the good old fashioned objective morality concept of playing by “the rules”. .

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Second, AnonaMiss in #2 is absolutely right. “Every cop needs a criminal …”

    Well said! It’s ironic that the more puritanical sects among fundamentalists and the seamier side of the porn industry are working toward the same goal. They both encourage people to view sex as shameful and forbidden – for entirely different reasons, of course, but it serves both their purposes.

    Overgeneralizing. You’re doing it. >.>

    Point taken, Alex; I worded that badly. I didn’t mean to imply that all porn is shallow, sexist or harmful, only that much of it is. As Greta says, this is in large part because we live in a society where most advertising and media, not just porn, carries sexist implications at some level. But I do think it’s fair to point out that porn, and visual media in general, can have an especially large impact on people’s self-conceptions and sense of how to treat others, and deserve special attention and critique for that reason.

    I also think that porn — and that includes mainstream video porn, even the shallow stupid stuff — can have a very important, positive role to play in sexuality.

    You know, it’s funny, but every time I’m in the supermarket checkout and I see a magazine like Cosmo, I roll my eyes at how insultingly shallow and insipid it is. But I almost always have a follow-up thought: Given the choice between that and a theocratic society, like the kind most of humanity used to live in, where the mere discussion of sex was a crime – I’ll take our culture every time, even with its sexism, its tawdriness, and its sleaze. The fact that we can even think and talk about such things is a huge step forward, and even if a lot of the information that’s out there is bad, it’s a price worth paying for that freedom.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    It seems like people who favor a theocracy need to find someone who’s the enemy, so they can say that religion is needed for some purpose. They want to convince people that they need religion, that religion is the only way to get rid of certain sins, so that they can then conclude that we need more religion in government.

    Given the choice between that and a theocratic society, like the kind most of humanity used to live in, where the mere discussion of sex was a crime – I’ll take our culture every time, even with its sexism, its tawdriness, and its sleaze. The fact that we can even think and talk about such things is a huge step forward, and even if a lot of the information that’s out there is bad, it’s a price worth paying for that freedom.

    Definitely. At least, with freedom, anyone who disagrees can argue the point instead of being afraid for their lives.

    It sometimes strike me that there are certain genuine criticisms to be made about various topics, but religious arguments sometimes skip over these legitimate concerns and go right to the “God doesn’t want us to this” explanation. So, instead of focusing on how to promote accurate sex education to decrease the spread of STIs and promote equality so that women can have equality both in the workplace and in personal relationships, they are more focused on what God wants, which sometimes makes the problem worse. For this topic specifically, instead of speaking out about the discrimination or other possible problems specifically, they’re more concerned about converting people, so they have to generalize.

  • Zietlos

    Well Lion, I love throwing ammo into the ring. However, I distinctly hear you saying that you hope to eat puppies and kittens. Now, I try to keep an open mind, but that seems sort of contrary to our current culture. I’m not sure if I can deal with such a morality system. And then the rest! A 40 year old and a 13 year old; you are a sick man! I mean really! Don’t you have any human decency at all? Well, your request is a situation where a 13 and 40 year old together sexually is immoral. I don’t think that is very hard to do: Say you have this priest, and this choir kid…

    You don’t give me much ammo to play throw back the strawman, unfortunately. Ebon probably wouldn’t appreciate it either, so I’ll let you have the final words on that topic.

    But regardless, and more seriously, I do think 13 is too young to give consent *arbitrarily*. People develop, both physically and mentally, at different rates, and therefore some sort of non-arbitrary measure can/should be used to evaluate the individual. Legal age of consent spans from “none” to 19, I don’t think any go into the 20s. What this means is different countries have different ages. There are quite a few that are 16, Canada has a within-4-year rule after 16, Japan has 13 as the age nationally, the places in the third world that do have age limits it is often 8 or their first period. What this tells us is there is no globally accepted age range where *poof*, you’re mature. Arbitrary guidelines are set out that reflect the country’s hedged bet on when it the proper time, erring a bit past it depending on political pandering, but it is by no means a perfect system.

    I would also like to take this moment to agree on the points by Greta.

    As for the sexist imagery issue, I think we’re too closed a culture which may be the problem. A person once said “I played Frogger as a kid, but I never ran into traffic”. And that is visual AND interactive media. But the children who are shown that it is fun to run in front of cars and suffer no penalties for being hit DON’T go out and do it in RL because they are educated about it. I daresay that in today’s culture, kids will know about sex before parents teach them anything. The instincts are already imprinted, and the biases set up, likely from news shows or beer commercials, the porn simply is a confirmation bias of those prior beliefs, and from then onwards, the parents need to re-teach the child against their current notions. Sex Ed is VITAL to an equal society, and while yes, it would be nice if, even in non-porn movies, the actors made a note of putting on a condom before their sex scenes, educating before letting the admittedly sexist media do it can nullify any negative effects from the portrayals, like the kid with the Frogger game.

  • Lion IRC

    Hi Zietlos,
    You say..

    Ebon probably wouldn’t appreciate it either, so I’ll…

    Who is Ebon?
    Oh thats right, I forgot. He is the Creator who has the ability to objectively arbitrate between two competing equals down here on “earth” who might BOTH think they are “morally”right
    That does make sense!
    He has the ability to enforce his rules.
    He is at arms length (above the fray)
    Its HIS forum.
    And to top it all off, you and I both agree that having a Moderator benefits the majority of us.
    Lion (IRC)

  • Lion IRC

    Hi Ebonmuse,

    You agreed with AnonaMiss #2 that …

    “Every cop needs a criminal”

    Let’s test that idea a bit further.

    Every tax payer funded hospital needs a sick person.
    Every abortion clinic needs a pregnant woman. (You know what THAT means!)
    Every parachute needs the occasional malfunction.
    Every life guard at the beach needs swimmers intent on trying to drown themselves.
    God provides the 10 Commandments because He NEEDS us to sin?

    Nope – sorry I don’t get it AT ALL.

    Lion (IRC)

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Nope – sorry I don’t get it AT ALL.

    “without polio Salk is a putz”.

    The irony is that the more the “moral majority” (a misnomer if ever there was one)bleat about porn the more it appeals. Want your rap record to top the charts? get some radio stations to ban it. Want to guarantee your explicit programmes’ T.V ratings? Get some right wing Christian to publicly complain about it (send them a preview.

  • Rollingforest

    It is true that porn, like cigarettes or alcohol, can damage you if you overindulge. But I think that any act of prohibition against them penalizes innocent people and only ends up giving the Mafia another source of income.

    You often hear that porn “degrades” women. But if we build a society where we taught respect toward women, then enjoying a sexual fantasy wouldn’t be seen as dangerous. It would be seen as just what it is: a fantasy. In this equal society, saying “I would like to watch porn and enjoy the physical side of love-making” would never be seen as sexist.

    This would then allow people to shed the social stigma involved with porn. If we were able to publicly say, “Having sexual fantasies is natural, but please tell me if I get in too deep” then we would be much healthier as a society.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    P.S. – Good to see you tipped your hat to the good old fashioned objective morality concept of playing by “the rules”.

    Not glad to see that you still don’t understand the very simple concept that whether one plays by the rules or not has no bearing on whether the rules are objective.

  • bbk

    DSimon, I have read the abstract and it just doesn’t sound like a well designed study that could be used to support anything very well. But even the abstract only makes some basic correlations (increased competitiveness related to increase of bulimia in the 12 bulimic dancers). Not sure what it says about cultural pressure apart from family pressure or underlying personality disorders and emotional problems. Anything?

    I agree that objectification is a completely separate issue from perceptions of body image and health. That’s pretty much the point I was making. The only thing that we seem to disagree on is feminist theory. Feminist theory isn’t based on research – the only requirement is that it presents ideas as if from the female point of view. Therefore I’m not willing to judge which version of feminism is the real version any more than I’m willing to judge which religion is the true faith. I care about what most feminists believe, not what a subset of feminist theorists think that feminists should believe.

    The point is that eating disorders are just one of those things like hairy palms and blindness that misandric people love to blame on male sexuality and, ultimately, pornography. The entire purpose of the theory of objectification is to find ways to blame female problems on male sexuality. Feminists use the theory to draw many conclusions including and not limited to how women on men’s magazine covers are harmful to women, how women in pornography are being exploited, how male sexuality prevents men from seeing women as people, and how we should curtail male sexuality for the benefit of women.

    The entire reason for my commenting on this thread is to point out that religion doesn’t necessarily have a problem with any of these views. Feminism has a very long history of being aligned with religion. It goes all the way back to the days of the Suffrage movement and its ties to the Temperance movement and Prohibition.

    How does religion profit from porn? Why is it that atheists are primarily male, church-goers primarily female? I’m pretty sure that Ebon wrote the post in jest, but I really think that it’s actually a very important question for atheists to consider.

  • Wednesday

    Feminist theory isn’t based on research – the only requirement is that it presents ideas as if from the female point of view.

    Excuse me, if you say you can’t judge what version of feminism is the real version, then why in the name of things that make sense did you pick a not-at-all mainstream mangling of the concept of feminist theory?

    The entire purpose of the theory of objectification is to find ways to blame female problems on male sexuality.

    Oh, wow, really? That’s its entire purpose? I had no idea! All this time I thought objectification was about whether or not a work presented a person as a body and an object rather than as a person. I thought objectification was problematic regardless of the sex and gender of the person presented, and that being aware of the concept meant we could learn to better analyze media depictions of all persons and be more aware of the messages they send about gender, sex, race, class, and so on. Silly me, that’s what I get for letting my subscription to Bitter Repressed Misandrist Monthly lapse. At least I still get my semiannual “100 ways to trap a man in a relationship and steal his seed” subscription.

    You know how you said that you care about what most feminists believe? Yeah? So, for the record, “objectivism theory is all a plot to blame our problems on testicle-havers” is NOT what most feminist believe.

    Knock it off with the straw feminism already.

  • 2-D Man

    I’ve been mulling that over and I think I understand now. Thanks, bbk & Zeiltos!

  • Rollingforest

    In response to Wednesday: I agree that we should teach society to see women as people. However, just because some porn focuses on the physical does not mean that we fundamentally believe that women are only objects. It just means that we want to fantasize about the physical now. I don’t think anyone, woman or man, should have to apologize for that.

  • bbk

    Wednesday, there’s not much that I can respond to if most of what you’re saying is nothing more than “no, that’s not true” with a dose of sarcasm. I did notice that you made a statement about what objectification, so I can respond to that.

    I thought objectification was about whether or not a work presented a person as a body and an object rather than as a person.

    Clearly, this is an art historical interpretation. It is interpretive in nature and it is not a priori. For it to be posteriori, at minimum, you must have some insight about the artist (an interview with a brand manager, movie director, etc) that gives credence to the interpretation.

    Let’s compare it to Picasso’s blue period. If you just look at a blue Picasso and interpret it to mean that he was depressed then, at best, this is just wild speculation. If you had some insight into who Picasso was, then your interpretation is logical, but only about the work and the artist. If you claim that visitors who go to the museum will become depressive individuals because they saw the work, then you might not see a problem with the feminist theory of objectification, either.

    Ultimately, your art historical statement is only relevant to the work in question. At most, it says something about the artist and very little about society at large. And if you didn’t bother to interview the artist and have no posteriori knowledge about the work, then this is just speculation at best.

    I thought objectification was problematic regardless of the sex and gender of the person presented, and that being aware of the concept meant we could learn to better analyze media depictions of all persons

    This is a Jungian psychoanalytical statement based on an art historical interpretation. What’s wrong with it? Pretty much everything, really. Jung was a guy who thought that if you told him what you dreamed about last night, he could tell you about the terrible things that happened to you as a child that your psyche “suppressed into the unconscious.” This is the equivalent of looking at a blue Picasso and claiming that the whole world is depressed, that any artist who paints a blue painting is depressed, and that blue paintings are problematic regardless of what they depict, who the artist was, or whether the viewer likes it or not. You might even say that someone who modeled for a blue Picasso was exploited.

    How do we know that it’s problematic in any way whatsoever? Because feminists said so? Why do we have to learn how to be psychoanalysts in order to interpret the media? Will it help us make better consumer choices between the “sexy” orange bottle of Tide and the “depressed” blue bottle of Walmart brand detergent? Will it in any way help us distinguish between medical cures that come from medical doctors and people who want to sell us Himalayan salt lamps? Wouldn’t it be nicer just to learn how to spot fallacies and lies, how to think critically about other people’s claims?

    Here’s what it comes down to. Male sexuality is very tactile and visual, relative to females. Things like pornography appeal to men more than women. If objectification is problematic, then male sexuality is problematic. Then all pornography is problematic. Then all depictions of human anatomy in art are problematic. It’s really disingenuous of you to say that objectification has nothing to do with male sexuality, that feminists are completely unaware of the fact that this theory is something that primarily targets men. You’d be hard pressed to explain how feminists seem to have a problem with women on men’s magazine covers, but don’t seem to have any problems when it’s used on the covers of feminist screed.

  • Wednesday

    @Rollingforest – I’m a little confused as to why your comment was addressed at me. Unless maybe you took my telling bbk that the theory of objectification has other purposes besides “all the wimmins blaming teh menz for all their problems” to mean I believe that porn makes everyone fundamentally believe women are objects? Because I don’t, far from it. That comment about Bitter Repressed Misandrist Monthly was me making fun of bbk’s stereotypes of women and feminists, not me _actually_ saying I’m a bitter repressed misandrist. :)

    Objectification happens in a lot of places, not just porn, and it’s _not just women_ who get objectified. It happens in advertising, PG movies, comic books, and fanfiction written by 14-year-old girls. Being able to recognize objectification when it happens, being able to see what messages are being sent by the media we’re exposed to… that’s all part of being intelligent consumers of media.

    Personally, I’m a lot more concerned about objectification in advertising and mainstream media than its presence in porn, because our culture is pretty saturated with advertising. By contrast, I _expect_ there to be the heterosexual male gaze in mainstream porn, and heterosexual female gaze in romance novels, and homosexual male gaze in porn for gay men, etc etc.

    We can talk about how some porn creates unreasonable expectations, and how it’s troubling that some 14-year-old girls write deeply misogynistic erotica, but that’s going rather further afield from the topic of objectification.

  • Wednesday

    bbk, you’re making leaps of mislogic (reducing people to objects is sometimes bad, therefore all male sexuality is bad? I hope you don’t talk to your math teacher with that mouth) and deliberately mischaracterizing the positions held by mainstream feminism (feminists are frigid misandrists who blame men for everything when it’s really their fault. Right. Also, Eve totally used her feminine wiles to make Adam eat the apple.). Of course I’m only going to response with sarcasm. If I similarly mischaracterized men as horndogs who only want sex with as many women as possible for physical pleasure (no emotional component), hate commitment, and eat steak and hate tofu, I’d expect men on this forum to similarly respond with sarcasm. Hell, I’d expect people of both sexes to respond with sarcasm.

    Your objections to my definitions of objectification include classic fallacies such as guilt by association (“Jung would agree with you, but Jung was totally irrational on this other unrelated thing, therefore this wrong”), slippery slope (“objectivisim is problematic, therefore all porn is problematic, therefore all men’s sexuality is problematic” and “if you’re right that reducing people to objects in media can be bad, then Picasso’s Blue period was Oppresshun!”), and straw men (including, but not limited to, “feminists don’t have a problem when women are objectified by feminists”. I guess I dreamed all those internet debates over the cover of Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism” and Amanda Marcotte’s “It’s a Jungle Out There”. And I guess I don’t exist, since I’m a feminist and I found the original version of the latter cover seriously problematic because of how it depicted a black man).

    Besides, it doesn’t matter if my definition is not perfect; I presented one that exists, gets a lot of use (even you admitted that), and has a purpose other than “blaming men for women’s problems”, which is all it takes to debunk your claim that the _entire_ purpose of that concept is to blame men for women’s problems.

  • bbk

    Wednesday, a somewhat counter-intuitive property of first order logic is that a false statement implies any statement. I could say that if reducing people to objects was sometimes bad then the moon is made out of cheese and that would still be perfectly logical. I never said that, either way. What I said should have sounded more like this: the theory of objectification is always wrong about everything and has nothing of value to offer.

    I should have also invoked Occam’s Razor here and pointed out that I don’t need this theory in order to explain why some things could be sexist or racist or somehow wrong. I am fully capable of analyzing these things without having to imply that there are hidden messages secretly encoded in everything that communicate between the unconscious mind of the artist to the unconscious mind of the viewer and that we can decipher what those messages are from within the framework of a theory that tells us that sometimes a body is a person and sometimes it’s an object that just looks like a person, but really is not actually a person. Also, it turns out that sometimes when a body is not a person it’s not bad, because we like it, but other times when a body is not a person then it’s very bad, because we really didn’t like it that time. How about that Occam’s Razor?

  • Wednesday

    bbk, despite my membership in the Ovaries-having Club*, I am familiar with first-order logic. I’m also aware of the fallacy of “changing the goal posts”, which is what you have done – moving from claiming “feminism is misandrist and the theory of objectification is entirely about women blaming men for their problems!” to “I do not think the premise that objectification exists and/or is bad is true, and/or I do not think some aspects of film theory have any value”, and then saying the latter is what you meant to say all along.

    *(This statement was made sarcastically. In the interest of not furthering the subtly heteronormative ciscentric gender-essentialist approach this discussion has taken, and the not-at-all subtly heteronormative ciscentric gender-essentialist definition bbk has given of feminist theory, I wish to issue the disclaimer that by my sarcastic remark I do not mean to suggest that all women have ovaries, or that all persons with ovaries are women. Also, I apologize to all non-female-identifying feminists for not challenging bbk’s erasure of you sooner.)

    Your Occam’s Razor argument seems to boil down to “I don’t need a name for a thing that sometimes happens in media in order to identify when it’s problematic, and it’s simpler not to have names for things, therefore we shouldn’t have a name for these things.” For someone who likes to label things as Jungian so as to then try to tear them down, that’s kind of a weird position to take. “Names are bad unless they’re useful to me.” Hm.

    Earlier you were fairly clearly trying to imply feminism is anti-sex, parallel to the religious right’s anti-porn initiatives, or at least anti-sex-that-involves-men. I’m not sure if that was in an attempt to link women with religion in order to argue something about the inherent superiority of men and atheism, or what. (If you were, that would be kind of funny, because last week a major feminist blogger attempted to redundantly convert me to atheism.)

    Regardless of why you were trying to imply it, you were dead wrong. Given that an awful lot of the mainstream feminist movement’s prominent and recent efforts have to do with access to contraception and opposing groups and initiatives that teach people to be ashamed of all sex, I think it’s pretty clear that’s feminism is not inherently opposed to sex and male sexuality. And while there certainly _exist_ feminists who object to porn, that’s hardly representative – plenty of feminists not only are okay with porn in general, but are consumers or producers of porn. Good grief, Ebon even linked one in his post.

  • Zietlos

    Now, disclaimer; walking paradox here. Clearly I’m emo, since I’m both male and a feminist. I must hate myself, since all males are misogynists and all feminists are misandrists. [/sarcasm]

    I’m one of those weird internet people, so my tendrils reach across the world. I can talk about the wasteful things that UNICEF is doing, the vast amounts of money Equality Now spent on a campaign/holy crusade to ban a visual novel that was already banned, or I can even talk about how copyright law is destroying the creative talents of the western world, all with a decent level of believability.

    But my minor is in philosophy, with postmodernism and women’s rights as my philosophy focii. Speaking thusly, I believe I am entitled to an opinion on the postmodern feminism debate going on here.

    FIRST! I believe that (on average) men do intrinsically objectify everything, from other men to women to pets and more. This, however, is not due to a fully natural cause, however, but a societal one as well; women who are “fast trackers”, rising the corporate ladder and are generally just as cut-throat as the next Machiavelli-wannabe also tend to objectify everything, from other women to men to pets. Others are tools to be used for your success. Recognizing them as deep-thinking, emotive beings hinders this competitive ability (or “edge”), as the discovery channel shows, successful in Nature is not very often compassionate.

    SECOND! Because men have historically been the “breadwinner” of the house, they have needed to compete for marks, jobs, promotions, et cetera, culturally for a long, long time. The original way to raise ranks in a dojo is to beat up your seniors. To become king as the secondborn the first must die. Union jobs are lifetime jobs, the CEO needs to retire early if you want to move up with a good pace. Then this aggressive (which is higher with more testosterone, but it is not the sole source) mindset is passed down to the children: The successful ones have more kids, and voila, you have a dysfunctional society where objectification is the norm.

    Objectification happens to everyone. I know some really hard-core feminists, the, ahem, “feminazi” style as I believe it is called, and no doubt, they really object to objectification of women… But they don’t leave tips at restaurants, give waiters a horrible time, and in general treat them like crap, regardless of gender. That is also objectification: Treating someone akin to an object, to ignore their emotional, physical, or intellectual needs by assumption that they shouldn’t have any. This is a point that each of you should do: If you work in an office building, say “thank you” to the custodial staff once in a while.

    Objectification is not inherently mis-anything… Other than mis-humane, I suppose. Some say women are objectified more than men, this I somewhat doubt, I think its close to equal, though it is a matter of definition of objectifying as a sex object (which after reading a few slashfics I even doubt that) to objectifying in general, which should be just as bad. Me and Kant, we don’t get along very often, but supporting humans is alright with me.

    The male/atheism link kind of sucks, though. We need to elect (somehow? The Evil Atheist Conspiracy perhaps?) a horsewoman of atheism. We have the four horsemen, but diversity would be nice, good for television ratings and all that.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    a horsewoman of atheism.

    I think Greta Christina already qualifies :)

  • bbk

    Feminism has its roots in the Suffrage movement, which was a movement of radical Christian women who thought that giving women the right to vote was a necessary step in removing men’s ability to buy alcohol. The Feminine Mystique wasn’t published until 1963 and leftist feminism didn’t really become what it was until after the Civil Rights movement got people to take it on as a social justice issue. I don’t think that anything that I said was unfair or misconstrued, as there is a very extensive history of anti-pornography in feminism and anyone could just go read about it instead of hurling insults at me. Here’s an excellent paper on the topic. http://www.american-buddha.com/anti-porno.htm

    The point is that feminism has been anti-porn for decades and the theory of objectification was envisioned during the height of the anti-porn movement. So ask yourself this: if you were extremely resentful of men and had no compunction in taking away anything that they enjoyed – from alcohol at one point, and now pornography, and later you were going to fight against equal rights for fathers – and you had to skirt the 1st Amendment by arguing by any means possible that men watching pornography in the privacy of their own homes was harmful to women as a whole, and all of a sudden your anti-pornography movement emerged with this theory about Objectification which basically co-opted a feature of male sexuality and put a very insidious twist on it so that it sounds as if it’s sexist by its very nature and harmful to women… then you’re saying that you wouldn’t even conceive of using this theory in your anti-pornography movement that sought to paint porn as harmful to women?? Objectification has nothing to do with the anti-porn movement in feminism? Is that what I need to accept?

    By the 90′s, when right wing Christian women joined the crusade against porn, it became extremely awkward for left wing feminists to pretend that they were any different from right wing extremists and that the anti-porn movement is anything more than an exercise in misandry whether it comes from the right or the left. So there’s been this awkward silence on the issue of porn from feminists ever since. They still hold up those old sexist theories but selectively choose to apply them to Maxim but not Playboy so as to not appear like they’re aligned with the right.

    So here we are. The fallout of this movement is that once anti-pornography was removed as the driving force behind feminist theory, it became very confusing and unclear how these theories should actually be applied. Witness the heated debates about things such as feminist book covers. Wednesday gave us a brilliant example of a feminist who is still against freedom of expression and for censorship in order to reconcile herself with feminist theory. All the while, Wednesday has completely missed the idea that there is nothing wrong with female imagery on feminist book covers, just as there’s nothing wrong with it being any other covers. There was never anything wrong with it in the first place. In the end, the anti-male aspects of feminism have caused nothing but problems and fractures within the women’s rights movement. Meanwhile, women of the Christian right have happily picked up the torch and continued the fight against pornography where the left has left off. And that’s where we stand today.

  • bbk

    Also, it wouldn’t hurt to look at Wikipedia on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_views_on_pornography

    Objectification is peppered all over the anti-pornography side of the debate. Do people still want to dispute this? Even the vaunted “sex-positive” feminism is loaded with caveats. Porn is sexist but censorship is worse. It’s sexist unless it was made by a feminist. It’s sexist but at least not as sexist as mainstream media. Oh and women in porn make more money than men, so maybe it’s not completely bad. Only a small fraction of sex-positive views are actually “sex positive” without qualification.

  • Rollingforest

    Wednesday, I know that you are well versed in gender studies because you used words like ‘ciscentric’ which I had to look up.

    Sorry about the confusion. I saw you talking about the problems of objectifying and I subconsciously connected you with people who say that we should ban porn or at least shun those who use it. I see now that I was wrong. One of the reasons I miscategorized you was because I was recently reading an article by a woman (who may or may not have been a feminist) who said that the .xxx suffix for the internet that is being proposed would put porn “in the ghetto, where it belongs”. Since the site did not allow me to argue against her, I was ready for a debate here.

    But I do agree with you that we should work to stop people from being objectified. So what is the best way to do this? I think it has to start in the homes and the schools. People say that pop culture raises a child, but I don’t think they realize how much influence a parent really has. Most children grow up to have similar political beliefs as their parents. They also end up adopting similar religious beliefs as well. Even though I consider myself a logical person, I’ll admit that my parents’ political beliefs did rub off on me without me consciously choosing them (though I have consciously chosen to keep them). And a good part of the reason why I’m atheist today is because my Mom is a liberal Christian and my Dad can best be described as a Deist. If I had been raised in a Fundamentalist family, I like to think that I’d at least question some of it, but I’d probably have been raised to make excuses for the parts I couldn’t prove. So parental involvement in stopping people from being objectified in real life should work to some degree to improve our society.

    I do have a radical theory that I think is true, however. I believe that while people can objectify other people, it is impossible for a fictional movie or ad to objectify anyone. Why do I say this? Because objectifying means “treating a person like they were only an object to which you have no moral responsibility.” However, the characters in movies and ads aren’t people. They are simply fictional representations of our world. Even if something is live action, the characters are still fictional because they are being acted out in ways that the actor would not respond in real life. People, I feel, can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Thus, if someone objectifies someone else, it is their own fault, not the fault of the movie or ad.

    (by the way, I love the names of the fake magazines and clubs you come up with. Hilarious)

    In response to Zietlos, I would agree that men objectify more than women (not everything or every male, though). I would actually take the explanation for that back a few thousand years more, however. Women needed to develop a close bond with their children and their fellow women in order to successfully raise the next generation. Men, on the other hand, needed to be able to kill prey without a second thought and to do the same to anyone who threatened their family. Thus cold hard calculation evolved in males more than females.

    In regard to well known Atheist females, I would put forward Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the book “Infidel” against radical Islam.

    bbk, yes many early Feminists were religious, but the beginnings of most every group were religious. Susan B Anthony was focused on women’s rights, not prohibition.

    It is true that ideas of anti-porn feminism and the campaign against people being objectified are closely linked. But I think that Wednesday is correct that there are many sex positive feminists who support porn and that people being objectified is a real issue outside of porn. As I argued above, we end it by teaching people to value others, not by banning or shunning any ads or movies.

  • bbk

    One more thing – the feminist movement has used the “harmful against women” argument when deriding just about anything that men enjoyed, including sports. It’s not just pornography. For years, feminists have claimed that the Super Bowl, World Cup, and any other competitive sporting event above the level of ping pong incites violence against women. They never actually had evidence for this, but they didn’t need evidence as this was nothing more than misandry. Just like anti-porn. Feminists have consistently ignored evidence that contradicts their positions. Evidence points to equal rates of violence coming from both sexes and strong evidence suggests that women are actually more violent than men. Evidence suggests that there’s actually a lower incidence of violence against women in countries where male sexuality is accepted and men feel free to express and enjoy themselves. But that hasn’t stopped feminists from claiming otherwise in their fight against porn, sports, rights of fathers, even going so far as to consistently deny battered men access to domestic violence shelters because it could undermine the feminist cause.

  • Rollingforest

    Also it should be noted, while the sex positive feminists may not always agree completely with you, bbk, you should be glad that there are anti-censorship movements within feminism. The girl who wrote the paper that you posted is probably one of them.

    And Prohibition was enacted before many women were given the right to vote, so it can’t be called entirely a woman’s movement.

  • bbk

    Rollingforest, Susan B Anthony fought for prohibition. So did Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan B Anthony took up women’s rights because she went to a Temperance meeting and the Protestant men who presided over the meeting would not let her get up and speak in support of their cause. Her first causes were Abolition and Temperance.

  • Rollingforest

    While I think there are some feminists who are bigots, we should remember that this is true of most organizations. I agree with basic feminism that all genders are of equal value and that gender should not be a limiting factor in most professions. I think that the issue is not that feminists consciously discriminate against men (at least not most of them) but rather that they often only see things from the female perspective. Development of Masculinist groups may be needed to counteract this, but in most cases ending gender discrimination for one gender need not increase it for another gender.

  • bbk

    Rollingforest, I agreed with your views on evolution until very recently. The specialization of tasks between men and woman is an extremely recent phenomenon. For most of human history, evidence suggests that men and women participated in all tasks of daily life equally. It wasn’t until human societies developed communication skills sophisticated enough to engage in trade that women took to gathering while men took to hunting. The specialization of tasks helped groups of humans benefit from comparative advantage so that everyone was better off. This is an advanced social behavior that no other primates exhibit. There’s a great new talk on TED that gave me all this insight. It definitely changed my views on this. It’s called something like “how ideas have sex”.

  • DSimon

    Bbk, I suggest that we taboo “objectification” and “feminism” for this discussion, since those terms appear to be dragging us away from the point.

    The point is that eating disorders are just one of those things like hairy palms and blindness that misandric people love to blame on male sexuality and, ultimately, pornography.

    You argue here that the prejudice, rather than good data, is the source of the idea that unhealthy culturally idealized female body images contribute to anorexia. You repeat this claim in several other forms.

    This is a hard claim to argue against; it’s difficult to show that prejudice isn’t a factor in an idea. However, even without going down that path I can still argue about whether or not that idea is true, by looking at the evidence.

    DSimon, I have read the abstract and it just doesn’t sound like a well designed study that could be used to support anything very well.

    What about the abstract leads you to believe that the study isn’t well-designed? (I really wish I could look at the study itself, not just the abstract, but I don’t have a subscription.)

    When I Googled the study I linked, I found several others on the same topic with similar results. If you want, we can introduce some of them into the discussion as well.

    But even the abstract only makes some basic correlations (increased competitiveness related to increase of bulimia in the 12 bulimic dancers). Not sure what it says about cultural pressure apart from family pressure or underlying personality disorders and emotional problems. Anything?

    What the study says about cultural pressure is right in the abstract: “These data suggest that both pressures to be slim and achievement expectations are risk factors in the development of anorexia nervosa.”

    In other words: when women expect that they will not be able to succeed in their field unless their bodies are sufficiently slim, there’s a significantly greater chance that they will develop anorexia. I think that this shows that “sufficiently slim” (determined by culture in general and/or the specific sub-cultures of modelling and dance) is well below healthy weight.

    The study controls for pre-existing predilection towards anorexia by showing that anorexia was more common among models and dancers than among the general population, and that the majority of the cases among the dancers developed after they started studying dance (so we know that it wasn’t that they first became anorexic, then began dancing due to their changed appearance or mental state).

    So: cultural pressure to be very thin can lead to anorexia. This doesn’t mean that us gynophiles should suppress our sexuality, but it does mean that we should stop buying/supporting porn which reinforces the cultural meme of “To be attractive or sexy, you have to be super thin”.

  • MissCherryPi

    OH MY GOD. BBK. Thank. You. What have I been doing with my life? All those feminist books and blogs I’ve been reading for the past 5 years?! It’s all bullshit. I thought I had found a lens that made the larger culture make some fucking sense for once. But really I had a deep seated hatred for anything that makes men happy.

    Ebon, sweetie, I think I’ll throw out your computer when I get home. Because feminism.

    See Also.

  • Rollingforest

    Quote “Ebon, seetie, I think I’ll throw out your computer when I get home. Because feminism.”

    Hahahaha! So many funny quotes on the comment pages of this site! I need to start a collection.

  • bbk

    Sorry MissCherryPi. All things in moderation, I suppose, even if it’s an undercurrent of resentment towards men in a popular cultural phenomenon. I don’t know what to say. Ebon will be really pissed if he can’t blog anymore because of me…

    Thanks for the link, it’s a good read. I’m aware that there are dissident feminist views out there, but these are more recent views whereas the theory of objectification rose to prominence when the feminist movement was primarily pro-censorship.

  • MissCherryPi

    You just mansplained to us that the true meaning of feminism is a hatred of anything that makes men happy, no?

    The key part of the link was the line about how men who think that male (hetero)sexuality is necessarily anti-woman don’t really have much capability to understand how a woman could enjoy or desire sex.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    bbk has definitely earned Mansplainer of the Week. Congrats?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    So ask yourself this: if you were extremely resentful of men and had no compunction in taking away anything that they enjoyed – from alcohol at one point, and now pornography, and later you were going to fight against equal rights for fathers….

    bbk, I hope you realize how idiotic this is. Feminism is just a movement of bitter women who want to take away anything that men enjoy? You’re seriously claiming that? You sound like the religious fundamentalists who claim that atheists are just mad at God and deny his existence because we want to live lives of sin and licentiousness.

    So there’s been this awkward silence on the issue of porn from feminists ever since.

    What is your evidence for this statement? I have no idea which feminist blogs you follow, but the ones I read discuss the topic all the time. Contrary to what you seem to imagine, there’s no unanimity on this topic among feminists, and in my experience, the ones who want to see all pornography banned outright were always a minority and are even more so today.

    Feminism has its roots in the Suffrage movement, which was a movement of radical Christian women who thought that giving women the right to vote was a necessary step in removing men’s ability to buy alcohol.

    Yes, clearly the women’s suffrage movement was all about taking away men’s right to get drunk. It had nothing to do with, say, women wanting the right to own or inherit property, to work outside the home, to be free of domestic abuse and violence, to seek higher education, to serve in Congress and shape the laws they were subject to, to exercise control over their own bodies, to speak in public… Have you ever even read the Declaration of Sentiments? The reality of the feminist movement bears little resemblance to your violently irrational conception of it.

    …all of a sudden your anti-pornography movement emerged with this theory about Objectification which basically co-opted a feature of male sexuality and put a very insidious twist on it so that it sounds as if it’s sexist by its very nature and harmful to women.

    bbk, you really shouldn’t criticize what you don’t understand. The point isn’t that it’s always immoral or sexist to notice a woman’s appearance, or even to be sexually aroused by it, but that it’s wrong to value a woman for her appearance more than, or to the exclusion of, any other traits or abilities she may possess. Are you seriously prepared to argue that women’s talents and competence are not still judged in relation to their physical appearance, much more so than is the case for men?

  • bbk

    The point isn’t that it’s always immoral or sexist to notice a woman’s appearance, or even to be sexually aroused by it, but that it’s wrong to value a woman for her appearance more than, or to the exclusion of, any other traits or abilities she may possess.

    I hope you’re not referring to the acting skills. That’s kind of the ridiculous part about it. Sometimes, it’s just porn.

  • bbk

    I will take solace in that much of the anger at my comments amounts to hair splitting. I think it’s unfortunate how we take no issue criticizing the Christian faction for its part in the anti-porn movement but it’s taboo to mention that there has been a feminist faction as well. It’s sad that it’s incomprehensible to others that someone could think that objectification is just a strawman and anti-pornography is misandric.

    People and movements are usually much more complex than the one-dimensional view most people perceive. Why did Abolitionists see fit to fight on the same side as the KKK on a proxy issue against immigrant voters in the north and black voters in the south? Because female leaders had painted a terrible picture of oppression, one where men were destitute drunkards who beat their wives and spread syphilis to the innocent. Not remarkably different from the depiction of men that I hear from the feminist movement today. To the Suffragists, Temperance was all about sending men back to their families, where they belonged. Protestant extremists would have never had enough votes without women. We can thank them all for giving us bootlegging and organized crime.

    I can’t read the Declaration of Sentiments without reeling from the pointed language that betrays deep seated resentment of the opposite sex. This document paints a pernicious picture of men, laying the injustice of society at the feet of the every man. I have read beautiful calls for freedom, from the Declaration of Independence to the words of Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas and none of them, no matter what the grievances, were quite as seething and bitter as this. I would rather compare this document to the language of the Festival of the Supreme Being and then consider what took place afterwards.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I can’t read the Declaration of Sentiments without reeling from the pointed language that betrays deep seated resentment of the opposite sex. This document paints a pernicious picture of men, laying the injustice of society at the feet of the every man. I have read beautiful calls for freedom, from the Declaration of Independence to the words of Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas and none of them, no matter what the grievances, were quite as seething and bitter as this.

    No, Frederick Douglass wasn’t angry or bitter at all. Just look at the peaceful, mild nature and gentle spirit of reproof he expressed in this passage:

    I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which everywhere surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity.

    …The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other –devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

    You really don’t think a racist would find that passage “seething and bitter”, in exactly the same way as you disparage the feminist movement? Do you think your opinion of the Declaration of Sentiments demonstrates anything other than your own animus towards women?

    What you’re invoking here, bbk, is nothing but the “tone fallacy”: that people’s legitimate grievances should be disregarded because they didn’t express them in a way that was sufficiently respectful to the people who were oppressing them. As I’m sure you’re aware, this is exactly the same argument that has been leveled against atheists on countless occasions to try to shut us up.

    People and movements are usually much more complex than the one-dimensional view most people perceive.

    It’s beyond ironic that someone could make a statement like this while simultaneously claiming that the feminist movement is based on nothing but hatred of men and the desire to take away everything they enjoy. What better proof could you desire for the fact that bigotry blinds people to their own hypocrisy?

  • bbk

    It’s beyond ironic that someone could make a statement like this while simultaneously claiming that the feminist movement is based on nothing but hatred of men and the desire to take away everything they enjoy. What better proof could you desire for the fact that bigotry blinds people to their own hypocrisy?

    That’s because you reduce my views to a dimensional caricature instead of taking them for what they are. Hence it seems ironic to you, and I understand that. I have never said that the entire feminist movement is based on hatred for men nor that even if it were completely based on resentment that it would in any way invalidate the injustices they faced and the need to do something about it. I focused on the anti-pornography movement and observed that it is linked to a long-running undercurrent of resentment that ultimately results in misandry. It’s true but irrelevant to my criticism that the resentment itself stems from real injustice.

    Also, I see nothing in the link you provided that isn’t conveyed in a just and reasoned tone. Here, Frederick Douglass is careful to condemn only slave owners, not all Whites nor all Christians. This is pretty close to the approach I take to misandry, albeit I am not as articulate as Douglass and haven’t debated this enough to know just how important it is to qualify certain statements that I make before they are misconstrued. Compare this to the Declaration of Sentiments. The language therein uses He versus She. He subjugates her to a lower class, even lower than the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners. This language indicts all men as perpetrators of injustice against women. It leaves no room for anything else.

  • Rollingforest

    DSimon (to go back momentarily to his post)– I agree that anorexia is a problem. However, I believe it is the community, not ads, that creates this problem. Rather than not buying anything from ads that have thin women in it, we should instead support ads with normal sized women (or men) as well as ads with thin women (or men). I think that the best way to combat anorexia is to have “love your body” presentations that teach people that you shouldn’t criticize someone for attributes that they are born with (whether it be their body, race, gender, or sexual orientation). We do need to work to spread these values in the community. Yes, biology will always make us attracted to beautiful people, but we should show respect to all.

    (now back to the current thread) I read the Declaration of Sentiments. I think it is important to remember that when they say “he”, what they mean is “There have been men that have…” not “All men have and will always…” While the second interpretation would indeed be sexist, I think it is clear that the first was the one intended, supported by the fact that 1/3rd of those who signed the declaration were male.

    I think that bbk, in my humble opinion, may have a wrong view of what the feminist movement is about (though he can, of course, challenge me on that). I was this way myself once. In 12th grade of high school, we read some feminist stories in the textbook. The men in them were made to look evil and to have enjoyed hurting women. Since I knew my male friends and I weren’t like this, I came to believe that feminism was more about hate than it was about gender equality.

    However, as I got into college and saw more real life feminists, I came to realize that this description does not fit the majority of people in the feminist community. Most feminists do focus on removing barriers to women, not creating barriers for men. You might be able to argue that feminists sometimes don’t focus on the rights of men, but I don’t think you can say that they actively go out to reduce them. Yes, you’ll get the occasional snarky comment in the magazine editorials, but these women aren’t feminists who actually lead the groups.

    It is true that men are often the butt of more jokes than women, especially regarding their supposed lack of intelligence. But this is for two reasons: A. women have faced a lot of discrimination in the past and no one wants to be called sexist by mocking them and B. because men are very attracted to women and they don’t want to spoil their chances with them by making jokes that they might find offensive. Attractive women know that if they make jokes about men that men will still want to date them. This is less true for attractive men in regards to their potential suitors.

    But the important point here is that feminism did not cause this directly. Rather it is human nature to group ourselves by observable characteristics. Making jokes about ‘the other’ is an unfortunate byproduct of this. (keep in mind that I am not advocating against these jokes but rather saying that we should have the same level of acceptance for jokes concerning all genders)

  • Nickorama

    Hey Lion, I think the cop:criminal relationship is too simplified. Victims need cops for use against criminals. Cops and criminals cannot exist apart from the victims of criminality.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    The language therein uses He versus She. He subjugates her to a lower class, even lower than the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners. This language indicts all men as perpetrators of injustice against women. It leaves no room for anything else.
    – bbk, #60

    Uhh… welcome to the patriarchy? The thing about patriarchy, bbk, is that it infects all of us through acculturation, and there’s nothing that any of us can do about it. We are all of us products of it. You cannot “account” for this to absolve yourself, you cannot “factor it out” of your own life, and you cannot “undo” its effects any more than you can undo a murder. You certainly can become better by degrees going forward, but you will always be in part the product of the privilege in which you were raised at the expense of others, no matter what else happens in your life. Even discarding or resenting that privilege is an option you exercise, and an option that you only have as a result of said privilege.

    This is not to say that you are guilty of this or that particular crime, legal or moral. But you are inexorably a product of your environment, it is forever a part of you, and you need to own that. Part of that means that when someone points stuff out that you don’t think you ought to be called out on, you don’t quibble over how you’re innocent of this or also being counter-oppressed by that. What you do is take one for the team, accept that your privilege will cause undeserved resentment and guilt by association, and own what you are to do better going forward. Any attempt to “set the record straight” will just make you look like an ass-hat, no matter how correct you are. It sucks, sure, but it’s a social reality that will cripple you unless you square yourself with it. Suck it up, buttercup. Life ain’t even fair to privileged classes.

  • Rollingforest

    To quote D: “Any attempt to “set the record straight” will just make you look like an ass-hat, no matter how correct you are.”

    I, for one, will be setting the record straight regardless of who it upsets. I value truth over popularity. No one has the right not to be offended.

    If a man supports feminism and lobbies on their behalf then he is completely innocent of any crimes against females. He can not be accused of supporting the Patriarchy just because he was born a male. That is a sexist view.

  • DSimon

    I think that the best way to combat anorexia is to have “love your body” presentations that teach people that you shouldn’t criticize someone for attributes that they are born with (whether it be their body, race, gender, or sexual orientation).

    Rollingstone, I certainly agree with that idea in general, but I don’t think that strategy is supported by the data when it comes specifically to trying to stop the cultural pressures that can cause anorexia.

    The anorexic women in that study became anorexic because they noticed that they would be more successful and more praised the thinner they were, even down into physically unhealthy levels of thinness. This would still happen even if there weren’t any actual direct criticism for not being “thin enough”. Sometimes lack of praise is still motivation enough, especially if that lack of praise might be the difference between making it and washing out.

    Yes, biology will always make us attracted to beautiful people, but we should show respect to all.

    Beauty standards are highly subjective and strongly influenced by culture. I argue that we shouldn’t support the meme that “unhealthily thin is beautiful” because that meme hasn’t always been around (AIUI it used to be standard practice in Western art to portray sexy women as fat, because fat meant wealth), and it doesn’t always have to be.

    If a man supports feminism and lobbies on their behalf then he is completely innocent of any crimes against females.

    I think this is a fallacious argument. It’s quite possible for a man who supports feminism and lobbies on behalf of feminists to still be a sexist jerk.

    The most obvious way this could happen is plain old cognitive dissonance: Someone might send letters to the editor protesting the derogatory language they hear on television… and then walk out their front door and catcall a woman on the street because she’s wearing a skirt. Or they might read Virginia Woolf in their spare time and agree with everything she says… then go to work and fire their secretary for refusing to give them sexual favours.

    I can easily imagine people like this; heck, I’ve personally known people who do Logical Coherency Fails this bad. As atheists we have had plenty of opportunity to become familiar with how powerful cognitive dissonance can be.

    More generally: sexism does not have to be a deliberate ideology to affect the way a person behaves. Like any other kind of prejudice, it can also just act as unconscious cognitive bias.

  • DSimon

    Here, Frederick Douglass is careful to condemn only slave owners, not all Whites nor all Christians.

    On the contrary, Douglass’s language pointedly calls out the Christianity of the entire nation. How else do you read “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land”?

  • bbk

    DSimon – he does it by leaving room for Christianity that is not of this land – all the exceptions. “Of this land” only implies the prevalent form of something. Douglas would have to have said “all Christianity of this land” for it to imply all. There is also an appeal to a Christianity he favors, the true “Christianity of Christ”. The ironic thing is that unlike the Suffragists, Douglass can actually make a strong case that the Christianity of Christ and, indeed, all of Christianity, is a slaveholding religion. He could simply quote from the Bible.

    The Declaration of Sentiments, on the other hand, indicts all men from the beginning of time to the present. I read it from top to bottom several times and don’t see anything else. If this was Douglas’s writing, he would point to at least one example of a man who treats women well and say that this is what he wishes all men were like. They could have pointed to someone like Susan B Anthony’s father, who pulled her out of school and educated her himself when one of her teachers refused to teach her long division.

    All the while, this document excuses women from immoral acts. Those, too, are the fault of men. This is an appeal to adverse consequence – this argument that men harm women by not punishing them enough for their crimes, thereby forcing women to commit crimes that they would otherwise be innocent of. It’s fallacious.

    This document is not a call for humanity, it’s a declaration of war. It is pure and unadulterated tribalism. It says, “We are the good gals and you are the bad guys: cease and desist.”

  • bbk

    D, I believe you are being sarcastic. Guilt by association is a fallacy and no one has to suck it up. The theory of Patriarchy also suffers from being unfalsifiable, as you have described at length. This is the “not praying hard enough” tactic used by Christians to explain why prayer fails. I am as guilty of Patriarchy as I am guilty of Original Sin. Being atheist hasn’t stopped Christians for telling me that Jesus died for my sins just as it won’t stop some [(required modifier) feminists from claiming that I am guilty of something because I am male.

    Here, also, is an improper use of statistics. Because most men are more privileged than most women does support the theory of Patriarchy. There have always been, and are, men who are less privileged than women. Black men and poor men are less privileged than rich white women. Prisoners (predominantly male) are less privileged. Popular girls in school are more privileged than unpopular boys. Adults are more privileged than children. Privilege, on it’s own, does not imply that any wrong has been perpetrated by those who benefit from it. I don’t have to eat my vegetables just because some people in the world are starving. Yes I am privileged, but no I am not guilty. This is yet again guilt by association within Patriarchy.

  • DSimon

    [H]e does it by leaving room for Christianity that is not of this land – all the exceptions. “Of this land” only implies the prevalent form of something

    I think you’re giving greater benefit of the doubt to Douglass’s speech than to the language in the Declaration of Sentiments. You point out (quite reasonably) that there’s some implication of room for possible improvement in Douglass’ speech… but I think you’re applying a much harsher threshold when looking for similar implications in the DoS.

    For example, you quote part of the DoS by saying:

    He subjugates her to a lower class, even lower than the most ignorant and degraded men, both natives and foreigners. This language indicts all men as perpetrators of injustice against women. It leaves no room for anything else.

    But this quote is taken out of context just as surely as if someone quoted Douglass by saying “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity[...]“. The original document doesn’t say that women have been subjugated to a lower class than all men, but instead says that rights have been withheld from all women that have been given to all men (which is certainly true).

    You also insist that the DoS is unambiguously saying that “all men” are guilty of committing injustice… but it doesn’t say that directly. It talks about things that an abstract “Man” does to an abstract “Woman”, in a deliberate poetic echo of the Declaration of Independence’s language.

    But, most importantly: the DoS is not written with men as its primary intended audience.

    It is just plain not feminists’ job, or the job of any group fighting prejudice, to reassure you in every piece of their written communication they don’t have a problem with people who don’t have a problem with their having equal rights.

    Then again, the DoS has such reassurances anyways, such as “Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.”

  • DSimon

    The theory of Patriarchy also suffers from being unfalsifiable, as you have described at length.

    Okay, I suggest we taboo “Patriarchy” for this discussion so we can get at what we’re actually trying to talk about.

    The claim you seem to be arguing against is that there is a general trend in society to be prejudiced against women and for men; you say that this is an unfalsifiable claim.

    I disagree. If we can measure privilege, then any hypothesis of “Factor X adds (or removes) Y points of privilegedness” (well, that’s way oversimplfied, but you get the idea) can be falsified with enough data points, just like we’d measure the effect of any independent variable in any model.

    In particular, the claim of a general trend of sexism against women is definitely not falsified by the existence of some men who are less privileged than some women, because as you point out, different forms of privilege intersect. If (to pick some numbers arbitrarily) being male grants +3 points and not being a prisoner grants +6 points, then all other things being equal imprisoned men will have less privilege than free women, despite sexism against women being real.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    It is just plain not feminists’ job, or the job of any group fighting prejudice, to reassure you in every piece of their written communication they don’t have a problem with people who don’t have a problem with their having equal rights.

    QFT. And again, this is something that atheists should be thoroughly familiar with. Every time I write an attack on fundamentalism, do I have to include caveats and disclaimers saying that these criticisms don’t apply to the nice religious people out there? Is it our solemn duty to make sure that moderate believers don’t feel in any way upset or threatened by anything we say? Of course not (notwithstanding the accommodationists who get paid to whine about how mean we are).

    Essentially, bbk is making the same argument about feminists that people like Chris Mooney and Karen Armstrong make about atheists: that avoiding giving offense to a privileged group is more important than seeking to correct any actual injustices we’ve suffered.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    If a man supports feminism and lobbies on their behalf then he is completely innocent of any crimes against females. He can not be accused of supporting the [institutionalized privilege of males over females] just because he was born a male. That is a sexist view.
    – Rollingforest, #64

    (DSimon said we should taboo a word so I replaced it with what I was trying to really talk about – I don’t think it changes anything. Rollingforest, if you’ve got a different definition, then I’m all ears. Anyway…) What if he beats his wife? Or just calls her a bitch sometimes when they have an argument? Or even just laughs at sexist jokes now and again? Or abstains from calling out sexism when it would be awkward, time-consuming, or costly (in some way) to do so? Or does any of a million things that passively let sexism slide on by? Only half-sarcasm here: doing good things doesn’t “cancel out” doing bad things, and people are complicated and behave hypocritically all the time. Fighting for sex equality in some contexts simply does not mean that a person doesn’t act against sex equality in others.

    I’m not saying that you, or anyone, are guilty of this or that crime, or that you need to accept responsibility for things you didn’t cause. I’m saying that insisting on one’s innocence in a discussion about real evils that are currently affecting real people is derailing. When you take the focus off of what was previously being discussed to pound the table about how you’re not part of this or that problem, shifting the focus to yourself further marginalizes whoever was talking before. Yeah, truth matters, but your moral purity isn’t what we’re talking about here, and bringing it up to defend it is a faux pas.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    Yes I am privileged, but no I am not guilty. This is yet again guilt by association within [institutionalized privilege of males over females].
    – bbk, #68

    I never said you were guilty. In fact, I took special care to say that the resentment and guilt by association were undeserved. I agree with you completely on the above point you made, because I am not assuming that you have taken any particular sexist action. What I was trying to say at the end there is that some people are just going to resent you for being part of the privileged class, and you can’t help that. Nobody can. Complaining about that resentment, when the very privilege for which you are being resented is gotten at the expense of the underprivileged, makes you look like a whiner and a toolbag. It’s like complaining that you got blood all over your new car after you accidentally ran someone over: even though it was entirely accidental, the whole “what about me” attitude is alienating to others.

  • DSimon

    DSimon said we should taboo a word so I replaced it with what I was trying to really talk about – I don’t think it changes anything.

    Tabooing is a discussion strategy that I heard about just recently, and I’ve had good luck with it so far. The word “taboo” itself might need to be tabooed, though… it’s a little strong for the concept of just avoiding a word to dodge its unspoken implications.

    The basic idea is that we’re pretty bad at changing around definitions in our heads, which is usually what we try to do when somebody says “Well what exactly do you mean by (patriarchy/feminism/Christianity/Scottish/purple-people-eater)?” We might define that word down to a T right in the discussion… but then when we keep on using it, it picks up bits and pieces of its original meaning, and communication is hurt.

    For example, I really think that substituting “patriarchy” with [institutionalized privilege of males over females] in #72 did help, because it made the problem in Rollingforest’s quoted statement more obvious.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    bbk, if I might try to simplify this…

    Feminism talks about how our culture, structures and traditions reinforce male domination. You’re objecting to this because… you don’t personally discriminate against women.

    It’s not about you. Stop thinking it is.

  • MissCherryPi
  • Mrnaglfar

    I’m going to jump in late real quick.

    I can understand the “it’s not about you” in the general, kind of platonic world where ideas live and roam freely. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. It’s not that I’m saying “it’s all about me”. It’s that I’m saying I can very quickly be accused of “being part of it

    “But if you aren’t the problem,” he argued, “It sucks to be treated like you’re the problem. It’s like being accused of something you didn’t do.”

    There was a discussion a few days back I took place it, over whether it was sexist for a man to make a list of 15 “sexy scientists”. I disagreed with the proposition. While it may make some people uncomfortable or offend their sensibilities, I didn’t see it as sexist. I got accused of, in no particular order: being a sexist myself, making up the fact that I had a girlfriend and trying to score some kind of debate point with her, not thinking sexism was a problem for women, that I was advocating inaction for dealing with sexism, and that I was perpetuating the problem, among other things.

    I got told what my intentions were at times; at others I was told my intentions and opinions (read: what I actually said) flat out didn’t matter, since other people are clearly more qualified to understand my motives. I got told I was a sexist for not returning flirtations with a woman I didn’t find physically attractive. I was told I deserved to mocked for disagreeing. That I wouldn’t be missed if the earth swallowed me.

    And that’s just the cliff-notes version. Remember, this is for disagreeing the proposition that a list of “sexy scientists” is sexist in nature. I acknowledged that sexism was a problem, while pointing out that people were being inconsistent (for instance, they didn’t object to a list of “sexy atheist men” written by the same author, but the “sexy atheist women” list was bad because *gasp* it featured some porn stars and pictures of scantily clad women). Because I disagreed people began inferring all sorts of things about me. It wasn’t all about me, but people very quickly began assuming all manner of things about me, including that I was part of the problem. All the sudden, it became about me, at least partly.

    I just skimmed those links, and I found this to be worrying:

    No matter what definition of sexism” you’re starting with, “reverse sexism” is an invalid claim to make. If you go strictly by the dictionary definition, then a woman being prejudiced against a man is simply “sexism”, no “reverse” needed. If you go by the feminist definition, sexism is predicated on having institutional power over a group, and since women do not have that power, they cannot be sexists, reverse or otherwise.

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/06/03/faq-arent-feminists-just-sexists-towards-men/

    I hope that stands out as troublesome language. According to “the feminist” definition, women cannot be sexist. Of course, also according to that ludicrous definition, since I have no institutional power over a group, I cannot be sexist either. Unless I get thrown in with the group of men who do have that power by virtue of being man myself. And when I get treated as a representative of my gender, and not an individual, I am being treated in a sexist fashion.

  • DSimon

    Mrnaglfar: the feminist definition of “sexist” involves institutional power, but there’s still a word for a woman assuming things about you because you’re a man, and that word is “prejudice” or “bigotry”. The distinction between that and “sexism” is made to emphasize that, while it certainly sucks when people are prejudiced against you, it’s much worse when there’s major cultural force behind it.

    You say that you have no institutional power, but as a man in a society that in most arenas pays more attention to what men say than what women say, you actually do. This is related to the idea of cultural male privilege; I suggest you read up on that on one of the feminism 101 blogs linked above.

    Regarding your discussion about the sexy scientists list: so you say you got into a discussion with some feminists, and they acted like total jerks? Well, that’s quite plausible, and it sounds like it was no fun at all… but what’s the relevance to this discussion? How can we be in a position to defend statements made by people we don’t know, statements that we’re only hearing about second-hand? “Some feminists were unfair and rude to me, therefore feminism is unfair and rude” is a crappy argument for the same reason that “some atheists are really mean, therefore atheism is mean” is a crappy argument.

  • Alex

    Regarding your discussion about the sexy scientists list: so you say you got into a discussion with some feminists, and they acted like total jerks? Well, that’s quite plausible, and it sounds like it was no fun at all…

    The reason he got attacked is probably because this was his first comment in that thread:

    I object to this list of sexy scientists because several of those are at 6s at best. In fact, I’d only say I’m pretty sure that about four of them are “sexy”.

  • Mrnaglfar

    @78

    You say that you have no institutional power

    I personally do not. No.

    but as a man in a society that in most arenas pays more attention to what men say than what women say, you actually do

    This is where I’m going to point out I’m being lumped in with a group – according to my gender – and not being treated an individual. I do not have institutional power because other men do. If other people choose to listen to me because I’m a man, that’s not under my control.

    but what’s the relevance to this discussion?

    Regarding the first quote from the link I quoted. It can very quickly become about me, or you, or anyone, even if it’s not all about us.

    “Some feminists were unfair and rude to me, therefore feminism is unfair and rude” is a crappy argument

    Which is why is never tried to make that argument. I don’t think all feminists are unfair and rude. Why would you think I was making that point?

    @Alex,

    Odd, because no one ever really mentioned that comment in the thread, outside a brief dismissal of it twice. They thought I was being an ass; they’d be pretty correct. That aside, I didn’t know expressing an opinion about the physical attractiveness of someone is wrong, nor does it have any bearing at all on the issue as to whether the list was sexist. So where’s the relevance?

  • DSimon

    I personally do not have [institutional power]. No.

    I think we’re talking past each other. Please tell me what you mean by “institutional power” so I can figure out what you mean when you say you don’t have it. Then let’s just stop using that phrase and use the definition instead, so we can keep everything straight.

    I don’t think all feminists are unfair and rude. Why would you think I was making that point?

    What’s this “all feminists” business?

    I interpreted your original comment as making a general statement about feminism as a general philosophy. You brought up a particular example of feminists making a conversation “about you” just as a way of putting you on the defensive… but, if true, all that shows is that those feminists are jerks. It doesn’t have much to do with the advisability or inadvisability of you interpreting general claims about men in a feminist context as being about you specifically, which is what we were talking about before.

    They thought I was being an ass; they’d be pretty correct.

    Dude, um… if you’re going to deliberately be an ass, why would you expect anyone to treat you any better than an ass deserves?

  • Rollingforest

    DSimon – I agree that culture can affect people’s view of sexual beauty. The “fat is beautiful” meme of the Middle Ages was real. It was an example of men wanting to be trophy husbands for their rich wives.

    That being said, I think there really is a biologically ingrained sense of sexual beauty. If you take 100 pictures of randomly selected 18 year old women of the same race and ask 100 randomly selected 18 year old men of the same race to rank them by sexual beauty, there will be 10 women that find themselves on the majority of the “top ten” lists.

    One interesting study of this is one where scientists took 32 pictures of average looking people of the same gender and used a computer program to merge them together. The resulting image was more beautiful than the majority of the original images. Why is that? Because sexual selection works against evolutionary change. Organisms that seek to mate with another organism that possesses the prevailing physical attributes tends to be more successful because these attributes have survived thus far and are usually pretty good. Abnormal attributes (those that deviate from the genetic average, i.e. everyone who isn’t beautiful) are often less fit and thus are avoided in mating.

    Only when an abnormal attribute truly helps survival are the instincts in the brain rewired to favor them, thus making them the new paradigm of beauty. (by the way, while some racial characteristics, such as dark skin of Africans to avoid skin cancer from the more direct sun rays, are formed by natural selection, others, such as Asian-type eyes, are characteristics that became common by genetic accident, became lodged in their instinctual sexual selection and have been propagated ever since, not because they help survival but because they are average and thus are connected with characteristics that do help survival.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Averageness

    DSimon and D, yes I will admit that people can be subconsciously sexist. However, if you filter these people out and focus on those who are working to counteract any sexist attributes they might have, may they be conscious or unconscious, I think this morally makes up for any “male privilege” they may enjoy because they are working to end such special treatment.

    D, Normally I view Patriarchy as meaning [institutionalized privilege of males over females specifically created for this purpose] , but for this debate I am willing to include [institutionalized privilege of males over females unintentionally created].

    I think the “It’s not all about you!” idea is hypocritical, though. If a famous man were to say, after seeing a flirty girl, “Good God! Women are such sluts!”, you know that the feminist blogs would be in an uproar. But if a female celebrity on The View said “Good God! Men are so stupid!” and a man dared to complain, then the feminist blogs would angrily declare that “It’s not all about you!” That is the double standard I’m talking about.

    The pages that Miss Cherry Pi put forward actually have a lot of comments on them of people arguing my basic points. Here’s a quote from the comment page on the second of Miss Cherry Pi’s posts. In this example, “male” is replaced with “gay”

    “Damn gays are ruining America!”

    Damn gays: “Uh…fuck you?”

    “Why do you selfish gays always make this about you and your fee-fees?”

    I disagree with the claim that it isn’t the feminist’s job to aim their comments specifically at the correct people. If feminists want this issue to go away, the solution is easy. Every time they talk about males who are sexist, call them “sexist males.” With that one word addition, you have ended any chance that you will be accused of being a male-hating bigot because you can legitimately claim that you were only criticizing males who are sexist.

    D, I agree that people shouldn’t move the conversation away from the issue of discrimination just to defend their moral purity. (I hold to this too. For example, lower down I am going to talk about sexism in politics, not my moral purity). Still, they shouldn’t feel bad about mentioning their innocence as a side note and pointing out bias in the discussion so that the debate can be more productive by accurately portraying the situation.

    Some people say, “well, the oppressed group is frustrated and you can’t blame them if they sometimes respond too broadly out of that anger.” I can understand the frustration, but responding in this way will never help them win because they alienate groups that the need in order to win in this democracy.

    I’m not even saying that such statements should always be blasted. I’m just saying that if you do make such statements on a regular basis, you need to also regularly include a disclaimer because you can’t complain if people take you literally if you don’t indicate somewhere that you are not intending to be literal.

    Sarah Silverman is an example of a person that can make racist jokes and most everyone understands that she is mocking racism, not minorities. In one video (I can’t remember the name) she sings a lot of racist lines including some against Jews (“I love you like a bee loves honey… I love you like Jews love money…”) even though she is ethnically Jewish (and secular, by the way). At the end she sings about how black people call each other n****rs . The camera pans out and we see two black men glaring angrily at her. She begins to laugh nervously and then the black men start to laugh too, but then go back to angrily glaring at her. She then turns back to the camera and sings “cha cha cha!” to indicate that this is all part of the skit made to shock but is actually mocking discrimination.

    The one place that [institutionalized privilege of males over females unintentionally created] still exists is in politics. It is socially acceptable for males in politics to be stern and show anger. But when a woman does it she is accused of being bitchy. This is why Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin are so much less popular than their male peers of similar characteristics.

    Of course, sexism can work in their favor too. There are many people who think “Well she’s a woman so she will help women more than her male opponent will.” The falsehood of this should be obvious to those who see that Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin have opposite political beliefs and that just being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean they will help women if elected.

    Also, I shouldn’t feel afraid or ashamed to say that feminists have made a lot of progress in the last 50 years (The Secretary of State, the most important Cabinet position, is held by a female. And the Secretary of State she replaced was a black Republican female) so the Patriarchy [institutionalized privilege of males over females unintentionally or intentionally created] is much weaker than it used to be. That’s not to say that there isn’t still progress to be made, especially in regard to making sure working women aren’t penalized for having children, but there have been victories and the fact that I’m a white male does not guarantee me the best job positions any more.

    Mrnaglfar said that he was told “That I wouldn’t be missed if the earth swallowed me.” I think it is important to remember that people are more rude on the internet because they can hide behind the anonymity of their screen names. Sometimes emotion overrules logic.

    And I don’t see anything sexist about his first comment. That’s his opinion on their sexual attractiveness. So what? He isn’t saying we should value them less as human beings because of it.

  • DSimon

    Alex, thanks for the thread link. Reading it now… ergh, seems like it’s probably more likely his second comment, where he starts off accusing everyone who disagrees with him of having their head stuck up their ass, and then proceeds downhill from there.

  • DSimon

    That being said, I think there really is a biologically ingrained sense of sexual beauty. If you take 100 pictures of randomly selected 18 year old women of the same race and ask 100 randomly selected 18 year old men of the same race to rank them by sexual beauty, there will be 10 women that find themselves on the majority of the “top ten” lists.

    This experiment would not isolate biological causes from cultural causes, so I don’t know why you bring it up.

    If feminists want this issue to go away, the solution is easy. Every time they talk about males who are sexist, call them “sexist males.”

    Why should they feel required to do this if they’re talking with other feminists? In that situation there’s a clear context of “men do X” meaning “men (in general) do X”, not “all men without exception do X”. This is similar to the Sarah Silverman example you brought up.

    Context is part of communication; you can’t expect to remove a message from its context and keep its meaning unchanged.

    And the reason “Damn gays are ruining America!” is fucked up is not because there isn’t a qualifying adjective before “gays”, but because that statement is just plain incorrect, whether a subset of “gays” is implied or not, and because the context of a hypothetical straight person talking about gay people “ruining America” holds very different implications than that of a hypothetical gay person talking about straight people “ruining America”.

    And I don’t see anything sexist about his first comment. That’s his opinion on their sexual attractiveness. So what? He isn’t saying we should value them less as human beings because of it.

    His first comment exhibited the same problem that the “15 sexy scientists” list exhibited, which is as follows: whenever women are in the public eye, their appearance (whether judged to be good or bad) is highly scrutinzed and commented-upon, far more so than occurs with men, and in preference to discussing their actual achievements. To use another of your examples, look at how little discussion Clinton’s actual platform got compared to the video of her “crying” and discussion of her pantsuits.

    If a list like this is done in good fun (like i.e. the Skepchick calendar), then this isn’t a big deal; everyone deserves an opportunity to portray themselves as sexy if and how they want to. But when it’s done without the involvement or even the permission of the women involved, then it becomes about them being bodies first and people second, which supports a larger, highly prevalent, and backed-up-by-evidence cognitive bias which de-prioritizes the achievements of women.

  • DSimon

    (I’m going to be away from the Internet for several days, so the above is probably my last comment on this thread.)

  • Mrnaglfar

    @81

    Please tell me what you mean by “institutional power”

    I have no legal power over anyone, men or women. I have no position of power from which I can exert any real social influence – such as anyone in my employment or any power granted from any institution – over anyone, much less over women because I’m a man.

    What powers do you think I have?

    It doesn’t have much to do with the advisability or inadvisability of you interpreting general claims about men in a feminist context as being about you specifically, which is what we were talking about before.

    When the claim is that “X is sexist, and men engage in X”, and I happen to engage in X, then, yes, it is a claim about me specifically. It’s about other people too, but I’m included. When I disagree that X is sexist

    And what’s this “in a feminist context”? Is there some special context in which I am not allowed to comment, or is that supposed to mean that when feminists are talking to other feminists I can’t understand what they’re saying so I shouldn’t comment? If an atheist makes a comment that “Muslims are terrorists” (a claim about Muslims in general), and a Muslim interprets that “claim about Muslims in general” to be about him, would you say it would be inadvisable to call bullshit because Muslims were being talked about “in an atheistic context”?

    if you’re going to deliberately be an ass, why would you expect anyone to treat you any better than an ass deserves?

    Because comments like “they’re mostly 6s at best” are just statements of my opinion about their physical attractiveness and have no bearing on the wider argument about sexism, nor any argument other than how attractive I think they are?

  • Rollingforest

    (I messed up the quotation XHTML for the post directly before this. If it hasn’t been deleted by the time you see this, sorry about that)

    Quoting DSimon“(I’m going to be away from the Internet for several days, so the above is probably my last comment on this thread.)”

    Darn it! You are one of the most consistent posters that argues intelligently. Oh well…

    Quoting DSimon, “This experiment would not isolate biological causes from cultural causes”

    It would if you did it with people of the same race from different countries and different economic strata. The second experiment I mentioned has been proven to hold regardless of which culture they test it in.

    Quoting DSimon “Why should they feel required to do [say ‘sexist male’ instead of ‘male’] if they’re talking with other feminists? In that situation there’s a clear context of “men do X” meaning “men (in general) do X”, not “all men without exception do X”. This is similar to the Sarah Silverman example you brought up.”

    Because, first of all, often times Feminists aren’t talking to other Feminists when they do this but rather to the world at large. And even within their blog, it is too easy for passionate readers to subconsciously switch from “men in general do X” to “all men without exception do X”. A simple qualifier every now and then would help.

    Sarah Silverman is primarily trying to entertain. Any critique of society is secondary and people who are familiar with her know to take everything she says with a grain of salt. My point in my last blog is that people should NOT take her jokes too seriously. It isn’t a lecture or a study. Feminist (or other movement) blogs are, however.

    Quoting DSimon, “And the reason “Damn gays are ruining America!” is fucked up is not because there isn’t a qualifying adjective before “gays”, but because that statement is just plain incorrect”

    What if the person had been talking about the spread of AIDS? They would be correct that the sexual choices of gays contributed greatly to the lethal spread of AIDS (that’s not to say that gays were entirely responsible. The fact that society didn’t accept them provoked them into rebellious activity. But they do hold some responsibility for the result). A person would be wrong to say something that seemed to suggest that all gays have irresponsibly sex that spreads STDs, just as a feminist would be wrong to say something that seemed to suggest that all men hold women down.

    Quote DSimon “But [it is improper] when it’s done without the involvement or even the permission of the women involved, then it becomes about them being bodies first and people second”

    Okay, after some further thought, I think that I agree with you after all. It is rude to rate a person’s sex appeal in front of them. And since the internet is in front of everyone and this post mentions the women by name, that seems inappropriate. If the post was private or if the post showed the picture of a person without any personally identifiable information attached, I would be okay with it because I’m not sure it’s the poster’s responsibility to make sure that other people’s views aren’t sexist. However, by posting the names of the women, the poster is criticizing a person’s looks within ‘earshot’ of them, which I agree is nasty. So I was wrong before. Logic is more important than pride.

  • bbk

    @70, privilege is measurable (and a very useful insight to have come out of feminism), whereas Patriarchy is what is unfalsifiable. Privilege is just a premise used in the theory of [institutionalized privilege of males over females] and all of its implications for gender relations.

    @71, @73, & similar comments, I think that Rollingforest made some prudent remarks about this point of view.

    There are lots of equivocations being made in this thread. The “what if a black person” deal. There are black people out there who barely know any white people and the only ones who they might interact with (cops, business owners, politicians) may not be shinning examples. Also, these black people don’t get to go home at the end of the day and tell a white man to help them do the dishes. I would expect a different tone from a group for whom it’s reasonable to assume that they have met many good men and that it’s in their best interest to reach a compromise with the other group instead of seeking out a framework that puts them in direct opposition to that group. When men make broad generalizations about women, we call them bigots. When women do it, they’re only feminists.

    Back to what Rollingforest said about compromise being necessary in a democracy. Gloria Steinem went on the Colbert Report last month and gave us a shinning example of how a feminist can reach out to men.

    Steinem pointed out that “men are missing a lot by not being close to their own children.” She says, “There is a men’s movement in order to be able to be equal parents [emphasis mine]. We’re the only modern country in the world without parental leave.” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20008546-10391698.html

    When it comes to equal pay, maternity leave creates a financial liability that only women pose to employers. When it comes to children, fathers do not have the same access and rights as mothers. Steinem could have just complained about how women’s careers get hurt by childbirth and how men still don’t do their share of the housework. She is under no obligation to hear the “toolbag” complaints of privileged men.

    Contending that men are treated unfairly by social institutions is something that is very difficult for a simple-minded feminist purist. It undermines the theory of Patriarchy, doesn’t it? The world is full of feminists who argue that there’s nothing sexist about women who fight for women’s rights and don’t bother to consider how men are being treated. The impression that I get is overwhelming, that most feminists deride the men’s rights movement as a complete and utter joke, as a sexist distraction from their impeccable pursuits against Patriarchy. They equivocate men’s grievances to the blood of a victim on a man’s car after he runs her over.

  • bbk

    I left out an important point, above: it is sexist when, after not considering good men or the problems faced by men, a feminist concludes that men are just Patriarchs out to repress women. It’s like claiming that the ambulance was trying to kill you because it got a flat tire on the way to your house. You can’t expect people to meet you half way there but claim that the hurdles that are in their way don’t matter because in your opinion the hurdles that you face are more important.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    it is sexist when, after not considering good men or the problems faced by men, a feminist concludes that men are just Patriarchs out to repress women

    Nice strawman. Did they have a clearance sale or something?

    Seriously, I don’t know how to make this more clear. Discussion of the patriarchal system which benefits (some) men at the expense of women (and other men) is not talking about you. It’s also not about the problems that men face that are unrelated to patriarchal structures.

    It’s not about you. Stop making it about you.

  • bbk

    One more thing. About a decade ago a women’s studies professor and a number of my classmates told me, bizarrely, that when men are treated unfairly it is because of Patriarchy*. They claimed that, because of Patriarchy, men have every opportunity to right any wrongs against themselves. Because they haven’t, it only proves that men are the ones who have sexist views and that Patriarchy exists. That’s begging the question!

    I have heard this rationalization countless of times since from my friends, in books, and on the internet. Being that this is my experience, consider how I react to statements that feminists don’t have to show any deference to men because men are privileged. If you claim that a feminist can refer to males instead of sexists and that “within the context of feminism” there is not a tinge of bigotry, I raise an eyebrow. I have to ask myself this: if feminist theory is so foolproof, why do feminists insist on ignoring any evidence to the contrary?

    *This was a public speaking course taught by a feminist. Most of the semester was spent studying famous speeches by women and a few men speaking on behalf of minorities. We were asked to debate the merits of feminism.

  • MissCherryPi

    Contending that men are treated unfairly by social institutions is something that is very difficult for a simple-minded feminist purist. It undermines the theory of Patriarchy, doesn’t it?

    NO. If you really did know as much about feminism as you claim to you would know that “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too” is a frequent topic of discussion.

    One more thing. About a decade ago a women’s studies professor and a number of my classmates told me, bizarrely, that when men are treated unfairly it is because of Patriarchy*.

    Actually, you did come across this discussion and totally missed the point. Patriarchy establishes very narrow gender roles and there can be serious consequences for men who can’t or don’t want to fit them.

  • bbk

    NO. If you really did know as much about feminism as you claim to you would know that “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too” is a frequent topic of discussion.

    Is that the context in which you view the way NOW opposes laws that establish joint custody of children, or the way in which feminists and government institutions deny funding and equal access to domestic violence shelters for men? I hope you were thinking about more than just boys playing with dolls and gays in the military. Because gender role issues are the only ones that fit within Patriarchy as-is: they can easily be attributed to male sexists. But they’re not the only form of institutionalized sexism against men. Even then, there are alternative explanations, such as religious institutions that are supported by both men and women.

  • Rollingforest

    When I make political comments, I normally try to say “I agree with you on X, but I disagree with you on Y.”

    If both feminists and their critics talked like this, I think it would help make things clearer.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’d like to return to the quote I posted above real quick:

    No matter what definition of sexism” you’re starting with, “reverse sexism” is an invalid claim to make. If you go strictly by the dictionary definition, then a woman being prejudiced against a man is simply “sexism”, no “reverse” needed. If you go by the feminist definition, sexism is predicated on having institutional power over a group, and since women do not have that power, they cannot be sexists, reverse or otherwise.

    I can’t help but get the sense there’s a certain tinge of that about the “Patriarchy hurts men too” idea. In “the feminist” definition above, women can’t be sexist by definition. I feel that idea extends. When men are ‘privileged’ in some aspects of life, it’s because the Patriarchy hurts women by granting some kind of power, somehow, to men. When men aren’t ‘privileged’ in another aspect of life, well, that’s because the Patriarchy hurts men too.

    It kind of sounds like a Catch-22 to me. Whether people in society treat me better or worse or differently because of my sex and how well I behave as a typical member of it, it’s always the fault of this amorphous Patriarchy.

    The language here is also worrying:

    Also, it should be noted that, while men have what’s called male privilege that doesn’t mean that there must logically be a “female privilege” counterpart. This is because, although many strides towards equality have been made over the years, women as a class have not yet leveled the playing field, much less been put in a position of power and authority equivalent to that which grants institutional power to men as a class.

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/02/09/faq-female-privilege/

    Does that dichotomy bother anyone else? Women can either have as much or more privilege than men, or they have none at all. That kind of black-and-white, all-or-none language is not helpful. And of course, since we’re starting out with this all-or-none language, that must mean whatever ‘female privilege’ you think you’re seeing is just benevolent sexism used by the Patriarchy to prop itself up.

    I sense a good deal of circularity about these arguments, reducing them to tautologies. Women can’t be sexists because they’re defined as being unable to be sexists. Women don’t have privilege because they’re defined as being unable to have privilege.

    To top it all off, a lot of references are made to the “Patriarchy” which smack of the same arguments that used to be made about “culture” – as if these are some kind of super-organisms that transcend biology and are causes of themselves. All it’s missing is that people are blank slates subject to the will of these forces. Though I’m sure it’s not missing if you look for it.

    Maybe I’m just mistaken and not seeing something very important here, but I haven’t found anyone who’s helped clear up my perceptions on the matter. Just a lot of people who can get very defensive and offended (which is not to say all feminists are defensive and offended, just that the ones I seem to come across tend to react that way).

  • Rollingforest

    Unfortunately, BBK seems to be correct about the beliefs of some feminists. Some feminists (notice the modifier) have taken the position opposing joint custody, effectively saying that even parents that never abused anyone can be greatly limited in the access to their own children.

    They have also taken the position that while women should be allowed to decide whether to have an abortion or not, men should be required to pay child support even if he didn’t want to have the kid, which I think is somewhat sexist (of course, if the man gave up child support, I feel he should also give up visitation rights). Either both of them should have the choice of having children or none of them should. Giving it to one gender but not the other is wrong.

    http://www.now.org/nnt/summer-2006/viewpoint.html

    I think both of these positions are sad, especially given the fact that I agree with most of what is on NOW’s website and I wish I could support them without caveat.

  • MissCherryPi

    Does that dichotomy bother anyone else? Women can either have as much or more privilege than men, or they have none at all. That kind of black-and-white, all-or-none language is not helpful. And of course, since we’re starting out with this all-or-none language, that must mean whatever ‘female privilege’ you think you’re seeing is just benevolent sexism used by the Patriarchy to prop itself up.

    Well there are intersections of oppression and privilege, ie kyriarchy.

  • Alex Weaver

    It seems like people who favor a theocracy need to find someone who’s the enemy, so they can say that religion is needed for some purpose.

    And lust is perfect: it’s not a day-to-day survival need so the idea that one could live without it isn’t absurd on the surface, it CAN motivate people to do things that have unfortunate consequences, and yet it’s a basic biological drive so there’s no chance the enemy will ever be defeated and the war over.

  • Alex Weaver

    One more thing – the feminist movement has used the “harmful against women” argument when deriding just about anything that men enjoyed, including sports. It’s not just pornography. For years, feminists have claimed that the Super Bowl, World Cup, and any other competitive sporting event above the level of ping pong incites violence against women. They never actually had evidence for this, but they didn’t need evidence as this was nothing more than misandry. Just like anti-porn. Feminists have consistently ignored evidence that contradicts their positions. Evidence points to equal rates of violence coming from both sexes and strong evidence suggests that women are actually more violent than men. Evidence suggests that there’s actually a lower incidence of violence against women in countries where male sexuality is accepted and men feel free to express and enjoy themselves. But that hasn’t stopped feminists from claiming otherwise in their fight against porn, sports, rights of fathers, even going so far as to consistently deny battered men access to domestic violence shelters because it could undermine the feminist cause.

    I’m probably late to the party but…

    [CITATION FUCKING NEEDED]

  • Alex Weaver

    I’m not saying that you, or anyone, are guilty of this or that crime, or that you need to accept responsibility for things you didn’t cause.

    Personally, it looked to me as though you were expressing the need to be aware of the subtle effects of the environments we formed our opinions and attitudes in on the content of those attitudes, be willing to second-guess them on that basis, and not be reflexively defensive, in language that seemed almost to be calculated to be easily misinterpreted as a statement of blanket “guilt.”

  • Alex Weaver

    That aside, I didn’t know expressing an opinion about the physical attractiveness of someone is wrong, nor does it have any bearing at all on the issue as to whether the list was sexist. So where’s the relevance?

    There is none, and was none when you originally expressed it, which lends plausibility to the probably-mistaken assumption that you were trivializing the issue at hand.

    I interpreted your original comment as making a general statement about feminism as a general philosophy. You brought up a particular example of feminists making a conversation “about you” just as a way of putting you on the defensive… but, if true, all that shows is that those feminists are jerks. It doesn’t have much to do with the advisability or inadvisability of you interpreting general claims about men in a feminist context as being about you specifically, which is what we were talking about before.

    I assumed it was deployed as a counter-example to a perceived general statement that “feminists aren’t being jerks to you.”

    [Adam: feel free to collate these posts if you like x.x]

  • Alex Weaver

    …goddamnit. For some reason the “edit comment” and “request deletion” popups have suddenly ceased to produce selectable/interactable textboxes on my end. Anything change recently?

  • bbk

    Alex, most of it is commonly available via a cursory google search.

    http://womensrights.change.org/blog/view/domestic_violence_increases_during_world_cup
    http://www.snopes.com/crime/statistics/superbowl.asp
    http://marriage.about.com/od/domesticviolence/a/superbowl.htm

    The important thing to remember is that claims of domestic violence and sporting events aren’t just limited to one misconstrued study or one part of the world. They’re pretty common and you can find claims by women about most major sports. Ironically, in this past World Cup, a South African man was murdered by his wife and kids because they wanted to watch a religious program. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/id/5297052/ce/us/south-african-man-killed-wife-kids-changing-tv-germany-australia-game&cc=3888?ver=global

    Please feel free to fact check anything else that I have said and point out where I am wrong. After checking one of my statements, it occurred to me that the information I saw was about marital fidelity more-so than violence, was not a formal study, and it had as much to do with female sexuality as male.

    If you’re interested in how men are denied access to domestic violence shelters, feel free to look it up yourself. There’s an increasing number of lawsuits being filed in America and the rest of the world and feminist organizations are slowly losing ground on the issue.

  • bbk

    MissCherryPi, Kyriarchy is a very interesting concept. Please tell me if you don’t see a striking similarity between the Ptolemaic model as a response to shortcomings of the Geocentric model and Kyriarchy as a response to Patriarchy. To quote Mark Twain, “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.”

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    If only feminists talked about how traditional gender roles hurt men as well. I’d also recommend this piece on the difference between “sexual harassment” and “male lust”.

    When you toe the line, cross the line, or ask where the line is, you become That Guy. And That Guy is not just the enemy of women (especially when they waste your time making you feel guilty because you don’t want to be imposed upon or subject to line-toeing behavior), but the enemy of men who can handle themselves in absolutely non-coercive ways. Because everyone but That Guy benefits from women feeling safe and free to dress how they wish, to flirt, and to go about in public without fear of being creeped at. Women benefit, but so do men who can handle themselves. The notion that feminists are on a hunt against male lust is ridiculous. Mature men’s sexuality is better served by a world where women feel safe, because that’s a world where women can be playful, sexy, and fun instead of constantly checking themselves to make sure they aren’t “inviting” harassment and negative attention disguised as flirting.

    Stop being That Guy.

  • Steve Bowen

    If only feminists talked about how traditional gender roles hurt men as well.

    Apparently some of them do

  • Alex Weaver

    Alex, most of it is commonly available via a cursory google search.

    As are counter-examples to every point you’ve tried to make. Make up your mind, would you?

    Also, several of the claims in the paragraph I quoted are still missing citations, especially the one about women being more violent on average.

    MissCherryPi, Kyriarchy is a very interesting concept. Please tell me if you don’t see a striking similarity between the Ptolemaic model as a response to shortcomings of the Geocentric model and Kyriarchy as a response to Patriarchy. To quote Mark Twain, “For every problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.”

    Adam, in your research for your “Ghost in the Machine” did you come across any reference to a part of the brain that’s necessary to be present and functioning in order to make it physically possible for a person to learn from experience?

  • Mrnaglfar

    @106

    Remember when I mentioned how a lot of these discussions smack of the blank slate ideas? Greta ends her article in much the same vein:

    Yes, they say, society wants men to be one way and women to be another. Who cares what society wants? For some people, it takes years of introspection and therapy and processing to unload this junk. Some people never unlearn it, in fact; some people let their whole lives be run by it. And other people seem to unload it just by deciding to do it.

    It’s the pervasive idea that these “gender roles” are somethings that are learned, not that they are the results of any internal psychology. They are the product of society, not psychology. While I’m not going to say one’s social world doesn’t matter (because it does, though not in ways a lot of people think), that social world is the product of these psychologies, not the cause of them.
    What Greta appears to be talking about is that these gender roles appear contradictory in some cases (men are expected to be sexually promiscuous and raise a family, men are expected to be prepared to do violence, though they are expected to not). It’s true. These roles are contradictory when taken at face value. However, they need not be “incorrect”, nor are they uniform expectations. That is to say, these gender roles were likely not arbitrarily created, but rather came to be through identification of traits than men and women tend to display. It’s not to say they’re all accurate either, just that they’re not all wrong and not all arbitrary. Further, different people will expect different things of other people in different contexts, and may not wrap their heads around the motives of the others. The more prudish among us may never understand the more promiscuous, and indeed, the prudish may have different expectations of the promiscuous than the promiscuous have of themselves. In either case, members of either group can find themselves becoming more like members of the other in a given context because our psychologies were not designed to respond the same way no matter the circumstances.

    It bears repeating that ‘cultures’ are not distinct things for the same reason it often bears repeating that correlation is not causation; people seem to forget it from time to time. They are statistical realities with borders that are fuzzily defined. They’re averages of individual psychologies. It’s also worth saying that just because something is a generally expected gender role (men tend to be more willing to have sex with strangers, women are less likely to physically fight, etc) that does not make it incorrect, either factually or morally.

    The problem, as I see it, exists when people start getting treated as representatives of their group rather than as individuals, especially irrespective of the evidence about that individual. I would only add that we all treat others as representatives of their social group – irrespective of what group that is – just out of necessity. There is simply not enough time in our lives to get to know each person as an individual, and by using those stereotypes you’re at least going to have some useful information rather than none (provided, of course, there is some truth to those stereotypes, which is not all that uncommon).

  • bbk

    Alex, I’m not being rude towards you, am I? I don’t appreciate your tone. Feel free to say any of my opinions are dumb, but don’t attack me personally.

    If you’re talking about the first link I provided, it’s there as the case in point. It shows just how serious this is. When you air public service announcements depicting drunkard males beating their wives after a soccer game, that’s pretty damn sexist. I’d still call it sexist even if the evidence for it was legitimate. The other links go over the history of this violence myth and how it has been debunked. I don’t need to make up my mind; I think that on the sum things speak for themselves and you’re free to make up your own mind any way you wish.

    If you’re interested in the rates of domestic violence, a decent place to start is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemiology_of_domestic_violence It doesn’t paint a rosy picture for anyone, men or women. But it’s a far cry from the “women’s issue” that our society has accepted it as.

    It really gets complicated when you start taking reciprocity into account.
    http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/42/15/31.2.full?eaf and
    http://spr.sagepub.com/content/3/4/457

    Not only is there evidence that reciprocal violence is how most DV injuries occur, but it’s reasonable to suspect that women may oftentimes be the instigators of violence that escalates to an injury. So if you ask me, the one way that we won’t solve domestic violence is by framing it as an issue of violent men and their female victims. Not only is it sexist, but it’s not helpful.

  • Rollingforest

    Quoting Alex Weaver in post 107 “[There] are counter-examples to every point you’ve tried to make [on the internet]. Make up your mind, would you?”

    So, isn’t the solution to this that we should check the sources of these examples and counter examples to see which ones are valid? Saying “well there are other opinions out there” doesn’t help unless we have some objective way of deciding which opinion is correct.

  • bbk

    Mrnaglfar, I think you’re edging ever so close to the naturalistic fallacy, but I would go one step further and not even have to worry about that. What I would do is compare a list of “men’s issues” according to a feminist with a list of men’s issues according to someone else. What you’ll notice is that the latter is not limited to gender role stereotypes, just as feminists don’t limit women’s issues to gender role stereotypes.

    But let’s just say we only talk about gender roles, anyway. Even then, there is still a huge gap in understanding. It comes from the way the question is posed. If the question is, “What are the expectations that you feel you have to live up to, as a man?” the responses will be very different than if the question had been “What are some of the ways in which others view you because you are a man?” A man never feels like he has to “live up to” giving up the opportunity to be the primary caretaker of his children because those gender roles are completely external to how men define themselves. So when Greta lists 5 stupid gender roles that men expect from themselves, it ends up being a really trivial list and it really misses the mark on just how “stupid” male gender roles get.

    But there’s another difference in the utility of these two lists. If you limit the set of men’s issues to just the way in which men view themselves, then it fits just fine within a framework of Patriarchy. It’s not hard to conceive how sexist male attitudes create these self expectations as a sort of backwash of male oppression. In other words, it avoids cognitive dissonance by cherry picking the facts.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    bbk, let me try this approach.

    Complaining about how feminists don’t give enough attention to problems men experience unrelated to gender roles or sexism is like complaining about how environmentalists don’t give enough attention to problems workers face unrelated to environmental hazards. Sure, they probably care about it, but in terms of the goals of their activism it’s not going to be a primary target.

  • bbk

    themann1086, you already used that form of strawman and it’s quite frustrating to see you bring it out again. First of all, I was specifically talking about sexism that men experience. So there goes your entire argument. Second of all, I was talking about how those things that feminists don’t talk about will often contradict or at minimum severely muddy the waters for all the other things that they do talk about. So it’s not at all the way you’re trying to frame it. You want analogies? It’s more like how Creationists complain that carbon dating is just a distraction from the primary target of their activism which is to prove that the BIble was written by a god.

  • Mrnaglfar

    @111

    Mrnaglfar, I think you’re edging ever so close to the naturalistic fallacy, but I would go one step further and not even have to worry about that.

    I’m very aware of the naturalistic fallacy, believe you me. I’m just not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say our decisions need to be made uninformed by objective reality, as some people apparently are.

    People like to try and pull that “oh, there’s a biological basis for the behavior? Then I guess we shouldn’t try to change it amiright?” bullshit, almost verbatim, all the time, especially when it comes to issues of gender.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    bbk,

    Quite frankly, that’s a stupid analogy. Women are disadvantaged in Western society. This does not mean that men are not sometimes in a disadvantageous situation, or that women play no role in reinforcing gender roles; the word “patriarchy” is perhaps poorly chosen, since women can obtain positions of some power. That power is usually over other women or lesser men, but men are always at the top. Maybe not you, personally, but some men.

    Let’s look at an example here: society’s view of rape victims. If the victim is a woman, as is more common, what’s the response? “What was her sexual history? Did she sleep around? She had it coming… She was wearing what? And drinking? She was asking for it! It was an ex? Clearly she’s lying to get back at him! It was consensual, she just regrets it!” etc. What if it were a man who was the victim? “Yeah whatever, men can’t get raped”. Here, sexism and sexist expectations hurt men and women. Who benefits from this? Not “men”, obviously, but it is a set of people largely populated by men: rapists. Some women will benefit, in that they might not have the law come after them too hard, but rapist men are the biggest winners here.

    I do want to revise my analogy a bit. Let’s take civil rights groups like the NAACP. Their primary focus is on racial equality and they spend most of their energy on that, but what about other civil rights? What about gay equality? Doesn’t the NAACP care about gay people? Well, yeah, they do. They have helped out in recent years on gay issues, in fact. But it’s not their primary focus. Feminism is about equality of the sexes, and most of the inequality “favors”* men, so their primary focus is on making women equal to men. But, and this is important, most feminists are aware that sexism hurts men, too, and sometimes “favors”* women. And they help out on those issues, too. But, again, not their primary focus.

    *”Favor”, as seen in the rape example, doesn’t mean “benefits men and hurts women, or vice versa”, but “hurts men less than women, or vice versa”. Sometimes it does benefit, but frequently not.

  • Rollingforest

    themann1086, one solution to that is to create Masculinist groups that work with Feminists instead of against them. That way all issues can be addressed while we work toward a future we agree on.

  • Rollingforest

    For example, many feminist believe that the draft should not be only for men, but since they are also anti-war, they never want to bring the topic up. Masculinists could.

  • bbk

    themann1086, you are completely avoiding the point, but even more importantly, your clichéd depiction of rape is tired, old, and sexist. Society is just as hard if not harder on men as it is on women when it comes to rape claims. For every woman who feels like she hasn’t been taken seriously, there is an innocent man attempting suicide after his entire life was been ruined by people who believe that a woman never lies. I’d say it’s reasonable to believe that the majority of rape claims are fabricated and the studies that have been done thus far seem to concur. This is yet another area where sexist attitudes about men are embodied within feminism and within our culture.

    More on your (false) analogy. If the NAACP started making claims that were simply untrue (which they haven’t) and someone wanted to point that out, the NAACP would respond graciously and ensure that their position was clear, fair, and that no reasonable person could misconstrue their work as possibly “reverse-racist”. The NAACP has been dealing with right-wing racists since it’s inception and it has never taken comments about its work indifferently. When some Republican on Fox News tries to say that the NAACP is racist against white people, you’ll never live to see the day when the president of the NAACP responds by saying “Well, it’s not like we work for Whites, so leave us alone!”

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I’d say it’s reasonable to believe that the majority of rape claims are fabricated and the studies that have been done thus far seem to concur.

    Perhaps you’d be so kind as to link to those studies?

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Thump,

    bbk earlier said that women having the right to an abortion while men have to pay child support* is sexist against men. I let it slide, but coupled with what you quoted, it’s clear that the MRAs have gotten to him. Probably not worth responding to at this point.

    *Child support payments are determined by who the primary wage earner is and what financial situation the child would be in without him or her. The fact that women make $0.76 on the dollar to men, and do more unpaid labor as well? Probably the feminists’ fault.

  • bbk

    Look up Eugene J Kanin. Wikipedia should do. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics The executive summary is that he used to be the darling of feminists in the 60′s when he published studies on male sexual aggression, but he must have fallen favor in the 90′s when he studied public records and found that about 45% of rapes reported to the police were recanted by the accuser. He also assessed the reports to determine why the women lied about being raped and found that attention-seeking and revenge were the major reasons. I have yet to hear of a study that contradicts his.

    The key point is, this was a very conservative survey that only considered women who themselves recanted their own report. Kanin did not include women who have been found falsifying their reports by either the police or by the courts. In Kanin’s study, a case like this would have been above and beyond the 45% figure: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1294947/Leyla-Ibrahim-jailed-crying-rape-despite-7-months-pregnant.html

  • bbk

    themann1086, I said no such thing (in this thread). The issue is much more complex than you make it out to be and you don’t really know what my views on it are. First of all, even if it’s sexist, nothing will be fixed if we just abandon child support and do nothing else to ensure child welfare and good parenting. And we don’t have to abandon it to make it less sexist. Here’s some sexist aspects of child support: fathers are routinely sent to jail after they loose their jobs and miss support payments, but women are rarely punished if they fail to abide by court orders regarding visitation. In the rare cases where women have to pay child support, they are more often delinquent than men but less likely to be held accountable. Women are given custody by default – even if there is no evidence that the father would be an unfit parent, joint custody is rare. Men are basically stiffed with the bill but denied the right to be an equal parent.

    Then there is the disparity in the way presumption of fatherhood works. A man has to prove that he is not a father within a limited window of opportunity or be permanently bound to supporting the child, but a woman has much longer to identify a father and claim child support. Conversely, a man has to claim the child within a limited window of opportunity or else he may permanently loose any visitation rights. A woman can claim a man as a father and if he simply doesn’t get the summons in the mail, he will be set up with child support by default. But a woman can deprive a father of his rights to be a parent simply by failing to notify him of the child or by moving away and he can rarely do anything about it. But she is given a nearly unlimited right to collect payments – no matter where she lives, whether or not she remarries, whether or not she abides by court orders herself, whether or not he loses his job, whether or not the father is even the real father. More often than not “deadbeat” dads live below the poverty line themselves, but as a society we are entirely insensitive to their ordeals and we expect them to come up with money as if by magic. But we don’t degrade women if they can’t “get a real job” and take themselves and their kid out of poverty.

    This is institutionalized sexism against men, period. You can’t spin any of this by saying “it’s in the best interest of the child” or “it takes two to make a baby” or any of the other of the common refrains. This is long before you even begin to look at it as a reproductive rights issue, the way RollingForest has.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    From your wiki link:

    According to the 1999 United States National Crime Victimization Survey, only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials.

    This would indicate that the percentages on false rape are a bit smaller than you’ve stated.

    … and:

    Figures on false reporting used by journalists have ranged from 2% to 50% depending on their sources:

    “… one explanation for such a wide range in the statistics might simply be that they come from different studies of different populations… But there’s also a strong political tilt to the debate. A low number would undercut a belief about rape as being as old as the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife: that some women, out of shame or vengeance … claim that their consensual encounters or rebuffed advances were rapes. If the number is high, on the other hand, advocates for women who have been raped worry it may also taint the credibility of the genuine victims of sexual assault.”

    In her work, “The Legacy of the Prompt Complaint Requirement, Corroboration Requirement, and Cautionary Instructions on Campus Sexual Assault”, Michelle J. Anderson of the Villanova University School of Law states: “As a scientific matter, the frequency of false rape complaints to police or other legal authorities remains unknown.” The FBI’s 1996 Uniform Crime Report states that 8% of reports of forcible rape were determined to be unfounded upon investigation

    Forgive me for quoting at length the rebuttal which you elided in citing Eugene Kanin:

    Criticism of Dr. Kanin’s report include Dr. David Lisak, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Men’s Sexual Trauma Research Project at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In the September/October 2007 issue of the Sexual Assault Report he states “Kanin’s 1994 article on false allegations is a provocative opinion piece, but it is not a scientific study of the issue of false reporting of rape. It certainly should never be used to assert a scientific foundation for the frequency of false allegations.” He further states “[ Dr. Kanin] simply reiterates the opinions of the police officers who concluded that the cases in question were ‘false allegations.’” Lasik cites page 13 of Investigating Sexual Assaults from the iNternational Association of Chiefs of Police which says polygraph tests for sexual assault victims are contradicted in the investigation process and that their use is “based on the misperception that a significant percentage of sexual assault reports are false,”. Lasik goes on that “It is noteworthy that the police department from which Kanin derived his data used or threatened to use the polygraph in every case… The fact that it was the standard procedure of this department provides a window on the biases of the officers who conducted the rape investigations, biases that were then echoed in Kanin’s unchallenged reporting of their findings.” [Emphasis added]

    109 cases in one small town, with the veracity determined by the investigating officer’s opinion … Those are thin reeds indeed.

    I’m sure false reporting happens. 45%? Where are the false crime-report prosecutions? When I googled for these stats, I got brainfreeze looking fruitlessly for them; but one thing I did note is the prominence of the same three or four tropes (Kanin being one of them). If this is such a widespread problem (45%!) why the paucity of data?

    I don’t know enough to make a call on the matter, but I think you’ve overstepped your evidence in this instance, bbk.

    Thanks for your reply.

  • Rollingforest

    @themann1086 – For the record, yes it was me who commented on abortion and child support (#96), not bbk. To respond to your post, I am fully supportive of taking unpaid labor into account when deciding child support. It also seems likely to me that the pay gap that women experience can be attributed to taking off of work to take care of the kids, thus missing promotions and creating a hole in her resume. This can be solved by decreasing the stigma attached to men who decide to stay home to care for the kids.

    Also for the record, yes I do care about the wellbeing of the children in the relationship and I continue to seek to make sure the system is fair to them. But can anyone deny that once the pregnancy happens only the woman has any say over whether the child will be born (through abortion)? It seems to me that there is a fundamental difference in life choices between the genders here and I think it should be fixed if possible.

  • Rollingforest

    Oh, and it should also be noted that if a father was to give up visitation rights and child support responsiblities, it should be required to be during the period of time that the woman could have an abortion and not afterwards (unless he isn’t notified and then the time period would be extended). Also, I believe that if both mother and father decide to end the pregnancy, the man should help pay for the abortion. If both decide to have the baby, the man should help pay for the pregnancy. If the man wants to have the baby but the woman doesn’t, the man should still help pay for the abortion. Only when the woman wanted to have the child and the man didn’t would the woman be required to pay for the pregnancy alone. This would be the man’s veto the same way abortion is the woman’s veto. The woman would be free to have the child if she wanted but since she had the right to an abortion if she wanted, the man should have a right to cut himself off during the pregnancy if he wanted.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I can’t say I know much about false reports of rape. I’ve read a lot of work on rape in general, but not about that in particular. I would be interested to see some good data on the subject from peer-reviewed journals. Problem is, I’m not sure what would count as “good data”, since every benchmark I can think of has some problems; alas, science is a harsh mistress.

    Some observations:

    The FBI’s 1996 Uniform Crime Report states that 8% of reports of forcible rape were determined to be unfounded upon investigation

    Forcible rape is not a majority of all rape cases. It’s also probably more difficult for such cases to be fabricated for obvious reasons. False reports may well vary as a function of the type of rape reported.

    The key point is, this was a very conservative survey that only considered women who themselves recanted their own report

    Recanted does not equal “lied about” for the same reasons that reported does not equal “actually happened”.

    According to the 1999 United States National Crime Victimization Survey, only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement officials.

    This would indicate that the percentages on false rape are a bit smaller than you’ve stated.

    Since we’re dealing strictly with “reported rapes” (irrespective of their truth value), it would not.

  • bbk

    Trump, I thought you might bring that up. Look again at how the study was conducted and tell me if Lisak’s criticism makes sense even remotely.

    “the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false.” The falseness of the allegations was not decided by the police, Dr. Kanin, nor upon physical or testimonial evidence.

    IMO Lisak was spreading misinformation; making false allegations and then further speculating based on a misrepresentation of the study.

    Furthermore, the community was chosen because they had consistent records and a standardized approach to handling rape cases, which makes the data consistent and easy to asses. It wasn’t identified as a “small town”, but a small jurisdiction in an urban community. As per the sample size, if you know nothing more of the population and the distribution that you expect, 109 will still give you a better than 10% margin of error on a 90% confidence interval, which is more than good enough when you’re getting 45% liars after you expected 0.

    You haven’t heard too many statistics because there haven’t been many similar studies. But that also means that no studies have contradicted this one. Compare that to the claim that 1 in 6 women get raped. They’re usually based on self selected groups from non-representative samples and there is no mechanism for detecting false claims. Kanin had much better methodology than the statistics that usually do get passed around.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    The problem with arguing with MRAs and other nasty misogynists is the same as arguing with creationists; they’ll cheerfully make up the most idiotic claims and count on their audience to not know how to disprove them.

    First of all, Kanin hasn’t identified which community his study took place in, so no one can check his results, nor determine whether this one community is representative of society in general. Second, and much more importantly, there’s this:

    In his published journal article, Kanin (1994) admitted that “A possible objection to these recantations concerns their validity….rather than proceed with the real charge of rape, the argument goes, these women withdrew their accusations to avoid the trauma of police investigation.”

    And indeed, the Kanin study has been criticized for the department’s use of polygraph testing in every case, a process that has been rejected by many police departments because of its intimidating impact on victims.

    The department in Kanin’s study at that time required all women reporting rape to submit to a polygraph test. As skeptics should know, the polygraph is completely unreliable in detecting lies, with about the same accuracy as a coin flip. But if you don’t know this, and if you go to the police to report a crime and then fail a lie-detector test, what are you going to do? Press on with the case anyway, when even the police department you reported it to didn’t believe you? Of course not; obviously, most people in that situation will withdraw their claim. And this is especially likely of rape, a crime whose victims still experience severe social stigma and are often under intense pressure to recant. Note that this claimed 46% false-accusation rate looks pretty similar to the 50% recantation rate you’d expect from random chance, if women failing a polygraph test voluntarily withdrew their claims.

    In Kanin’s study, a case like this would have been above and beyond the 45% figure: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1294947/Leyla-Ibrahim-jailed-crying-rape-despite-7-months-pregnant.html

    bbk clearly didn’t read that article beyond the headline, since the last paragraph quotes the prosecutor in that case as saying that women who fabricate such claims are “very rare”. bbk basically has the same position as the Bible authors who decreed that a woman who’s raped and fails to cry out should be stoned to death because she obviously brought it on herself.

  • bbk

    bbk clearly didn’t read that article beyond the headline, since the last paragraph quotes the prosecutor in that case as saying that women who fabricate such claims are “very rare”. bbk basically has the same position as the Bible authors who decreed that a woman who’s raped and fails to cry out should be stoned to death because she obviously brought it on herself.

    First half of your comment is understandable, since that’s what the article says. But let’s look at the article a little more. The substance of the article is that 4 young men’s lives had been ruined – some had to move away from their homes and one of them even attempted suicide. But then read the headline. The important part here, to the author and his editors, is that she got sent to jail despite being pregnant. It should clue you in that you might find at least some tinge of sexism here, and it should be no surprise that the author would try to tiptoe around the facts he’s reporting by making sure to point out that all this is very rare, lest anyone accuse him of saying that other women could also make such false accusations. Does the author have some sort of expertise on rape and we should take him at his word, or is he reporting on what someone else said, in which case, who might that be? Can we decide for ourselves? No.

    The second half, I just don’t know where you came up with that.

  • bbk

    The department in Kanin’s study at that time required all women reporting rape to submit to a polygraph test. As skeptics should know, the polygraph is completely unreliable in detecting lies, with about the same accuracy as a coin flip.

    This is true, and it’s a tricky consideration, but it’s not the end of the world for the study. The important part is that the study was not based on polygraph results. So the non-reliability of polygraph tests is completely irrelevant here. Also, be careful not to overstate how the polygraph was used. Kanin only says that the police made a “serious offer” to polygraph both the accused and the accuser and in so doing he’s only pointing out that they had a consistent standard procedure, which means that the data they collected is at least consistent. I’m not going to speculate on why Kanin wouldn’t identify the town, even though I could. I wish he had, but I don’t know why he didn’t.

    There’s one feature of the study that makes it worthwhile. Kanin established the motive for each of the false allegations and classified them. When a woman says that she got into a bar fight was afraid she’d lose custody of my kids, it gives you a whole lot more to go on than mere speculation about why these women lied and then recanted.

  • Mrnaglfar

    The department in Kanin’s study at that time required all women reporting rape to submit to a polygraph test. As skeptics should know, the polygraph is completely unreliable in detecting lies, with about the same accuracy as a coin flip.

    That is one possibility that could account for some of the recantations, certainly. However, I feel that’s far from the whole story. It’s likely that these machines don’t actually need to be accurate; what matters is that people think they’re accurate.

    Fisher and Alexander surveyed over 200 unmarried, heterosexual college students aged 18 to 25.

    One group filled in questionnaires having been told the researcher might view their responses. A second group filled in the survey completely anonymously, alone in a room.

    A third group had electrodes placed on their hand, forearms and neck and were told they were being attached to a polygraph or lie detector machine – although there was in fact no working machine.

    Women who thought their responses might be read said they had had an average of 2.6 sexual partners, compared with 3.4 partners for those who thought their answers were anonymous. But those who thought they would be caught out by the polygraph reported an average of 4.4 partners.

    In contrast, men’s answers did not vary significantly. Those attached to the lie-detector reported an average of 4.0 partners compared with 3.7 for men who thought their answers would be read.

    Source:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3936-fake-liedetector-reveals-womens-sex-lies.html

    While that paper says nothing about rape specifically, it does show that lie-detectors need not “work” in order to work.

  • bbk

    I do not consider myself an MRA activist for same reason why I do not consider myself a feminist – there is no official position and no real effort to discourage extreme views. I think both movements represent mob rule and neither is above reproach. But Ebon, your blanket statement struck me as unfounded – there are indeed good MRA organizations just as there are good feminist organizations. Ebon, you and a few others seem to be conflating the idea that anyone who questions claims made by feminists is someone who hates women or believes that all feminists hate all men. In reality, I don’t even go so far as to say that espousing a sexist view makes a feminist a bad person who necessarily hates men. I only say that the idea is anti-male.

    You look at right-wing Christians who latch themselves onto the MRA movement as a means to regress women’s rights and you say that all MRA activists are misogynists because of the extremists. But you won’t have it for a second that there could be similar feminists. Years ago I would have told you that Christian feminists espouse contradictory ideas and undermine their own cause and today I could say the same exact thing about MRA’s. I could also point out the value judgement that you are making here – it seems to me that you feel that women who wish to earn higher wages have just cause that is more important than the cause of men who have their children taken away from them by society. It seems unthinkable to you that the feminist anti-porn movement and the Christian anti-porn movement are pretty similar and that both are accompanied with anti-male views. I actually wouldn’t be even surprised if it turns out that many women have belonged to both groups – fighting against porn from both feminist and religious perspectives. Why can’t I express those views without first having to fight tooth and nail just to get the idea across that a feminist could be wrong.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    @bbk, 127: Your unspoken assumption is that the recantations are honest, and the original crime reports aren’t. On what basis do you make that assumption?

    Also, how do you know what “jurisdiction” or “city” it is? I searched in vain for it. Any “study” which doesn’t disclose such crucial variables is inherently unreliable; such data would vary widely between, say, Alvin, TX, and Brooklyn, NY. Not revealing this basic datum is akin to muddying the waters, whether intentionally or no.

    Also, Ebon has succinctly pointed out the surest objection to the idea of “consistent” processing by law enforcement: the intimidatory value of a polygraph requirement.

    Additionally, I’m not sure why you expect that I assume there are zero false reports, after I’ve made plain my acceptance that there ought to invariably be some false reports.

    Finally, comparing undemonstrated false report rates to incorrect rape rates cited by women’s groups is silly. Their inaccuracy doesn’t justify virtually baseless claims by MRAs. The paucity of evidence supporting your case, again, leads me to think that you’re overstepping your evidence.

  • Rollingforest

    One problem is that many rape cases involve date rape. If polygraph lie detectors are unreliable, as Ebon suggests, then what physical evidence could you possibly use to differentiate consensual sex from rape? In many cases, there is none and the court descends into “he said/she said” hearsay. It seems likely to me that in these cases a lot of guilty men go free and a lot of innocent men get put in jail.

    I won’t put words in Ebonmuse’s mouth or declare what his beliefs are. Not to consider Ebonmuse at all, but simply the population in general, I would say that anyone who says “All Feminists must hate men” or “All Men’s Rights activists must hate women” may have some sexist views themselves. Again, that’s not to say that this is what Ebonmuse believes, but rather just to say that the principle in general is true.

  • Mrnaglfar

    There has to be a name for the Godwin-like effect that seems to occur during debates on gender issues. The longer any debate goes on, the greater the possibility someone is going to mention rape, no matter what the initial subject was.

  • Jim Baerg

    Any ideas for something more pronouncable than “Mrnaglfar’s law”?

  • bbk

    For what it’s worth, I found the full paper published by Kanin.

    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/jbs/maysession/KaninFalseRapeAllegations.pdf

    Of note, Kanin also looked at 2 universities where no polygraph was used and rape complaints were handled by female officers, but the percentage of false rape reports was even higher. Also of note, parts of Kanin’s paper were quoted out of context in this thread – Kanin listed false recantations as a possible objection to his findings and in the next paragraph explained why that criticism was wrong.

    Mrnaglfar, what I’m really interested in finding out is why.

  • Edwin North

    One great thing about this sexual repression and guilt caused by archaic religious views is: Being naughty feels good. That feeling you are breaking some vile, albeit inane taboo is just as fun as guilt free sex. And the catholics did give us those great school girl uniforms.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Interesting. Deeper in the paper, Kanin writes:

    Certainly, our intent is not to suggest that the 41% incidence found here be extrapolated to other populations, particularly in light of our ignorance regarding the structural variables that might be influencing such behavior and which could be responsible for wide variations among cities.

  • bbk

    Thump – I know. Kanin talks about the difficulty of find consistent data. But IMO his study is the best we have.

    I think there is enough circumstantial evidence to say that false allegations are very frequent. Also keep in mind that Kanin only looked at recantations – there is a host of other possibilities. Look at the low arrest rate and the number exonerations of falsely convicted men. The thing that really starts to look dubious are some feminist claims. Claims that most rapes go unreported or that 1 in 6 women get raped are all based on anonymous surveys and self selected samples. If you diffuse the rape issue, feminists don’t have a leg to stand on when they claim that the criminal justice system is Patriarchal or in any way detrimental to women more-so than men.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Claims that most rapes go unreported or that 1 in 6 women get raped are all based on anonymous surveys and self selected samples.

    A random dialing of 8000 women referenced by Gottschall and Gottschall (2003) reported about 1 in 8 experiencing rape at least once in their life.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    bbk, I would feel uncomfortable making the generalizations you made above based on such a small sample.

    All the same, thanks for taking the time to dig up the study and such; and the civil discussion is appreciated.

  • bbk

    Thump – yes likewise.

    Mrnaglfar – I realize that just about anything looks legit compared to a media call-in poll, but RDD is about as susceptible to self selection as scientific polling gets. Plus it is anonymous (your comment #131 speaks to that) and it’s based on self reporting. On top of that, if the question is very sensitive then it carries the risk of false positive and false negative responses, so things like demographic profiles for rape might also be suspect.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Plus it is anonymous (your comment #131 speaks to that) and it’s based on self reporting.

    The self-reporting thing is hurdle you really can’t around. But I see no reasons to suspect women would outright lie on such a survey. While the population that is willing to take such a survey may differ systematically from the section that did not respond, I see no reason to suspect that rape would differ all that much. Admittedly, I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure how one could really (legally and ethically) get around such hurdles.

  • Rollingforest

    Another issue is that when there is a false accusation of rape (not one in which we just don’t have enough evidence to convict, but one where there is evidence that the woman lied) the woman rarely is punished for her deception. The case mentioned in post 121 is an exception that proves rule. Here we have a woman who is willing to destroy the man’s life by putting him in jail, putting him on the sex offender list, and having the community turn against him.

    One potential solution? If it can be proven that the woman lied, maybe she should be given the same punishment that the man would have been given had he been incorrectly found guilty.

  • bbk

    Mrnaglfar – Kanin gets around self reporting by looking at rape reports that have been fully documented. We can have a reasonable expectation that the police established motive for the report and did some minimal work to corroborate the woman’s story whether she recanted or not. The only reason we have for trusting an RDD poll over police statistics is if we are assuming that uncorroborated self reports are more accurate than police work. While that makes sense to a feminist who has a preconceived notion of authority as Patriarchal and anti-female, the rest of us want to see proof before we accept that assumption because we don’t want to be guilty of cherry picking.

    Self reporting is especially problematic for rape because a positive response will get more sympathy than a negative one. People will believe that useless things such as massage, yoga or acupuncture work because of the affective claims over the effective claims. Affective claims are when a acupuncturist tells his client “yes, I can sense the blockage in your liver. You must have had a really stressful day today. Just try to relax and feel the acupuncture working”, Even though this is a complete falsehood, the client eats it up because it’s a massive dose of sympathy. This is also why some people are so antagonistic to skeptics who just deal with discrediting the effective claims. Don’t underestimate the power of sympathy to get people to lie to themselves and to others.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Self reporting is especially problematic for rape because a positive response will get more sympathy than a negative one.

    The more anonymous a survey is, the less a woman could possibly gain from lying on it. I don’t think it’s valid to assume that women are more likely to lie on an anonymous survey for sympathy to a stranger they will never meet or see, or who will never know their name. One could also posit that women are more likely to not report a rape because its painful for them to do so, or they feel they’ll be blamed for it, or they actually have feelings for the rapist, or are being threatened. There are lots of ways to imagine how that number could be skewed.

    Further, one could only assess the accuracy of the police work for the cases in which there was police work. If the claim goes unreported to the police, yes, we would have to rely upon self-reports. There may be some misreporting, but I don’t assume its going to be wide-spread and systematic.

  • bbk

    Mrnaglfar, anonymity is a pretty hot topic in economics and behavioral science and your conjecture is contradicted by experiments. Your reference in #131 is a case in point. Women made themselves out to be more virginal when they were anonymous in spite of having no direct feedback for their response. Common sense would have it that they have little to gain from lying anonymously, but the experiment shows otherwise. The expectation that they would receive sympathy or be well regarded for the answer is enough for them to lie. It’s really about maximizing utility and sympathy has some utility. Once you understand that, it doesn’t seem so counter-intuitive. When you play a dictator game, the first mover will be more likely to make a self-regarding move if the experiment is double blind because he does not stand at losing his social standing. It’s only slightly different if the game enables someone to gain social standing by lying. They’ll still be more likely to do it if it’s anonymous. The “reward” of sympathy does not actually have to be granted or taken away for it to affect behavior because in a sense we are basically “programmed” to make strategic decisions this way.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Women made themselves out to be more virginal when they were anonymous in spite of having no direct feedback for their response.

    Indeed, though the results I posted could also be taken as evidence that women would be less likely to report rape, as it may make them seem more promiscuous.

    It does seem simple enough to use the same design with regard to rape, no? An interview condition, an anonymous condition, and a fake lie-detector condition. Finding a random, representative sample would pose the same issues it always does, but the design would be simple enough.

    Besides, as I mentioned, while some women could lie about rape for sympathy, others could well conceal rape out of fear (not being believed, social repercussions, relationship repercussions, personal affections, etc). We can speculate all day about why a woman may be more or less likely to report a rape, but without evidence we’re shooting in the dark.

    The only way I can currently see to obtain evidence about the reliability of unreported rapes through self-reports would be the above method. If women are lying for sympathy, however, I think it would be strange for them to lie in such a pattern (i.e. not lie by avoiding falsely reporting a rape to the police, but then also lie by falsely reporting a rape on an anonymous survey).

  • bbk

    Mrnaglfar, here’s a link to exactly the type of experiment I was thinking ok. http://management.ucsd.edu/faculty/directory/gneezy/docs/whats-in-a-name.pdf

    And when I say we are programmed I am specifically referring to our evolved yet highly irrational way to perform risk assessment and long term planning. You may have heard how humans are susceptible to make false positive inferences and hence commit the pathetic fallacy, which many people believe to be the underlying cause of religious thought. You may have also come across explanations of behavioral diseases such as alcoholism or bulimia as an individual’s inability to properly asses long-term vs short-term costs. So we don’t necessarily answer RDD surveys in a way that makes the most rational sense. We answer them the way we are predisposed to by our biology.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I’m an evolutionary psychology guy, so I get what you’re saying. I’ve heard it all before.

    I don’t doubt there are these unconscious biases at play, but they can go in different directions (potentially, anyway) that could either lead to under or over reporting. I’d actually be happy to run such an experiment myself, but I do wonder what the review board would think of the idea. I’m guessing not positive.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    For truth’s sake, are we still arguing about this?

    Since bbk is evidently going to hold fast unto death to his claim that women who report rape are all treacherous bitches, let me raise a few closing points:

    1. Kanin doesn’t identify the colleges where these results were obtained. Thus, there’s no way to know if he’s presented an honest and complete picture of the data, or check whether these colleges might be outliers compared to the country as a whole. In essence, his paper is based entirely on secret data that no one else can examine, which is hardly the scientific way of doing things. There’s no reason this information couldn’t have been included as an appendix with proper anonymization.

    2. Even assuming Kanin has presented the full picture, this conclusion is based on a total of 32 cases over 3 years. It seems unlikely that such a small number can be extrapolated to all of society, or even those two colleges as a whole.

    3. Even assuming Kanin’s numbers are representative, there’s a huge problem that has to be taken into account when considering the overall rate of false accusation: the large majority of rapes and sex crimes aren’t reported to the police. The Justice Department estimated in 1996 that about two-thirds of sexual assaults went unreported (source; see p.95).

    4. Relating to #3, as multiple commenters have pointed out, a recanted accusation is not the same as a false accusation. There are strong social pressures on women, the same ones that cause many rapes to go unreported, that might push them into recanting (the most obvious example: most women know their rapists, which means they may experience exclusion and social sanction if friends and relatives side with the attacker – as they often do). Contrary to bbk’s ignorant imagination, rape is still usually a crime where the huge majority of the social stigma and condemnation falls on the woman claiming rape, not the rapist – as his own comments show so well.

    5. Kanin’s findings have not been reproduced by other studies. The FBI reports that about 8% of rape accusations in 1996 were found to be unfounded (which is a broader category than false). This number is backed by the British Home Office. This is also about the same as the rate of false accusations of crimes generally.

    Now I think we’re done.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X