Monday 30 May 2011

Good men, raw deal

In my travels through the opinionated world of gender issue discussions, I often find myself feeling like a lone voice of female sanity in a wilderness of willful delusion. This delusion can take forms so elaborate and obtuse in nature, I can only wonder at the mental energy it takes to painstakingly invent convoluted theories and rationalizations for the sole purpose of not having to look at a simple and obvious truth.

It is this pathological need to circumnavigate the truth when truth interferes with belief that led feminist academia--when presented with solid evidence that women in abusive relationships are more likely to hit first than not--to apply bizarre and groundless contexts to women's potential for violence. Contexts such as, "Women hit first because they're defusing his rage before it reaches homicidal proportions," or, "Hitting first is a battered woman's way of asserting some control over her husband's abuse." That learned men and women would disregard the actual research subjects' far simpler and saner interpretations of their own violence--that sometimes women can be assholes and sometimes assholes hit people--says something about the human mind's ability to erect screens of ideology between its beliefs and reality.

My boyfriend is fond of telling me that no matter what people do, the most cynical interpretation of their actions is almost always correct.

I'm a bit of a cynic myself, but I prefer to believe that it is the simplest interpretation that is the correct one most of the time.

Which brings me to Kay Hymowitz and her recent WSJ piece, "Where Have the Good Men Gone?" From the top of the article, Ms. Hymowitz sneers at the readership, a modern day Xena, only without the sex appeal of long, flowing hair and a leather bustier, as she presents her perspective on a new demographic of males in North America: The Guy. Used to be, she claims, there were boys and there were men, so where have all these "guys" come from, why are they here, and why are they refusing to grow all the way up, settle down, and become husbands and fathers?

She presents rationalization after theory after speculation as to who these "guys" are, and what they hope to gain by paying their own bills, hanging with their buddies in their bachelor pads, drinking beer, hooking up and playing Xbox.

Part of the problem, she says, is the modern focus on education. Only recently--since the 1980s--has an education translated to drastic increase in earning potential for almost anyone. A higher education increases the likelihood of putting off "serious adult business" like marriage and kids until school is done, student loans are paid, and that earning potential has offset the required educational investment.

Yet at the same time, she lauds women's ability to finish school and get serious about adulthood--start wanting marriage and kids--much sooner than young men. So if women are growing up despite putting years into post-secondary degrees--which is a much more novel circumstance, in the timeline of recent history, for women than for men--why do guys choose to stagnate in a post-adolescent, not-quite-adult purgatory?

She also claims the nature of the labor market has changed our primary and secondary roles as human beings. We've moved into a phase of history where we define ourselves by our careers more than ever before. Where before we were man/woman, husband/wife, father/mother first and our careers served those roles, career now comes first, and the rest of it...well, what's the hurry? "For today's pre-adults, "what you do" is almost synonymous with "who you are," and starting a family is seldom part of the picture," she says.

So why is it that women, even those with exciting and fulfilling careers, don't seem to have any difficulty contemplating the whole "family thing", and putting energy into seeking it out, while men linger in that limbo between boyhood and manhood in ever greater numbers, disappointing legions of young women who are ready to settle down?

It's a shift in society starting in the mid-20th century, Hymowitz continues, when American teenagers started going to high schools rather than factories and fields. Adolescence arose as a distinct demographic during this period (apparently, we used to turn from children into adults overnight, once our odometers turned over and we embarked on working life). Between longer stints in school, and the influences of popular culture and modern marketing (Friends, Axe body spray, beer commercials, Seinfeld) that aim to keep young men and women spending money on cool shit rather than on diapers and college funds for the yung'uns, it is no wonder, she claims, that young men are confused about their roles in life. While mom and dad might be pushing you to settle the fuck down and get serious and start a damn family already, the changing culture is telling you to stay single, engage in sarcastic and witty repartee in half hour increments, drink beer, and slather yourself with cheap cologne in hope of attracting a hook-up. And these poor, pathetic not-quite-men have been doing it for so long, they've lost sight of the "real and admirable" goal of marriage and family...they get so busy and are having so much fun, they just kind of forget about adulthood.

But if men's roles have changed since the "settle down and start a family" days of the 1950s, women's have REALLY changed--no longer is wifehood and motherhood their primary and best option. They have careers, independence, freedoms that their grandmothers never why are only men having a hard time with this whole growing up business? She then goes on to characterize a last-ditch, reactionary abandonment of family life by women, or an embracing of single motherhood via sperm donation, as rational, reasonable and viable alternatives for today's woman.

She finishes her article on a flourish of cynical misandry:

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway.There's nothing they have to do.
They might as well just have another beer.

The one thing she does not do, however, is examine in any way women's roles in this debacle, or the drastic and terrifying changes in the nature of marriage and husband-and-fatherhood since the first half of the 20th century. Nope. Not relevant. If men aren't making a mad dash to the altar, there must be something wrong with men, and if there's something wrong with men then it's something worth complaining about and beating over the heads of men.

Huh? I wasted ten minutes of my life--ten minutes I will never get back--reading an article on the reluctance of men to marry that doesn't examine modern marriage AT ALL.

Okay, Ms. Hymowitz, I'm here to set you straight. You listening? You focused? Okay, here goes:

Society has changed, and marriage has changed with it. It has always been a cost/benefit enterprise, and as the base unit for society throughout most of civilized history, the costs and benefits to both parties were relatively equal. This is simply not the case anymore.

From the dawn of monogamous marriage--the lifetime version of human prehistory's "pair bond"-- the institution has been a transactional contract. The terms have always been as follows: a woman provides a man with exclusive rights to her reproductive equipment and in exchange, he provides her with resources. For life.

You won't find these terms expressed in any marriage vows (religious or secular) or written into a marriage license, but the implicit social contract of marriage has always been thus. If you doubt, ask yourself why promiscuity might have suffered a gender double standard since the dawn of time, and ask yourself why a married woman choosing not to earn income outside the home is considered very differently--even now--than a man doing the same thing. Back in the day, the only social sin as vile as being an adulterous woman was being a deadbeat husband/father, because adultery in women and refusal to provide in men were violations of their respective obligations within the implicit contract of marriage. 

Moreover, up until not too long ago, sexual activity outside of marriage was socially unconscionable. For a man to get regular sex through socially acceptable channels (no pun intended), he had to be married. Within marriage, he had a right to sexual relations with his wife, and she had a duty to provide him with sex. That at the time there was no such crime as spousal rape was less a reflection of women's oppression than an acknowledgment of sex as "part of the deal" women were signing up for when they entered into marriage.

And for both men and women, the consequences of divorce were prohibitive--a man who divorced his wife may have retained custody of his children, but he was vilified as a selfish man with no honor who'd abandoned his responsibility to his family and deprived his children of a mother. For a woman, divorcing her husband was not only socially stigmatized, it could destroy her financially and lose her her children. When one entered into the contract, one was expected to honor it until death. Full stop.

To today's young men and women, marriage looks *very* different than it did way back when. These are young people who were raised in an era of divorce. If their own parents weren't divorced, their friend's parents were. It's impossible to be unaware of the transient nature of what used to be a lifelong commitment--even now that statistics on the escalating divorce rate are no longer shocking enough to be fodder for newspaper articles and CNN soundbites, we have reality staring us right in the face. 

So if the majority of marriages end in a messy divorce, the more relevant question Ms. Hymowitz might be asking, if she had the analytical skills to do so, would be why are today's women--even career women--still aching to get hitched?

Setting aside the emotional value of companionship and intimacy, the pooling of two incomes into one household means greater earning potential, greater disposable income and greater spending power. If she's lucky, it means twice as many people cleaning the bathroom, sorting socks and vacuuming the front hall. It means a bigger down payment on a nicer house. And for women who want children, it means not having to provide 100% of the resources and 100% of the care for those children. Other than in extreme cases, two parents are always better than one.

From a woman's perspective, marriage still provides significant benefits over single life--in fact, marriage as an enterprise has only improved for women since the 1950s. A woman now has the right to say no to sex with her husband. If he's abusive, she has an entire public-sector industry itching to help her. If a woman decides she doesn't want to be married to that jerk who doesn't help with the dishes, has mommy issues and leaves his dirty socks lying all over the place, well, she doesn't have to be. She won't be stigmatized, she won't be financially destroyed and she won't lose her children.

For guys, the picture looks very different, even--perhaps especially--for those who want children. 

If stigmatization of divorce has gone out the window, there is now no social stigma attached to sex outside of marriage (or even commitment) for men or women, either. The phrase "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" is even more applicable now than it was back in the day. Moreover, if a guy's been paying attention to his friend's experiences at all, he'll realize that he's likely to get less sex after he commits than before, once his woman is feeling secure in the relationship and like he won't leave her if he doesn't get what he wants half the time. He's chosen her, he's committed, she no longer has to worry about the competition offering him a better deal. And she has every right under the law to say no.

And while the financial and emotional benefits of marriage can be much the same for men as for women, it is when the marriage ends that things get hairy. Although women are as likely to have grown up experiencing divorce firsthand or indirectly through their acquaintances, they will relate to the situations of wives and mothers. Women who were children of divorce likely lived with their mothers. Their mothers benefited from a family court system predisposed to keep children with mothers. Their mothers were often financially okay because of income equalization payments in the form of child support and alimony. Their mothers did not miss out on milestones, special events in their lives, and the joys of raising them. Their mothers often were able to remain living in the marital home, minimizing the disruption to their lives. Their mothers likely qualified for subsidized legal assistance in dealing with child support or alimony, and there were agencies set up specifically to ensure she received her court ordered child support and alimony payments. And the majority of the time, it was their mothers who'd initiated the divorce.

If today's women relate to the experiences of their mothers and their friend's mothers with respect to divorce, who are these despicable, immature guys identifying with, I wonder? Guys who were the children of divorce most likely did not live with their fathers--if they were very lucky, their fathers were granted generous access 2-4 weekends per month, and if they were not, they may have gone years without seeing their children. Upon divorce, their fathers were almost always forced from the marital home, and for most, their standard of living--including their digs--took a major hit. Their fathers were dealing with a family court system predisposed to deny them custody, and where the best most men could hope for was scheduled "access" to their children. Their fathers often financially struggled as they were forced to contribute financially to two households instead of one, and to maintain a domicile suitable for their children's visits so access would not be cut off. Their fathers often missed out on enormous chunks of their lives--soccer games, birthday parties, and prom nights. If mom moved to another state, it was dad's responsibility to pay the travel costs involved in visitation--while simultaneously making alimony and child support payments and contributing a share of "extraordinary expenses"--forcing many fathers to choose between living up to their financial obligations and seeing their children. Their fathers did not qualify for legal aid and other subsidies in negotiating child support and access, and there were no agencies set up to help them exercise their court-ordered access to their children. If dad got laid off, he'd better get another good job and fast, because until very recently he was required to maintain the standard of living that existed during the marriage--his financial obligations did not diminish due to changed financial circumstances the way they would were he still married. And the majority of the time, it was not their fathers who'd initiated the divorce.

Do you see the difference now, Ms. Hymowitz?

The problem with marriage is not that it is no longer seen as a lifelong commitment. The problem is that it is seen as a temporary enterprise for women with respect to their responsibilities to their husbands, but a lifelong commitment with respect to men's responsibilities to their wives. And the primary benefit of marriage for men--sex and parenthood--are no longer the exclusive privilege of those who marry.

In other words, the implicit social contract--exclusive access to a woman's reproductive equipment in exchange for a man's resources--is no longer what marriage is. Within marriage, women do not have to live up to their side of the age-old bargain--wives have every right to say no to sex--while for men, their part remains in place, enforced by law, *even after the marriage ends*. When you consider that men can get sex without marriage, and even get children without marriage--and that their rights and responsibilities to their children are often considered the same whether the child was the product of a one-night stand or the product of a decade-long see the problem now?

For women, marriage is all benefit and zero risk, and that's why women are whining about men's reluctance to tie the knot. But for men, it's the other way around--no guaranteed benefit, and the kind of risk an adrenaline junkie would eschew.

A woman cannot get the benefits of marriage she's after without being married (either legally or common law). She can't get the benefit of his resources in the same way as if she was living with him, or of his assistance in raising her children.

A man can get all the benefits of marriage he's after without being married. He can get sex. He can get companionship and intimacy. He can father children. All without marriage, or even commitment.

But if he marries, he faces a 33% chance that his wife will leave him. If she does, his rights and responsibilities with respect to his children are often comparable to what they would be were those children conceived in casual hook-ups. He can and often does lose a portion of his assets to his wife (allocation of assets are generally not 50/50 when children are involved), and his financial responsibilities to his wife, in the form of a percentage of his income, can continue indefinitely, regardless of whether she is self-supporting, and regardless of the relative contributions each of them made towards the marital property and community assets.

If he doesn't marry or live common law with a woman, however, his house will remain his own, his liquid assets will remain his own, he will have comparable rights and responsibilities in regard to his children as he would had he married, and he won't owe his ex a living for the rest of her life. If she stops having sex with him or he decides he doesn't much like her, he can leave and not be penalized by the court. If she leaves him, his social and sexual value will remain much more intact with regard to attracting new sexual partners--he'll still have the social status that men derive from material success. If he falls in love with someone new, and even trusts her enough to move in with her, her income will not be used as a means of extracting more alimony from him. He will have no obligation to the mother of his children based on a few years of marriage where she might or might not have regularly lived up to her side of the agreement--his only obligation will be to his children, as it should be.

Do you still think it's immaturity keeping guys from settling down and getting hitched, Ms. Hymowitz? Really?

And my advice to women, to improve this terrible and untenable situation? Two things:

1) save yourselves until marriage. Because men won't buy the cow if they can get the milk for free. But it won't work unless all of you do it.

2) lobby for reforms with respect to the rights of fathers in family courts. Because even if men can't get the milk for free, they're too smart to buy a cow whose milk has a 33% chance of ruining his life. Men have become lactose intolerant, and for good reason.

Until one or both of these suggestions is widely adopted, men with any intelligence will find their Xboxes, buddies, beer and casual hook-ups to be the more rational choice.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Men are in charge of what now?

patriarchy /ˈpātrēˌärkē/ noun

1) A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems.

2) A society or community organized in this way.

This is the social system feminism set out to bring down decades ago--a system where women's interests were subordinated to men's interests. For feminism to have an excuse for its existence, patriarchy must also exist. But does it anymore in the West? Really?

Feminists will point to the underrepresentation of women (therefore the overrepresentation of men) in top positions in commerce, business, and politics and claim that this means patriarchy still exists. At the same time, when someone points out that most of the homeless are also men, their response is usually that "homeless men are not all men", and that you can't dismiss the concept of patriarchy based on a small subset of men who are grossly disadvantaged. But it logically follows that you cannot, in turn, prove the concept of patriarchy based on a small subset of men who are grossly privileged, does it not? Not all men are CEOs of fortune 500 companies, senators, media moguls and heads of state.

Feminists will claim that men as a group are privileged, and therefore their enemy patriarchy is still going strong. However, this statement--even if true--is also a logical fallacy. To claim male privilege translates into systematic patriarchy is to claim that female privilege indicates a pervasive system of matriarchy.

And women are indeed privileged--in different ways men are, sure, but still privileged. The smallest examination of history tells us this is so--women have always been seen as innately more valuable than men. It was men who were sent to war, while women remained safe on friendly soil. It was men who were expected to go down with the ship, while women and children were loaded onto lifeboats. It was men who were expected to work dangerous, physically gruelling jobs in coal mines and on oil rigs and on fishing boats, while the arguably more boring but unarguably safer occupations of housewife, schoolteacher, sales clerk were the domains of women. While men were indeed placed in authority over their wives and children, they were also saddled with the burden of protection and provision, and responsibility for any failures in that regard. It was men who stood in front of the homestead with a shotgun, determining whether approaching strangers were friend or foe, while women and children waited inside. 

The privilege women have is based in our biological underpinnings, and as long as we remain subject to that biology female privilege will exist. A species that sees its females--the carriers of its offspring--as expendable enough to be sent to war, to be forced into dangerous jobs, to go down with the ship, to have no entitlement to provision and protection, and to hold a shotgun and stand between children and possible marauders is a species that is doomed to die out.

One might look at patriarchy from the feminist perspective that it is a system of keeping women down and giving men "power". 

One could also argue, however, that for a group of people who'd always been seen as expendable, placing authority and control over money and lines of descent in the hands of men was the only way to make them...well, worth keeping around. If men control the means of production, it is women who control the means of reproduction--and this is why they are in the simplest of biological terms, more valuable than men. One man + twenty women = twenty babies. Switch the equation around, and see where that leads you.

One could look at patriarchy as a lopsided system that gives all the power to men. But if you consider the biological basis of female privilege--and indeed, female power--one could see patriarchy in an entirely different light, as a balancing of that very lopsided biological power differential. Of what use would a man be if he didn't inherit his family's wealth, have legally and socially sanctioned control of the finances and decisions of his household, or have some form of ownership of his children? In a system that is not patriarchal, men would be little more than beasts of burden, cannon fodder and sperm donors. 

That society still sees women as more valuable than men is without question. There's a reason why more men are homeless than women--it is because society has a vested interest in keeping women alive, while it does not have the same interest in regard to men, and social programs reflect this. There's a reason why a grossly disproportionate percentage of domestic violence services and shelters serve women--it is because society believes women deserve protection, while men should be able to protect themselves. The mere suggestion of women in combat roles in the military induces a visceral negative response in most people, even when we logically know that many women would be more than capable of the job and have a desire to serve their country. 

Feminism has largely achieved its goal of dismantling the legal framework of patriarchy. Men no longer own their wives or children, men no longer wield financial power to the exclusion of women, women have equal opportunities to pursue their chosen careers, they can vote, own property, obtain divorces, and even have sex and children outside of marriage without social stigma. 

That women still earn less, on average, than men is not something I will dispute. But women financially dominate in other areas--they control 60% of the wealth in the United States, and 83% of consumer spending decisions. 45% of America's millionaires are women, and there are more multi-million dollar estates controlled solely by women (48%) than men (35%).

More women are gainfully employed than men right now (only 66.8% of American men had jobs last year). Of people already in the workforce, more women graduated from high school than men, and more women hold bachelor's degrees, than men. Soon, more women will hold advanced degrees than men, as for the first time in history last year, more advanced degrees were earned by women than men. 

Where does this leave men? Where will it leave them in 10 years? For millennia, human biological necessity held women as more important than men in almost every respect. So if patriarchy was a system of checks and balances to prevent men from becoming entirely irrelevant, where is society headed now that patriarchy is being so effectively dismantled? 

We've already begun to see it in a family court system that now largely considers children the sole property of their mothers, and a father's role immaterial beyond forced financial support. From per capita health care spending, health research spending, social safety nets, education, anti-discrimination laws, erosion of due process when due process is seen to "harm" women...our social and legal framework has become almost entirely matriarchal. 

Under today's system, fatherhood is all burden and no power. Under today's system, 40% of American children are being raised without their fathers. Under today's system, a man can be ruined by a mere accusation by an anonymous woman. Under today's system, women are routinely handed lighter sentences than men for the same crimes. Under today's system, female sexuality is unrestrained, while male sexuality is burdened with an unfair expectation of restraint. Under today's system, men's rights under the law are almost always subordinated in favor of women's rights. 

If this is patriarchy, I'd hate to see what matriarchy would look like.

Society is arranged by checks and balances, rights and responsibilities. At the moment, women have the same rights as men, but they are rarely held to the same level of personal responsibility--if they were, 50% of the homeless would be women. Patriarchy was an answer to the grossly disproportionate biologically grounded power women wield just by being women, a way of artificially evening the playing field by granting men similar levels of different privileges. 

A few people are looking into a future where women as a group hold most of the power, and where the top 10-20% of men in real positions of privilege (and who will always hold that privilege, because that's where women seem to want the top men to be) have little interest in helping their "brothers" because they don't see them as brothers--they see them as, at best, competition, and at worst, disposable. And that's a consequence of our biology, too.

I'm not sure what society is going to look like in another couple of decades. Whatever it does end up looking like, I've never been so glad that I'm not a man.

Friday 20 May 2011

A man is a rape supporter if...WTF????

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight... A man is a rape supporter if:

He has ever sexually engaged with any woman while she was underage, drunk, high, physically restrained, unconscious, or subjected to psychological, physical, economic, or emotional coercion.
Huh. I've had sex with a man while we were both drunk. Also, when only I was drunk. Also, when I was sober and he was drunk. Also, with a woman while I was drunk and she was less drunk.

He defends the current legal definition of rape and/or opposes making consent a defense.

I vigorously protest the watering-down of the legal definition of rape. Rape is serious, and it should be considered serious, and no one's gonna do that if 90% of human sexual interactions can be classified as rape.

He has accused a rape victim of having “buyer’s remorse” or wanting to get money from the man.
I am aware of several cases of "buyer's remorse" rape--usually based on things women have done while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that they would not have done otherwise, or things women have done while in relationships that they regretted, or things women have done thinking it "meant more" than it did to a guy.

He has blamed a woman for “putting herself in a situation” where she “could be” attacked.

I held myself partly responsible for my own sexual assault, and would prefer it if other women held themselves accountable for their own choices, decisions and actions, no matter what the outcome. This does not mean blaming a victim or saying she deserved it. It just means that, yeah, there were things she could have done that would have prevented her assault. Duh.

He has procured a prostitute.
Okay, I haven't procured a prostitute. But I wouldn't demure from doing so, or from being the recipient of a lap-dance performed by a female stripper. You know, if any of you all were interested in buying, since money's pretty tight for me right now. Just sayin'...

He characterizes prostitution as a “legitimate” “job” “choice” or defends men who purchase prostitutes.
I feel sex work is a legitimate job choice. Sure, it isn't the career I'd want for my daughter, but women have every fucking right to decide what to do with their own bodies. Don't they? Even if that means selling or renting out the use of them.

He has ever revealed he conceives of sex as fundamentally transactional.

Sex IS transactional. At its most basic biological level, it's an exchange of necessary male genetic material (sperm) in return for a man getting a shot at reproducing (9 month lease on a woman's uterus for his kid). Outside of that, it is pleasure in exchange for pleasure. It is also sometimes regular blowjobs in exchange for resources--like a nice big credit card, a roof over one's head, a diamond ring, etc.

He has gone to a strip club.
I've been to strip clubs. Been on ladies' night (never again), on men's night at a gay club (better than ladies' night in many ways), and typical strip clubs where women dance for men (frickin' awesome).

He is anti-abortion.
I am not anti-abortion, but I do feel kind of icky when I see the "abortions for everyone!" mentality that seems to be the norm in some feminist circles, as if it's just not a big deal. It should be a big deal. Apparently, even thinking that is somehow considered by some to be "against women", but it's how I feel.

He is pro-”choice” because he believes abortion access will make women more sexually available.
I am pro-choice. Not because I think women would want to have sex with more men (or with me), but because I'm a realist.

He frames discussions of pornography in terms of “freedom of speech.”
I write porn. Just because what I write is aimed mainly at a female readership doesn't mean men haven't read it, enjoyed it, or gotten off on it. In fact, the emails I get from male readers are the ones that tickle me most. According to this woman, I have no right to write what I choose to, because freedom of speech is no defence.

He watches pornography in which women are depicted.
I watch porn. A lot of porn. Most--not all--of it depicts women.

He watches any pornography in which sexual acts are depicted as a struggle for power or domination, regardless of whether women are present.
Oh shit, the gay porn I like best is a little rough and tumble, usually involves someone getting pinned down and...well, never mind. You all don't need to know the details.

He characterizes the self-sexualizing behavior of some women, such as wearing make-up or high heels, as evidence of women’s desire to “get” a man.
Good grief, what else is it? It's to either get or keep a man, ffs. The barest reading of any anthropological or evolutionary theory would tell her this. If I'm running out to the store for smokes, I barely get myself presentable. If I'm "going out", with or without a man, I put in a little more effort. If I'm looking to meet men, I want to look my best. If I'm with a man who's important to me, I also want to look my best.

He tells or laughs at jokes involving women being attacked, sexually “hoodwinked,” or sexually harassed.
Um...I have a sense of humor. A while back, someone used the term Rapey McRaperson ("men don't wear name tags that say Rapey McRaperson, you can't tell who's a rapist just by looking" or whatever) in an online debate on rape, and it became my pet name for my boyfriend. Yes, I'm that sick.

He expresses enjoyment of movies/musicals/TV shows/plays in which women are sexually demeaned or presented as sexual objects

Okay, the Real Housewives...nope. Baywatch...oh hell no. Chicago...also bad. Flashdance...shield your virgin eyes. The Oscar Awards pre-show with red carpet interviews? NO. it okay for me to think Angelina Jolie is hot? Is it? IS IT!!???

He mocks women who complain about sexual attacks, sexual harassment, street cat-calls, media depictions of women, or other forms of sexual objectification.
I've mocked women who've been offended by ridiculous, petty, trivial shit. A whistle? A guy who keeps looking at those boobs you've got all pushed up and on display even though, "My eyes are up here, asshole!"? Seriously? And I do mock women for hating the way women are "objectified" in the media--not because objectification is wrong, but because the real problem in objectifying women like Pamela Anderson or Tara Reid or whoever, sends the message that those women are the valuable ones, the ones men should seek out and pursue, when a princess who spends $1000/month on her appearance generally has nothing but her appearance and her burdens to offer anyone in a relationship.

He supports sexual “liberation” and claims women would have more sex with (more) men if society did not “inhibit” them.
I wish women would be less sexually liberated, because frankly, 95% of them can't handle the implications of it. Or rather, I'd like to see women liberated differently--equal measures of freedom and accountability. And if more of them ended up wanting to bonk me as a result, that's awesome!

He states or implies that women who do not want to have sex with men are “inhibited,” “prudes,” “stuck-up,” “man-haters,” or psychologically ill.
Women who don't want to have sex with men are 1) lesbians, 2) asexual, or 3) married to him. Pretty much.

He argues that certain male behaviors towards women are “cultural” and therefore not legitimate subjects of feminist attention.
Holding open doors for women is a cultural behavior. Giving up a seat on the bus to a woman is a cultural behavior. So is a lot of other gender relations stuff. Sheesh. And while cultural norms are under the purview of feminism, feminism does not have a lock on legitimacy. Other ways of thinking, behaving and viewing the world can be just as valid.

He ever subordinates the interests of women in a given population to the interests of the men in that population, or proceeds in discussions as if the interests of the women are the same as the interests of the men.
Okay, so feminism is okay for subordinating the interests of men to the interests of women. That's cool. Women should be women's first priority, just like I and my kids should be my first priority. But dudes? You should NEVER be your own first priority. Never ever ever--especially in a conversation with a woman--present your own feelings or PoV on the given topic. Never mind that your own feelings as yourself and as a man are the only ones you have direct and clear understanding of--if you speak to your own experience, you're subordinating the interests of women. And for god sake, DO NOT say anything like, "Hey, we're all people, right? We all have the same basic wants--to be safe, happy and successful and shit." So don't speak for yourselves, guys. Also, don't presume to speak for anyone else. Actually, you should probably just shut up completely. Got it?

He promotes religious or philosophical views in which a woman’s physical/psychological/emotional/sexual well-being is subordinated to a man’s.
In my experience, it's almost always the other way around. Men go without sex in their marriages for years, because they consider their wife's lack of sexual desire to be more deserving of respect than their own desire for sex. Same goes for all the other shit, too. Most marriages revolve around putting a wife's emotional, physical, psychological and sexual needs first. Same with general behaviors that are gender based.

He describes female anatomy in terms of penetration, or uses terms referencing the supposed “emptiness” of female anatomy when describing women.
Huh. Sexual terminology. I'll make sure to let my editor know there will be no penetration in my books, no mention of staffs, shafts, and the like from now on. And HOLES? OMG, no. Never ever ever mention anything about holes. You sick fuck.

He defends the physical abuse of women on the grounds of “consent.”
Annnnnddd...pretty much all the sex I actually enjoy is now categorized as supporting of rape. Pinning, dominating, spanking, struggle for dominance, consensual roleplaying. All of it, abuse, no matter how much I say I like and want it, no matter that I consider it not just enjoyable but a requirement in any long term relationship I will ever have, how hard I get off on it, or how much the tender "rock me gently" stuff bores the fuck out of me. Any man I would want to be with is by default a rape supporter.

He defends the sexualization or sexual abuse of minor females on the grounds of “consent” or “willingness.”
I lost my virginity when I was 15. I wanted it--I was kind of on a mission, actually--and don't regret anything about how it went down. But hey, apparently that guy raped me, and is a rape supporter. For doing what I asked him to do.

He promotes the idea that women as a class are happier or more fulfilled if they have children, or that they “should” have children.
Humans, like every other species, have a biological drive to procreate. Not every member will have this drive to the same degree--and the ones who don't will get selected out of the species, won't they? Moreover, not every woman should have children. I certainly hope the woman who compiled this list doesn't. That being said, I couldn't imagine a life without my own kids. I know a lot of women who feel the same--probably the majority.

He argues that people (or just “men”) have sexual “needs.”
I have sexual needs. Beyond perpetuation of the species--which is a fucking need, right? Every man I've been with has had sexual needs. Every woman I've been with has sexual needs. That people don't drop dead if their sexual needs aren't met doesn't make them any less of a biological and psychological drive. I mean, hey, technically I don't need a house, or an education, or a phone, I could survive without any of them, but they're still considered basic needs, important for my happiness and ability to function as a healthy individual. And so is sex.

He discusses the “types” of women he finds sexually appealing and/or attempts to demean women by telling them he does not find them sexually appealing.
I don't really have a "type" when it comes to men, but I sure do when it comes to women. They're generally petite, curvy but with small breasts, youngish, and have hair long enough for me to pull. But that's not to say I'm only attracted to those "types" of women, or that I'll continue to be attracted to all who fit the "type" once they've opened their mouths, either. I don't go out of my way to inform people I'm not attracted to them, though. I leave that to the 80% of the women in the bar who take joy in doing it to men.

He sexually objectifies lesbians or lesbian sexual activity.
Oooh! Lesbians! Lesbian porn. Mmmmmm....

He defends these actions by saying that some women also engage in them.
I defend these actions by saying almost all people, male or female, will hit at least a few items on this list. Most of us, male or female, will hit several. With the exception of Mother Teresa, Jesus, and brain-injured individuals hooked up to life support. And the fact that she is unconcerned with how many women fit this list, shows how bigoted she really is.

This woman compiled this list as a way of proving "all men are evil," by designing it in such a way that even my 8 year old son would fail (he's constantly telling the girls who "like" him that they're gross, after all). There is not a man alive who wouldn't fail, and she knows it. She demonstrates this by claiming:

So, let’s see how many women reading this know at least one male over the age of 18who does not fit this list. Anybody?

Of course, there's no one who can. That's the point. And if every man in the world is a rape supporter, I'd like to join them in solidarity by proclaiming: According to Evebitfirst, I'm a rape supporter, and I'm proud. To be otherwise is to deny everything that makes me human, everything that gets me wet, everything that pleases or fulfills me about life. My kids, my sexuality, my purpose, my relationships, my body and my mind.

Monday 16 May 2011

Freedom or Obligation?

Note: all stats pertain to the United States, unless otherwise specified.

-Among adults 25 and older today, more women than men have finished high school.

-Female enrolment in post-secondary education had surpassed male enrolment by the early 1980s.

-Due to decades of female dominance in post-secondary participation, 20.1 million women now hold bachelor's degrees, compared with 18.7 million men.

-Among adults 25 and older in the US, 10.6 million women now hold master's degrees or higher, compared with 10.5 million men.

-In the US, 57% of students in post secondary education are women.

-As of 2009, 58% of all bachelor degrees were earned by women.

-60% of students enrolled in advanced/graduate programs are women.

-In America's largest cities, single, childless women 22-30 out-earn their male counterparts by 8%.

Everything's coming up roses for women. Woot! You go, grrrl! 

Okay, here's something else to think about: Men employed full time work more hours per week, on average, than women. Many experts insist this disparity reflects that "responsibilities for child care and other unpaid household work are still unequally shared among partners." In other words, women would work more, if they could. You know, if they weren't stuck at home with the young 'uns and all, changing diapers and scrubbing toilets.

However, in countries such as Sweden, where generous paid paternity leave is granted in conjunction with maternity leave, men tend to take only about 20% of their entitlement, and where possible, transfer the remainder of their leave to their wives/partners. 

Consider this: when my ex and I were first together, and discussing the kind of life we wanted to have, we agreed that we both wanted kids, and that we didn't want our kids raised in a daycare center. We both worked in the same vocation (we actually met at work), and I had enough experience in the job to demand the same wage as he did. Still, I wanted to be the one to stay home with the kids for the first few years. That time at home gave me time to enjoy my children, to watch them grow and develop, and to give them the intangible things that money can't buy. It also gave me the time to get enough work done around the house that when my ex got home, he got to enjoy the children too. As a couple, we sacrificed half our income so we'd be able to see family time as something wonderful, rather than something onerous. It also gave me time to add to the million words of crap conventional wisdom says all writers must get on paper before they get any good.

When I went back to work--when my older two were 3 and 4--I pulled 16-20 hour weeks compared to my ex's 40 hour weeks, with us working opposite shifts so someone was always home. This was also largely my choice--no way was I going to work outside the home if it meant I had to hand over half my pay (or more) so someone else could raise our kids for us. In our low income bracket, between the savings I could generate by cooking from scratch, hunting down deals, and not hiring out home maintenance work, it would have made better financial sense for me not to work at all, if we'd had to pay for child care. When all the costs of working were tallied, the moment daycare got added into the mix, I "earned" more by staying at home.

As a single parent, I still only work part time outside the home. Between the 20 hours/week I wait tables, royalties from my four published books, and rental income from the house I still own in BC, I earn about $40k/year. My kids and I live very lean, but we're getting ahead month by month. I could, and arguably should, work full time--it would add over $20k to my yearly income if I did--but if I did that, I'd barely see my children. With two of my kids in their teens, domestic labor is not a serious consideration--they can and will do their part to keep the house tidy and get themselves fed, watch their younger brother, keep the grass cut, and they don't need anyone to cattle-prod them into doing their schoolwork. The only thing stopping me from working more is that I value my time at home and with my children more than I value money.

Other mothers can and do feel the exact same way. If men in Sweden are handing over their paternity leave to their wives...why are they doing it? Is it because they don't want to stay home and change diapers? Or is it because their wives DO want to stay home and read stories to their kids, cuddle them, rock them, bond with them, watch them take first steps and hear them speak first words? Is it because these women feel stuck at home, or is it because they want to be home?

Consider my sister. She's a medical doctor working in administration. She earns a fuckton of money, as does her pilot husband. They have four children and a full-time nanny/housekeeper to take the majority of the domestic burden off of them. My sister has consistently made career decisions that limited her income, advancement, and seniority level in her job in order to have a balanced life that sees her spending more waking hours at home than at work. She opted not to specialize in plastic surgery (as many advised her to do), because it would mean years of eating, sleeping and breathing surgery, only to have her biological clock start clamoring at the exact moment she'd be finishing her residency.

Even in administration, she has declined promotions that would likely have seen her earning 50% more at this point than she does now, but would also have required her to spend weeks at a time overseas, and 3+ hours more per day at work when she wasn't abroad. Even though, in her ginormous income bracket, the cost of hiring additional domestic help would be more than offset by the increased income she'd have received by making her career her top priority. 

According to feminism, my sister's choices are a big problem. My sister's choices have led her to earn less than most men in her chosen profession, and apparently my sister has made these choices because she "feels stuck" with an uneven share of domestic and child care "responsibilities" compared to her husband, all because of gender norms.

However, my sister's husband has also chosen his jobs based on the number of hours he can spend at home with the kids. Rather than a "glory job", he opted for a stable position where the number of hours, and nights, spent away from home was limited, and which would allow him to relocate as his wife's career demanded. In other words, he's made the exact same choices my sister did, for the exact same reasons, and he sacrificed a good portion of his earning potential to do it.

Watching them at home is like watching a well-oiled machine, each of them taking on the chores that need doing and spending quality time in the evenings and on weekends with all four kids. Considering my brother in law earns $20+ every 6 minutes, his hours in the air are worth WAY more than any extra hours he'd have to pay someone to do laundry, cook meals and drive his kids around so the burden wouldn't all fall on my sister if he chose to work more. But the time he gets to spend with his kids is worth it to him. 

I have a few issues with the way feminism weighs career success. 1) It assumes the only conceivable way to measure career success is through earnings. 2) It assumes any pay gap owing to women making different choices than men are a result of women feeling "stuck" with child care. 3) It assumes any pay gap owing to men making different choices than women are a result of men "being free" to make their careers their #1 priority. 4) It reduces children's relationship with their working parents down to a single characteristic: the obligation of domestic labor. 

KIDS ARE MORE THAN WORK. For fuck sake, what's the point of even having them if you don't get to watch or help them grow up because you're working all the time?

Blaming women's tendency to choose to spend more time at home on the fact that "responsibilities for child care and other unpaid household work are still unequally shared among partners," means feminism sees kids in only one light--as a burden on parents, rather than a joy. According to feminism, women work fewer hours because they feel they HAVE to be home more, when I'd argue that women work fewer hours because they WANT to be home more. Participating in your children's childhoods isn't a goddamn chore--it's a privilege, and one not everyone gets to enjoy.

Especially men, who often feel that putting their careers first IS the only socially acceptable way of putting their family first. 

Warren Farrell coined the term "success object", and for many men, this is what their value in the sexual marketplace and in their own families boils down to. Feminism believes men have freedom and privilege because they earn more than women. But according to Farrell, "men often feel obligated to earn money someone else spends while they die sooner--and feeling obligated is not power." 

Back in Sweden, where men tend to opt out of their own paternity leave after only a few months, one needs to ask why? If they simply chose to forfeit their leave and go back to work early, one might argue they wished to escape the drudgery of being housebound, changing diapers and scrubbing floors. But men in Sweden don't forfeit their leave--they transfer it to their wives. From this, we can assume that women not only want to stay home longer with their children, but that they feel it is socially acceptable for them to do so. And that even men who may wish to stay home during their children's first months of life, still feel pressured to go back to work ASAP, to not allow their careers to stagnate while they spend their days rocking their babies and smelling the tops of their heads and enjoying all the other intangible benefits that are not measurable by feminist standards, but which many parents consider to be worth more than dollars and cents.

And now to circle back to my original statistics. The feminist contention is that women make the career choices they do because they feel "obligated by gender norms" to spend more time at home, while men have the "freedom" afforded by gender norms to put work first. I would argue that it is the opposite--that women make the career choices they do largely because of the freedom current gender norms give them to make choices that are right for them, and that if men consistently put work before family, it's often out of a sense of obligation owing to those same gender-based expectations. 

And what does that have to do with women's overrepresentation in post-secondary education? Well, if women make the choices they do because it's what they want...well, in Canada, we already have problems with shortages of physicians in many communities. How will that shortage be affected when 60% of the doctors graduating today take a year off work to have a child, and when they do go back to work, opt not to spend 60 hours/week in the office, but to spend more time with their families because they have the freedom to do so? If we can't get more men into post-secondary education, many professions will be in for a shake-up. 

In medicine, everything from the number of available spots in med schools to the number of physicians licensed by provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, is largely dependent on a traditional male "work-first" ethic that is going to have to change if we don't do something to eliminate the gender gap in post-secondary education. If male physicians tend to work more hours than female ones, it follows that the larger a percentage of women there are earning medical degrees, the more doctors we're going to need to provide the same services. 

According to feminists, this problem is easily solved by collectively guilting women into making the same choices men typically do. But is this fair to women? Is it fair to kids? 

And is it fair to men, who might make different choices in their careers if they didn't feel socially obligated to become "success objects", because everyone, including feminism, is telling them that money is everything and nothing else matters?

Sunday 15 May 2011

You lying liar

Index case:  the case of the original patient (propositus or proband) that stimulates investigation of other members of the family to discover a possible genetic factor. In epidemiology, the first case of a contagious disease.

Remember the movie "Outbreak"? You know--1995, Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, that adorable Capuchin Monkey of "Friends" fame? Remember how emergency medical dudes painstakingly traced--through geographic/epidemiological examination of the outbreak--the evil Motaba hemorrhagic fever virus all the way back to the "patient zero"--that cute little black and white monkey? Oh Marcel, how could you? Bad monkey!

What does all this have to do with Men's Rights, you ask? Well, in a 2000 article published in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Edward Greer did his own epidemiological study on something MRAs are all too familiar with: the 2% false rape accusation statistic feminists use to defend their stance on the increasing erosion of due process in sex crimes cases. 

You hear it all over the place: "Experts claim that false reports of rape and sexual assault make up no more than 2% of all accusations, which is comparable to the false report numbers for other serious crimes." Or, "According to experts, only approximately 2% of women reporting rape are falsely reporting, therefore the investigative standard should be to believe the accuser and pursue all cases to the full extent of the law." Or, "Because experts agree only 2% of rape reports are false, while at the same time the vast majority of rapes are not reported, prosecuting false accusers will only provide a further disincentive to real victims to report their rapes." 

I have even had the odd feminist in an online discussion express to me that falsely imprisoning a few men is a small price to pay if it means victims of rape will be more likely to report. Never mind the fact that a man falsely convicted of rape is almost guaranteed to become a victim of rape once in prison. A small price to pay, indeed. This is how feminism balances the scales of justice--penalizing a women of a real criminal wrongdoing = net bad for society, while penalizing a man for something he didn't do (and for which he will continue to pay once he becomes someone's bitch in prison) = net good for society.

And it's all based on the "fact" that only 2% of rape claims are falsified.

So where did the 2% statistic come from? According to Greer, who picked through dozens of feminist academic papers and articles, and painstakingly followed the pyramidal pattern of citations they contained to their original source, the statistic originated in a 1975 book by Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Ms. Brownmiller, in her book, attributed the 2% figure to a speech by Lawrence H. Cooke, Appellate Division Justice, Before the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Jan. 16, 1974.

According to Greer:  "When I contacted the then-judge’s law clerk, and he made  inquiry of all those directly involved in the preparation of Judge Cooke’s speech, their best recollections are that they did not rely upon any report but cannot remember precisely how they did obtain the two percent figure."

So there's no study. No report. No survey. No peer-reviewed examination of any data-set. Just a speech that is itself uncited, quoted in a book written over 35 years ago, then repeated as fact over and over and over throughout feminist academia until the misinformation infects the entire discourse.

Could the 2% false report figure be accurate? Well, depending on who you ask, the real figure is anywhere between 2% and 50%. An Australian study conducted between 2000 and 2003 found that of 815 cases, 2.1% were demonstrated clearly enough to be false that charges were threatened or laid. 

In his 1994 study of one small, urban community where all rape reports were investigated and polygraph tests were routinely offered to both accusers and accused, Dr. Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University examined almost a decade of rape reports. Disregarding all other factors (physical or testimonial evidence, police findings, etc) and going only by complainants' responses when subjected to or threatened with polygraph testing, the percentage of false reports between 1978 and 1987 was a staggering 41%. 

One critic of Kanin's study--Dr. David Lisak of the University of Massachusetts, Boston--performed his own study, published in 2010 in Violence Against Women, which found a false report figure of 5.9%. Though significantly lower than Kanin's findings, it's still three times higher than the 2% figure we hear so often.

Much of what is believed about the 2% false report figure derives from a time when procedures for dealing with rape cases were very different than they are now. The figure itself originated in a 1974 speech by a NY judge, and may well have reflected reality at the time. What woman would falsely report a rape back in 1974, when victims were routinely put on trial themselves, details of their lives released by the media, and revictimized by the system? And yet, even in a social and criminal environment that stigmatized victims, in a time when they were pitted against a system biased against believing them, a time when victims really were blamed for their own rapes because they dressed like sluts or weren't "good girls" or were otherwise unsympathetic, and the likelihood of being criminally prosecuted for falsely reporting was much greater...even then, according to that NY judge and Susan Brownmiller, 2% of women made false accusations.

Even back then--when a plaintiff's testimony was almost never enough to put a man away, when physical evidence--bruises, vaginal tearing, semen, etc--that a crime had not only been committed, but that it had been committed by the defendant, was required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and when a victim's identity was not protected--the rate of false accusations was, according to Brownmiller and other feminists, about 2%. 

Fast forward to 2011, when erosion of due process is turning sexual crimes into a liability offense, where victims are assumed to be truthful and the onus is increasingly placed on the accused to prove himself innocent. Where accusers' names are withheld by the media, and accuseds' names are routinely released. Where cross-examination of the plaintiff in regard to her sexual history is forbidden. Where evidence of sex is not technically required, let alone evidence of violent or nonconsensual sex. Where false accusers are not to be punished, even when their accusations have been determined to be motivated by malice. Prevailing wisdom still insists that a large percentage of rapes and sexual assaults are going unreported, but can anyone reasonably argue that a woman choosing not to report now is doing so out of fear of not being believed, reluctance to have her life picked apart on the stand, or fear of public shame? And can we still presume that the number of false rape and sexual assault reports remains at a paltry 2%?

When my older two kids were small and my older stepsons would visit, my ex and I used to have a recurring argument whenever a conflict between the kids arose. His assertion was that "little kids don't lie" and therefore when our younger kids pointed the finger at one of their half-brothers, they were to be believed. My contention was that little kids lie like rugs, that empathy and conscience doesn't fully develop until kids are around school age and a four year old will happily let someone else hang for his own crime if it means he doesn't have to swing himself. 

Considering the fact that a percentage of adults wilfully commit crimes--theft, murder, assault, fraud--knowing it's ethically and legally wrong...well, there are people out there who will do whatever is in their self-interest that they feel they can get away with. The more they feel they can get away with it, the more likely they are to do it. This is not rocket science. This is not 4th year psychology. It's fucking common sense.

Should we go back to the days before Rape Shield Laws existed? No. Should some instances of a plaintiff's sexual history be considered during a rape trial? Hell yes, if she has a history of false or unsubstantiated rape accusations. Otherwise, no. Should we protect the identity of the accused? Oh, fuck, yes, at least until conviction, because of the degree of damage a simple accusation, no matter how unfounded, can be to a man's reputation, livelihood and relationships. 

But presuming that women don't and won't lie about rape because...well, because they're women? This is a logical fallacy and a complete departure from reality that astounds me. And basing the criminal justice system's entire approach to sex crimes on the absurd assumption that only 2% of women lie about rape, and that punishing them for lying is irresponsible...this is insanity. 

Thursday 12 May 2011

What's in a Word?

Words are important to me. Take "cunt", for instance. From my POV as a writer of erotica, "cunt" has to be one of my favorites, and I use it much more often than, say, "pussy". It's succinct. It's not cutesy. It's strong and workaday and when you say it, in whatever context, everyone knows exactly what you mean. It has deep etymological roots, dating back to Chaucer and beyond. A gorgeous, albeit guttural, word. And most women hate it, and are happy to continue to do so. I get away with using it in my fiction because I'm a woman, and therefore I have a "right" to. Most other women seem content to allow its positive definition of vagina vanish into obscurity, while only its negative alternate definitions, as an insult and expletive, remain in common usage.

But "slut"? According to these chicks ^^^, it's a word that requires "reclaiming". On the surface, this may seem like a positive thing and a removal of the negative power from specific words. The idea is to apply a specific word in a positive context enough to have that positive context become the dominant one. But that's rarely what happens, is it? Let's examine what's happened when other groups have "reclaimed" similar derogatory terms. We all know them, so let's not bandy around. "Queer." "Fag." "Dyke." "Nigger."

There's a reason I kind of cringed as I typed that last one. As a bisexual, my use of "queer" isn't going to raise any eyebrows. And despite rifts and infighting (inbickering?) within the LGBTQ community, my membership in that group entitles me to use "fag" and "dyke" with relative impunity. But "nigger"? I'm not black. That's not my word. Many people would question my right to even think it, let alone speak or write it.

The problem is, despite its reclamation, "nigger" remains a negative word in all contexts but one--when a black person speaks it. The same outcome applies to "fag" and "dyke", if not "queer". While they may be spoken within positive contexts by and amid their particular in-groups (and sometimes a few trusted non-members, once they've proved themselves allies), they're now off-limits to outsiders. Woe betide the white guy who speaks the word "nigger", even in a positive context.

The negative connotation of the word remains and is only reinforced by the in-group's appropriation of it. It has become a "forbidden utterance" for everyone else. And once a thing is forbidden, its power to wound is all the greater. And the ironic thing is, the word never really belonged to black people in the first place. The idea...I gather, anyway, was to take a word used by privileged white people to remind black people that they were "less than", and turn it into something different. Something positive. But has its meaning out of the mouths of white people changed at all? Can we claim that any of the negative power been removed from the word when people are forced to resign from public office over their use of "niggardly", a completely different word with a different etymological origin, merely because it sounded like "nigger"?

Moreover, reclamation of these words in this fashion is a form of social censorship. And while words can be easily censored, there is no way to censor people's hearts and minds. If someone hates black people, he'll hate them whether he can socially get away with speaking the word "nigger" or not. The only thing reappropration of the word has done is put the onus on non-blacks to never utter it at all.

So onto "slut". Unlike "cunt", this word's meaning has never been particularly positive in any context, though it wasn't always sexual. Its first traceable usages were basically in reference to "female slobs". But considering how words like "filth" and "dirty" and "smut" are used to describe sexual obscenity, and "unclean" to describe sexual immorality and a state of sin...well, its application in regard to sex is hardly surprising. Its redefinition as a sex-positive term has been going on for some time. Dan Savage--one of the most sex-positive media figures out there, a gay dude who understands more about straight sex than most straight people, and a personal hero of mine--regularly advises married or committed couples that they need to be "sluts for each other".

Mr. Savage is also very pro-sexual objectification, which I think lies at the heart of the problem the "Slutwalk", with its intended goal of "word reappropriation"--is fruitlessly trying to solve. Ridiculous modern attitudes around the sexual objectification of people--especially women--is the diseased taproot of a very invasive weed. In response to the uproar caused by protesters in Seattle in 2003 when a local sushi bar served sashimi and fried tofu off of a naked woman's body, he wrote:

Face facts, ladies: people always have and always will objectify the people they're attracted to. Men who wanna fuck women objectify women (at places like Hooters); women who want to fuck men objectify men (at places like Centerfolds). Gay men objectify other men (at places like Ashton Kutcher's asscrack), lesbians objectify other women (at places where Venus and Serena play tennis). The urge to objectify is universal, and so long as it's fairly and respectfully indulged, it's not offensive, not a problem, and not news.
There's an insidious conflict at work in modern women, largely due to the pervasive and erroneous belief that sexually objectifying women is wrong. I think deep down, women understand that sexual objectification is a natural human tendency and, taken on its own, a morally and ethically neutral proposition. If women did not want to be viewed as sexual objects, they wouldn't invest so much time and expense into turning themselves into beautiful and sexy objects, would they? They wouldn't dress in a manner that attracts male sexual interest. They'd rely on their personalities--it's the basis of their personhood, after all--to do the job for them. Whether you're a man or a woman, to be sexy is to be an object of desire. And for straight women, that means being objectified by men.

Women instinctively realize that their own objectification gives them sexual power. The more you tart yourself up, the more male interest you get, and the more interest you get, the bigger a pool you have to choose from, whether you're looking for a one-off or a relationship.

Where downside to this power is that when you present yourself in a way that encourages sexual objectification, you have no control over who objectifies you, do you? That means being mature enough to accept the fact that sometimes, a guy you regard as beneath your notice may hit on you, or even be masturbating to images of you when he gets home from the bar. That means guys WILL look at your boobs, and no amount of angrily telling them, "My eyes are up here, asshole," is going to get them to stop noticing your boobs. Grow up, ladies. If you want to be sex objects, then be sex objects. And be responsible ones--shooting a guy down in the most humiliating way, or treating him as if he's some kind of insect you wouldn't bother to scrape off your shoe after you'd stepped on him, for daring to look at you with the kind of interest you only really want from the hot guys? Not kosher.

The conflict arises when feminism encourages women to embrace and explore their sexuality, to have agency, to say yes or say no as they see fit...and at the same time, condemns one of the most effective routes to female sexual agency--the acceptance that someone can objectify a woman sexually while still respecting and appreciating her personhood, and that sexual objectification is, indeed, a necessary component of human sexual attraction, whether you're hooking up or happily married. It's no wonder women are so fucked up about sex that they'll falsely accuse men of rape when they can't reconcile their desires and their freedom to act on them with the bizarre marriage of Victorian era morality and female sexual liberation that is the schizophrenic brainchild of modern gender feminism.

And consider someone like me. I've always been sexually adventuresome. Hopefully my mom isn't reading this (she wouldn't understand), but I lost count of the number of men I've had sex with a lonnnng time ago, way back before I was married. And despite 15 years of monogamy, during the period after splitting with my ex and before settling into a new relationship with my current boyfriend, I briefly returned to my sexually free-spirited ways. I've always been open and upfront about my desires--when I want to sleep with a man, he knows it. And yet I've never been called a slut. Why?

Because sluts are shameless. But sexual free spirits? They're not shameless--they are unashamed. Sexual free spirits understand their power, and they use it responsibly, to choose their partners and have sex--or not--on honest terms, rather than to flaunt what they've got so they can shame or scorn members of the opposite sex for daring to look at them with sexual interest. Sexual free spirits don't have some obligation to fuck every guy who wants them--but they don't get offended by being desired by men they don't want, either. Sexual free spirits may even dress like sluts, but at the same time, they're in charge of their sex life, and hold themselves responsible for their decisions--whether wise or foolish--and don't put the entire onus on men to restrain their male sexuality in the face of completely unrestrained female sexuality.

Women who do flex their sexual muscle while relying on the opposite gender to never flex back, women who do not hold themselves accountable for their own sexual decisions, women who use their sexual attractiveness to crush the self-esteem of less than desirable men, women who feel victimized because a guy they don't find attractive dared to look at them with lust when they've got 2/3 of their body on display, and women like the Hofstra rape accuser, who willingly fucked two guys and couldn't deal with the emotional and practical fall-out from it--those women are the ones both men and women call sluts.

So why is the Slutwalk a pointless endeavor? Because it does nothing to reconcile the idea of female sexual freedom with female sexual responsibility. Yet again, the Slutwalk puts the onus on one gender--every goddamn member of it--to be responsible and accountable for the sexual conduct of the other.

Whether you believe a woman who advertises her sexual availability is increasing her risk of rape or not, the Slutwalk will do absolutely nothing to prevent rape. And it will do nothing to keep immature, power-drunk, sexually irresponsible women from being labeled as sluts, either.

Most women don't realize just how restrained male sexuality already is. I compare my experiences in strip clubs depending on whether it's ladies' night or Miss Mugs 'n' Jugs' world tour, and I'm always amazed at how well-leashed the men in the audience generally keep themselves relative to women's behavior in similar situations. This is because men are socialized toward sexual self-restraint and sexual accountability, while women...well, nowadays women get to do whatever and act however they want, and if they don't like the consequences--whether it's an ugly guy ogling them, or having to admit that going upstairs with that frat boy was a poor decision--they can shift all the responsibility onto men.

That's the opposite of sexual agency. And that's the fucking Slutwalk. And no amount of reappropriation of the word "slut" is going to do anything to change the behavior of the women who've earned the name, nor change the attitudes of the men who've learned by experience to be wary and scornful of them.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Data? Who needs data when you got belief?

Years ago in my travels through the plethora of verbiage written by people both brilliant and retarded, I stumbled across this quote from American humorist Josh Billings:

"It ain't what a man don't know that makes him a fool, it's the things he does know, that ain't so."

While I don't agree with everything the man ever said, that one really resonates with me. Setting aside the questionable grammar and gender-specific wording, it encapsulates my concerns with a lot of modern society, contemporary feminism being just one thick branch of an enormous, blighted Tree of Ignorance.

Humans are inclined to believe what they are told by...well, by smart people. Especially so when what we are told reflects some or many aspects of our observed reality. The more sure those intellecshul, book-learned folk are in their convictions, the more convinced we often are that they're right. However, again Josh Billings:

"As scarce as the truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand."

Quote one and quote two simplified: ignorance is less dangerous than misplaced or unfounded belief; and people just don't want to hear the truth a lot of the time.

These two concepts are effectively demonstrated by two facts that can be considered "common knowledge" among the masses, and which are held up as evidence by feminist academics when presenting their theories of how society currently works and therefore how it needs to be changed. 

One is the 2% false rape report statistic we see repeated all over the place, and which I will deal with in a day or two. The other is the "patriarchal terrorism" paradigm of domestic violence, portrayed as typical in much of feminist academia and currently lopsided public policy, as well as in popular culture, through highly visible, big budget movies like "Enough" and "Sleeping with the Enemy." 

In contrast to the above movies, 1993's "Men Don't Tell", starring Judith Light and Peter Strauss, was deemed fit merely for TV, has vanished into celluloid obscurity, and is the only film I can even think** of depicting a man as both a victim of domestic violence and in need of help to deal with the situation. That this movie, which aired two years after the release of "Sleeping with the Enemy", would have been considered controversial would be grossly understating the case. Yet it hardly generated a shrug from society before it quietly disappeared. 

That even the prospect of controversy--which we're told sells like mad--was not enough to outweigh the resistance of society to have its long-held beliefs challenged in any way, indicates just how serious the double whammy of quote one + quote two really is when considering gender and domestic violence.

When the prevailing theory in much of academia, the prevailing focus of public policy, the prevailing gender bias in popular culture, and our own instinctive impression that men are aggressive and potentially dangerous, all tell us the same thing, it's no wonder society swallowed PT as the primary dynamic responsible for domestic violence. When this prevailing collective awareness of DV as primarily perpetrated by men on women is balanced by a single, obscure TV movie and this, it's no wonder that collective belief can overshadow a person's own experiences enough for them to write them off as "the exception that proves the rule."

Society thinks it knows how domestic violence works, because it believes what it is shown, not what is true. I still run across glib comments like, "What, you mean when she bruised his knuckles with her face?" all over the place, and from people I used to believe were intelligent.

In recently discussing this paper and my Female Privilege Checklist with a feminist and an academic (though not a feminist academic, if you will), I was asked to define "reciprocate" in a domestic violence context, the implication being the same tired, trite notion that women will only hit when they're defending themselves. 

I replied "reciprocal violence = two people who beat the shit out of each other for whatever reason and no matter who started it. But if you want to define it as defending oneself, that's cool with me, since in the majority of cases where two people beat the shit out of each other for whatever reason and no matter who started it, the woman actually hit first."

The paper summed up the findings of dozens [now hundreds] of empirical studies done since 1985, with a combined community data set of 109,000 [now 360,000] subjects, that demonstrate:

  1. both genders are roughly equally likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence
  2. women are slightly more likely to be the instigators in reciprocally violent relationships
  3. the vast majority of DV is reciprocal, and the most common contributors are personality disorders, poor communication and conflict resolution skills, mental/emotional instability, substance abuse, attachment issues and external stressors
  4. women are slightly more likely to suffer severe injury from battery; however, women even the playing field by being more likely to hit with objects or use weapons
  5. both genders can be deeply traumatized by their victimization
  6. in cases where a partner is severely violent against a non-violent partner, the perpetrator is roughly twice as likely to be female than male. That a terroristic, controlling dynamic within DV exists is not in question, but "matriarchal terrorism" is twice as common as "patriarchal terrorism"

I then asked my online feminist debate partner to read the paper and bring up the findings in her women's studies class, and let me know what happens. 

She said she'd bring it up with her department chair and her dissertation committee. I cried foul play--I don't want to know what a handful of people are prepared to say behind closed doors when they're presented with a mountain of empirical evidence that calls bullshit on the prevailing wisdom. I want to know what would transpire when the bullshit-calling happens in a feminist-controlled forum filled with young female students eager to learn about the struggles and concerns of women. 

What I expect to happen is exactly what happened when feminist academics were repeatedly confronted with this veritable geiser of statistical information that did not conform to theories they'd developed decades ago through examination of biased data sets (arrest/report rates, conviction rates, self-selecting rather than random samples, etc). That is, as Dutton et. al expressed so eloquently in their paper:  

The "belief perseverance" processes used against new data sets to maintain the feminist paradigm include the following: first, to deny female violence while generalizing male violence patterns from the "patriarchal terrorist" group to all batterers and in some cases, all men (disconfirmed by the Straus surveys). Then, to attack the Straus surveys for ignoring the "context of violence": suggesting that females were using violence defensively (disconfirmed by Stets and Straus and other studies cited above,) or that females were substantially more injured (disconfirmed by Archer). When all of these conceptual shields failed, the final step was to attack quantitative research in general (e.g. Bowman,1992; Yllo, 1988).
In other words, criticize the data that presents domestic violence as an equal opportunity offense. Then, when the data is demonstrated to be sound, argue that the reports do not provide "context" (which is where you start hearing ridiculous theories such as "women hitting first are hitting in pre-emptive self defence" or "women are triggering the violence because it's a way to feel they have control over an aspect of their victimization" or "it's like a safety release valve--she instigates before his violence has a chance to build up to homicidal levels"). Then, when women hitting men is contextualized by the female research subjects themselves (who frequently attribute it to anger, substance abuse, the feeling that their partner isn't listening to them, outside stress, jealousy, or their own need to control their partner), it's onto the assertion that "okay, maybe women DO hit men, and maybe they DON'T always do it in self-defence, but they're MUCH more likely to be injured", so men hitting women is still the bigger problem.

When empirical evidence disproves the idea that women are much more likely to be physically injured--even severely injured--it's onto the assertion that "okay, so maybe men get physically hurt as much as women, but the psychological effects are MUCH more damaging to women". When it is again demonstrated empirically that though insufficient data exists, what data there is indicates men often suffer deep psychological trauma from being battered, the hypothesis is then presented (in a 2002 article published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, no less) that the trauma men may suffer in reciprocally violent relationships could be from their perpetration of abuse, rather than their victimization. In other words, men hitting women traumatizes women, and men hitting women traumatizes men. The fact that this absurd and completely baseless hypothesis apparently did not apply in the opposite direction--that women could be traumatized by their own perpetration of abuse--speaks volumes about the agenda of the authors, and the peers who reviewed the study.  

And finally, when everything has been painstakingly picked apart and shaken out and empirically proved or disproved, the response of some feminists is...well, to claim that the scientific method itself is a research methodology developed by the Patriarchy in a time when women were oppressed, and therefore not to be trusted. 

This is comparable to a Creationist claiming the fossil record was planted by Satan to weaken people's belief in god. 

The research that spawned the "patriarchal terrorism" paradigm was flawed at the outset. Data derived from biased samples such as arrest/conviction statistics, domestic violence shelters (where ~100% of adult victims, at least at the time, were women), and court-ordered abuse prevention programs (where ~100% of perpetrators at the time were male), gave academics a skewed picture of domestic violence as overwhelmingly perpetrated by men upon women. The biased data fit the feminist world-view of patriarchy as a system that encourages and condones the oppression of women as a group by men, as opposed to a system that oppresses men and women in different ways, and imparts different privileges on each gender. Still, feminism clings to its dominant paradigm of DV the way it clings to the idea that men were never historically oppressed and never can be oppressed due solely to their gender, while women have never and can never be privileged by virtue of their own. 

But to conclude that men are the overwhelming majority of perpetrators of DV through analysis of crime statistics that show a prevalence of male abusers and female victims is to conclude from this that more rapes occur in Canada than in all but five other nations. On could assume that for every woman raped in, say, Japan, more than nine are raped in Canada, or one could assume that social stigmatization of victims are less daunting in Canada and a victim's odds of getting justice are higher, so Canadian women who are raped are more likely to report it. Without other evidence to contextualize the data, there's no way to prove one or the other conclusion, or some combination of both, is at work. 

Sufficient empirical data, derived from random community samples, now exists to disprove the "patriarchal terrorism" paradigm of DV, and demonstrate that women are as likely to be offenders as men. However, criminal statistics are still the predominant method not only for formulating public policy (such as victim's services and shelters, crisis lines, etc), but also in continuing to erroneously portray to the public the nature of the problem as mostly due to male violence and mostly inflicted upon women. 

When you consider the data derived from the CTS community samples gathered since 1985, this is a huge indictment of both our public health and criminal justice systems. Public policy vastly disproportionately allocates resources toward female victims of DV, leaving half of all victims twisting in the wind. And arrest and conviction rates that defy empirically gathered evidence can only mean that men are disproportionally held criminally accountable for DV, while female perpetrators, by and large, get away with their crimes. This is a system that re-victimizes male victims by pretending they don't exist, and victimizes both men and children by pretending that female perpetrators don't exist.

The lack of victim's services for men combined with the gender bias in the legal system's handling of DV can only perpetuate the cycle of men underreporting their victimization, leading to a more deeply entrenched societal belief that women are the primary victims and men the primary offenders. 

This disparity between reality and what is reflected in criminal statistics could be alleviated through modest changes in public policy, a focus on more reliable, less biased data sources, and a less sexist approach to police enforcement. The only thing standing in the way is adherence to an almost religious dogma that, if it ever was accurate--which is highly doubtful--is certainly not reality now.

**If anyone can think of other good examples of movies or TV shows that portray DV in a more balanced and accurate way, please suggest them in the comments. :)