Saturday, November 28, 2009

Porn = Theory, Rape = Practise? Another feminist failure.

When I was involved with the political Left in the 1980s, some of the young women used to wear badges on their lapels which read "Porn = Theory, Rape = Practise".

It was a dogma of the 1970s and 1980s radical feminist movement that sexual violence is caused by the perpetrator having been exposed to pornographic literature, and that such literature must therefore be banned by means of draconian state censorship of the media. This view is probably represented best by the work of Andrew Dworkin.

It is this claim that I want to examine.

What is pornography? I am not going to trouble you with attempts to formulate an academic definition of pornography. I take it for granted that we know what pornography looks like. I have a general notion of pornography as any created representation, produced in any medium, which is intended to cause the viewer to become sexually aroused.

The degree of censorship which is enforced varies according to the medium that the work is produced in. One can get away with nearly anything in prose, but that has traditionally not been the case in cinema, for example.

The upper-middle class took it upon themselves to censor the media on behalf of the working class. A good example of this is a much-repeated incident that took place during the 'Lady Chatterley' trial. The novel 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover', by DH Lawrence, was banned in Britain as obscene when it was first published in 1928. A publisher attempted to re-print the novel in 1962, and was charged with obscenity. During the resulting trial, the prosecuting lawyer asked the court “Is this the kind of book you would want your servants to read?”

Various literary figures were produced as witnesses to attest to the novel’s artistic merit. The publisher won, and the novel became available in the UK for the first time.

The poet Philip Larkin later wrote in a particularly witty moment:

Sex was invented in 1963,
Between the Lady Chatterley trial
And the Beatles’ first LP.

One unexpected outcome of the Lady Chatterley trial was that people often try to make a distinction between ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’. The difference is usually said to be due to the fact that the former possesses some kind of artistic merit and the latter does not. The defence in the Lady Chatterley trial successfully argued that no work of such merit should be banned. The clear implication, however, is that if the work had had less artistic merit, the court would have been right to ban it. This is a dangerous and unhealthy precedent. The US Supreme court now apparently defines pornography as anything which is intended to cause sexual arousal and which lacks artistic merit.

This distinction between ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’ is meaningless, for the simple reason that we have no reliable forensic test for distinguishing one from the other; when presented with a piece of work, we have to be able to say reliably which category it falls into. If we cannot do that – and we cannot – then the distinction is functionally useless.

It can only be a subjective judgement: I appreciate erotica – you use pornography. Erotica is something you like, pornography something you don’t. In practise those who hold power, such as judges, will get to ban whatever they want and allow whatever they want. As a distinction, it can only be a political one. They will tend to allow sexual representation which they deem to be politically correct for whatever reason, and disallow anything else.

The vacuity of the distinction becomes clearer when we consider that it is hardly the business of the law to arbitrate on matters of artistic merit. Since when did judges get to arbitrate on matters of artistic merit? They do not do so with regard to anything else. Judges do not ban clothes, food, furniture or music due to their lacking artistic merit, so why sexual representation? A lot of work that wins the Turner Prize lacks artistic merit in the opinion of many, but that is hardly grounds for banning it. In pretending that there is any such valid difference, we are flirting with a highly dangerous totalitarian mindset, while pretending to be terribly liberal.

A comedian once described the upmarket British publication The Erotic Review as ‘porn for posh people. It is Penthouse for people who actually live in one’. I couldn’t have put it more succinctly myself.

The ruling class have always had access to sexually-explicit art, while the working-class usually have not, and the pornography/erotica distinction tends to reinforce and preserve that kind of class privilege.

Even so, the Lady Chatterley trial was obviously a step forward towards a more open society.

Many people say that the cultural revolution of 1968 produced a more liberal society, and in many ways, that is true. It saw the decriminalisation of male homosexuality for example (female homosexuality has never been illegal in the UK).

However, that period also saw the rise of what is known as ‘second-wave feminism’, which was anything but liberal.

As a good little lefty in the 1980s, it always struck me as odd to see the feminist movement lining itself up with religious conservatives over the issue of pornography. How can we explain the fact that a revolutionary movement promoting radical social change would get into bed with a profoundly reactionary one? The answer took me a long time to come to, and Neil Lyndon got there before me. There is nothing remotely progressive about the feminist movement. It is, and always has been, a deeply conservative movement.

Neil Lyndon was an eye-witness to the events of 1968. In his seminal book, ‘No More Sex War: The failures of feminism’, he described the rise of feminism as, in effect, a reaction against the 1968 cultural revolution:

“It fell, of course, to women to bear this weight of change: not all women, just a very big group…there was a particular class of women born around the time of the second world war, who were caught dead in the middle of this sea change. To these women, it fell as an acute task and responsibility to negotiate a set of demands for personal and social change such as no women in the entire history of human beings has ever had to face. No wonder a lot of them funked it. No wonder they tried to erect an ideological Berlin Wall which could restrain and deny change. No wonder they created an hysterical dogma which was intended to keep men in their place and women in theirs, even while it was advanced as a prospectus for evolutionary change by which individuals might be released from the imprisonment of sexual stereotypes.” (pp87-88)

One aspect of the times which I believe Lyndon has underestimated was ‘the Rise of the Toms’, what Gloria Steinem termed the 'Lavender Menace'. It is simply not in the interests of heterosexual women to hate men. Who benefits from such an agenda? Lesbians.

“As in any period of uncertainty, the bumptious rose to the fore. The most radical among us struck fear into the rest with their certainty and their expert deployment of feminist guilt. I was frequently berated by the Lesbian Police in bars and clubs; for wearing red lipstick, for wearing a black biker's jacket and hilariously, on one occasion, for having "too much fun" with my mates.” Reference

The most aggressive individuals will rise to prominence, and at that time, perhaps due to both their higher aggression levels, and their greater feeling of social disenfranchisement, it was perhaps no accident that many of these emergent leaders were lesbians, who immediately set about promoting an agenda which suited themselves, rather than the heterosexual majority.

Be that as it may, however, the agenda of second-wave feminism was in many ways about holding back and constraining the overwhelming cultural changes taking place, and therefore reducing fear and uncertainty. Conservative moral attitudes have always been plain to see in the feminist movement, despite the thin veneer of radicalism.

“Feminism taught me 30 years ago that not only had women gotten a raw deal from men, we were morally superior to them. When it came to distinguishing right from wrong, the needle of our compass always pointed to true north. Our thinking was hardly radical. Victorian was more like it: Men were competitive and dangerous, women cooperative and comforting. Men were brutish, women gentle.”

Why did feminism turn against pornography? The Seventies pop star Linda Lewis described the sexually-permissive culture of the time in a recent memoir. "In those days everyone slept with everyone. If you said no, you were considered uptight". Reference

This was a sexual culture which largely benefited men. Many women no doubt felt that they had, in effect, lost the right to say no.

Access to sex is one of women's principal bargaining chips in the dating marketplace; it always has been, and will remain so. After 1968, the free availability of contraception combined with the hedonism of the time produced, for a while at least, a feeling that there was no longer any reason not to have sex, and that to refuse was actually evidence of lack of revolutionary commitment, or even mental dysfunction of some kind.

This feeling of loss of control is one of the things which would have produced anxiety in many women, and the reactionary feminist backlash was a way of trying to regain that control. Male sexuality was held to be the problem. The view of men as brutish sexual predators, and women as angelic shrinking violets was again a deeply conservative and reactionary one. This was an agenda which the lesbians in the feminist movement were quite happy to see promoted. They were after all, competing against men for mates, and the more men are demonised in the eyes of women, the more their interests are served.

The feminist movement thus turned against the newly unconstrained male sexuality, and called for powerful restraints to be placed upon it. Thus we saw feminist attacks on beauty pageants, a general call for women to dress down in response to 'The Beauty Myth', a call for a general refusal to co-operate with men's sexual demands. Feminists were opposed to any aspect of the commercial sex industry, and pornography was one of the main targets.

Pornography does of course portray women in a way which is designed to be sexually appealing to men. This was not the image of women, nor of sexual license, which the feminist movement wanted to promote.

Feminist opposition to pornography was even extreme enough to include terrorism. Adrienne Gerhäuser, one of the leaders of the German Rote Zora gang, which set off fire bombs in sex shops, surrendered recently after 19 years on the run. Reference.

The principal radical feminist argument against pornography was that it causes men who read it to become sexually violent towards women; that pornography actually causes sexual violence. That is what the little 1980s badge clearly stated.

This view was based on a deeply cynical, and frankly incoherent, view that male sexuality is essentially violent and coercive in nature. By the 1980s, feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon were claiming that all heterosexual sex is rape.

The feminist position, tempered as it is so profoundly by both Marxism and lesbianism, is openly heterophobic and misandrist, and openly promotes double-standards.

Ever since the 1960s, there have been two different opposing views of pornography: the conservative view that it is obscene, harmful and degrading, and the ‘progressive’ view that it is liberating, and enables people to explore and enjoy their sexuality. Which is true? The feminist-led Left has resolved this dilemma in its usual way: by creating double standards. Pornography aimed at women and gay people is liberating; pornography aimed at heterosexual men is obscene, harmful and degrading.

I have been in a mainstream bookshop in the UK and seen a large display of pornographic novels aimed at gay men. In the ‘Gender Studies’ section they had another selection aimed at heterosexual women and lesbians. Where is the pornography aimed at straight men? Of course there wasn’t any, because that is not politically correct. It is perfectly acceptable for everyone to use pornography except for heterosexual men.

This double standard extends into social attitudes towards male and female masturbation. It is now almost de rigeur for the Sex and the City generation to openly boast about having a drawerful of Rampant Rabbits, but ‘wanker’ is still one of the most common insults applied to men. Although we have all masturbated at some point, to admit to having done so is still to invite social ridicule: but only if you are a heterosexual man.

I once saw a young man wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Masturbation is not a crime’. More of us need to take that kind of stand.

The feminist model predicts that the more freely available pornography is, the more violence against women there will be. If pornography is an instrument of violence against women, we would expect to find that it is most prevalent in the countries in which women have the lowest status, and vice versa; The feminist model predicts that there should be an inverse relation between the availability of pornography and the status of women. In fact, we find the opposite. In those nations in which women have the lowest social status, such as the Gulf states, Africa, the Middle East, and so on, we notice that pornography is heavily censored or illegal. In those states in which women enjoy the highest status and greatest levels of personal freedom, such as the USA, Canada, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, we find that pornography is freely available. This is in fact the direct opposite of what the feminist model should predict.

It is also interesting to note that relaxing censorship actually reduces the incidence of sexual violence: "When pornography was made freely available in Denmark in the late 1960s, the incidence of sex crimes, sexual violence towards women and children, dropped markedly. In 1967 erotic material in Denmark was removed from the obscenity statute. This resulted in sex crimes in Denmark, which had been stable from 1958 to 1966, decreasing by 25 percent in 1967, 13 percent in 1968 and 30.5 percent in 1969". Patricia Petersen, Lecturer in Psychology, Central Queensland University, Brisbane. Reference

Once again, the truth is the direct opposite of what the feminists claim it is. If porn causes rape, then relaxing censorship should lead to an increase in rape; instead it leads to a decrease. By extension, we can expect that increasing censorship will lead to increased sexual violence. It is sexual repression which produces sexual violence, not sexual libertarianism.

We must conclude, therefore, that based on the evidence, the feminist model of pornography is false.

It is interesting that the feminist movement appears not to have noticed any of this. If feminists were rational, they would, on the basis of the evidence, encourage more pornography, as there is a strong correlation between availability of pornography and women's status. However, they do not do that, because they are not rational. Feminism is simply not an evidence-based theory. It is a modern-day religion, with deeply entrenched vested interests, which it does not want to see threatened.

One of the good things that the Blair government did in its first term was to liberalise censorship in the UK. One of the main reasons for that, no doubt, was the advent of mass internet access during the 1990s. The fact is that governments can no longer control the flow of information across their borders, although many still try; in Iraq under Saddam, possession of a modem was a criminal offence. Jack Straw luckily saw the writing on the wall and accepted that things had to change. It is just pointless for governments in Western democracies to try to prevent the population from accessing pornography. Censorship is just no longer relevant or possible in the way that it was half a century ago.

The feminist movement has retreated to a new defensive line. In the last decade or so, feminist attention has switched away from mainstream pornography and transferred instead on to the issue of child pornography. Why is that?

Perhaps just because they knew that they had lost the battle over pornography; their claims were shown to be nonsense, and the advent of the internet, which gave everyone access to huge amounts of pornography for free, meant that their mean-spirited and misguided dream of banning it had disappeared forever. Child pornography on the other hand, is an issue about which everyone can agree. The misandrist propaganda has switched from the claim that all men are rapists, to the claim that all men are child rapists. The message however, has remained the same; that men are evil, and that male sexuality is essentially violent and coercive.

The only solution is to treat their claims about child pornography today in the same way that we have had to treat their claims about mainstream pornography in the past. By putting aside hysteria and bigotry, and looking at the cold, hard facts. Debate on the subject of pornography – on any subject for that matter – cannot be left in the hands of these bigoted, man-hating, socially-dysfunctional harpies. Common sense must prevail.

Man Flu

It is the season of man-flu. Have you had it yet?

Did you know that women consume far more medical resources than men do? Yet men are more likely to die than women from all major diseases, as Warren Farrell points out. It is no accident that women live longer than men.

Equal numbers die in the UK each year from prostate and breast cancers. Look at the furore over breast cancer, yet there is no screening program for prostate.

Women are more likely than men to take time off work due to illness.

Yet feminists talk of men having 'man-flu', which is basically an accusation of malingering. As a man, you have no right to be ill. You have no right to have your symptoms taken seriously. It is just a boring inconvenience for women. You can't perform and entertain them as they expect, so you are ridiculed. A sick man is a weak man. A weak man is no man at all.

Feminists try to promote the idea that women are nobly struggling in the face of terrible illness, whereas men crumble at the first sign of trouble. They are stronger than you, and therefore morally superior to you.

I find the notion of man-flu pretty offensive. Like 'wierdo' and 'pervert', it is a way of coercing men into doing what women want; of, in Moxon's terms, 'policing the male hierarchy'.

That wouldn't be so bad in itself, but it is not a relationship of equals. She can laugh at you for having man flu, but you can't tell her she's an ugly fat cow, or whatever. Your right to police the female hierarchy has been severely curtailed, while her rights have been extended.

You may think you are ill with seasonal flu, but you are not. You are a miserable, self-pitying liar. Get over yourself, you wanker.

Anarchy in the UK

I was one of the office workers dressing down last April during the G20 protests (although I hasten to add that I am not a financier).

I was involved in a similar protest myself as a teenager in the 1980s, and I was able to see it from the other side of the barricades, so to speak

It made me think again about the motivations of the anti-capitalist movement.

First of all they are very selective about what they are against.

Capitalism is perfectly OK as long as it is the global cannabis trade; do not try to oppress their right to sell organic hash-cookies or to buy top-ups for their pay-as-you-go mobiles.

Some would say that it is just unfettered global corporate capitalism that they are opposed to. Fair enough, but who is going to regulate it? The only entity capable of doing that is the State, and the protesters are anarchists; they do not believe that there should be a State.

The position that they take is so amorphous as to be incoherent. All they are really communicating is the message ‘young, scruffy and disapproving’. In fact, hormones played a much larger role than economic theory in the protests of last April.

It set me thinking what a nonsense the notion of anarchy is. I remember I was never really convinced as a teenager either, but I didn’t quite know how to articulate why.

Just as ‘a-theist’ means ‘without a god’, the word ‘an-archy’ means without a ruler; if a monarchy is rule by one person, and an oligarchy is rule by a small clique, then anarchy is the rule of no-one. No State.

There are only two alternatives to the State, both short-lived.

The first one is a Hobbesian ‘war of all against all’, a nightmarish gangster-run wilderness of violent competition between petty groups. The hippies tend to refer to this as ‘chaos’ rather than anarchy, and most of them espouse non-violence, but let’s consider it for the sake of argument. What would happen in the long term? Cliques would merge and become larger, wiping out or absorbing other cliques, until one dominated in the end; a State. A bit like Mongolia before Genghis Khan came along and knocked everyone into line. Or anywhere before the State emerged, in fact.

The second alternative is the anarchy the protesters love so much, a pacifist version of the same thing, a middle-class fantasy in which consenting adults form agreements with each other to mend the fence or empty the drains in exchange for all the organic stew they can eat; a kind of permanent Woodstock, but with a sense of social responsibility. A settled middle-class life in which tee-pees and wind-chimes take the place of white picket fences and lawns. There are several problems with this Eden-like vision.

Firstly, it requires an extremely high degree of co-operation, discipline and social responsibility from every individual, without any personal incentive to gain or fear of punishment. Anarchy is the system of government for a land populated entirely by saints, and with no external competition. It is unrealistic. Not even monasteries are conflict-free.

Most of the people who espouse anarchy tend to be especially lacking in the social responsibility department. They may talk endlessly about the plight of the planet, but they still manage to avoid doing any productive work.

Selfish individuals will flourish. Let’s not forget that 1% of people are psychopaths. Hustlers and middle-men will see the main chance. Cult leaders will emerge immediately and dominate the group. Many will welcome their leadership.

It will be an armchair lawyer’s heaven, a society in which everything is ultimately done by contract between consenting adults. What happens if someone reneges on the contract? There will have to be sanctions. Probably everyone will call them a fascist, go on a downer, and no-one will pass them the joint.

How will they organise boring stuff like communications and engineering? We still expect our mobiles, man. We got to score somehow. What if a foreign invasion happens? The community will have to organise a military defence or get wiped out. These things can only be done by large-scale social formations involving hierarchical organisation and central planning. That means taxation, record-keeping, the whole thing, man.

Pretty soon, in short, you will have the State back again, and that should come as no surprise, because we should bear in mind that the State emerged the first time around for exactly the same reasons.

From Heretic's Postbag

Dear Heretic,

I have recently read most of your blog entries, and I agree almost to the dot of the i: in particular, I tend to say that I am pro-equality, pro-man, and pro-woman, and therefore, by necessity, anti-feminist.

There is one fundamental issue, however, where I think that you misjudge

You ascribe many things to feminism (hypocrisy, inability or unwillingness to understand reasoning, ad hominem and ad virem attacks, ...) that in my experience are more related to women in general, rather than feminists in particular. For example, wrt to hypocrisy: Very many women, whether feminists or not, would consider their own cheating ``his fault'' (``He drove me to it by being an unfeeling bastard!''), while his cheating is (unsurprisingly) his fault. Such experiences I have made again and again in various forms where women are concerned, e.g. female relatives as a child, women in the office, and girl-friends. Reading online diaries or forums on relationships gives the same impression (although the latter do contain disproportionally many feminists and, obviously, women who either have genuine complaints or are temporarily emotionally upset).

Consider the following extreme example:
A few years ago, I worked eight hours a day with two women, and was regularly brought to the point that I had problems controlling the impulse to simply put one of them over my knee for a hiding: Opinions were immutable once formed; everything had to be explained thrice, and she still did not understand it; when I tried to diplomatically point out major blunders (that many others would have given her a scolding for), I received a scolding from her for the perceived presumption; she attacked others for doing the exact mistakes she herself did on a regular basis; a harsh word towards her was a deadly sin, her own viciousness towards others was not; everything had to be her way or a long argument ensued, which always ended with my having to bow out, for fear of finally snapping; etc. The more remarkable, seeing that I had thrice her experience, twice her education, at least thirty IQ points more.

(An ironic observation is that I failed as a leader by trying to be considerate, cooperative, understanding of women, etc., where a man like those portrayed in feminist propaganda would likely have been successful.)

The truth is that women are disproportionally more likely to be hypocritic, opportunistic, irrational, whatnot, than men are. Feminism is certainly something that plays on this, and which worsens the situation; however, it is not the root cause of these particular problems.



Dear Michael,

Thank you for your email. I'm glad you found something of value in my blog. Your experience accords with mine, and that of many other men I've spoken to. I can think of countless similar experiences. One which comes to mind is of an ex-girlfriend. We were renovating an old house, and we did most of the work ourselves. She wasn't actually very interested in doing many of the jobs, but she felt that she had to prove that she could do them, or that she was allowed to do them. She would come along when she wanted, pick up some tools, work for about 15 minutes, make a complete mess of it, because she had no patience or interest, then flounce off again, complaining that she was bored. I often had to re-do her work, because it was of such poor quality. If she saw me doing this, she would become enraged. How dare I re-do her work, it's an insult. I either had to re-do it when she wasn't around, or sometimes just leave it unchanged. Then her friends would come around to the house and cast a critical eye over the work. If they found fault with it, they would blame me, because this stuff is man's work, and I am obviously a very poor husband, because I can't do this kind of work. My ex-girlfriend, needless to say, did not leap to my defence.

In another case, a woman in the work-place behaved in a similar way towards a man in the group. We were collectively engaged on a project. At least, we all were except for her. She was engaged in undermining this man's work, and his standing within the group, with a view to forcing him to leave, a plan which eventually succeeded. She forced this man out of his job because she didn't like him. The fact that this could have had long-term consequences for his whole family did not concern her. She was also engaged in trying to obtain as many privileges for herself as possible. She complained loudly that she was the only one of her grade who did not have a company car, it's so sexist, they are picking on me because I am a woman. The wimpy boss gave in to her, perhaps for fear of being sued. "We don't have a spare car right now, but you are next on the list, I promise". She eventually got the car, and then it was 'I am the only one of my grade who doesn't have a company car-parking space, it's so sexist, they are picking on me because I am a woman'.

Having watched this appalling individual at work, it struck me that far from contributing anything positive to the company or the project, she was damaging everything she touched. She had no regard for the company's long-term welfare, and thought only of herself. I have never known a man to behave in this way, and I fail to see how he could get away with it. She was only able to get away with this because men's instincts are not to confront females.

Feminists are, by and large, cynical women who have realised the possibilities that this allows, and ruthlessly act upon them, the moral equivalent of stealing a car simply because the door is unlocked.

Creating no-win situations is one of the commonest forms of female aggression. It amounts to constant criticism, regardless of action. If you perform action X you are criticised; if you do not perform action X you are criticised. The key to understanding this is to realise that action X itself is irrelevant. Five minutes later, action Y will elicit the same response. The game is really about social dominance. This is how women treat each other. The commonest form of female aggression is social exclusion, and this kind of constant criticism is itself a strategy for manufacturing social exclusion. If you are subjected to it, no-one will want to support you in case they face the same fate; you may choose to abandon the social group in order to get some relief.

Having observed behaviour such as this for many years, it is difficult to form the view that women are equal to men.

All they are really interested in is maximising their own social position. Everything else can be sacrificed to this end. This is why women have almost no grasp of the truth or evidence, and feel free to change their story from second to second if it suits them. They are pathologically concerned with avoiding blame or responsibility.

This tendency is shown in lots of small everyday ways. If a phone call had to be made which might be vaguely embarrassing, such as cancelling a social engagement, or inviting someone we hardly knew, or apologising, my ex-girlfriend would get me to make the call. "Oh no, I'm too embarrassed! I can't face it! Could you do it? Pleeeease!" I mistakenly regarded this request as the equivalent of opening a jar, something she is just too weak to do for herself. In this way, her social image remained pristine, and I was the one who ended up with the dirt on his face.

If, on the other hand, during the course of the phone call we were likely to receive thanks and praise, she would take the call herself.

It took me years to get wise to these kinds of strategies. It is easy to make the mistake of assuming that other people think the same way you do. Men, with the possible exception of psychopaths, simply do not think like this.

If people ever wake up to the reality of this in large numbers, society will have to change quite profoundly. We will have to abandon once and for all the ludicrous pretence that men and women are equal. It just isn't going to work.