When Feminism and Science Collide

Among the signals of fascism is a deep anti-intellectualism; and in particular, a backlash against scientific reason. So one of the most frightening twists in modern politics is a rising anti-science trend in discourse. Even more worrying is that, over the past half-century, this anti-science trend has firmly established itself in parts of academia, the mass media, and in politics. While the political left was once wed to progress and to the science revolution, now it is the left that has turned most strongly against science.

In this extract from my book Porn Panic!, I look at one of the most popular and dangerous attacks on science of all: the idea, popular among feminists since the 1960s, that behavioural differences between men and women are primarily due to recent social developments rather than ancient biological ones.

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“To understand why porn viewing might be linked to a decline in sexual violence, it is worth visiting some simple questions about sex itself. Sex is such a deeply politicised subject that, despite the fact one can find ‘expert’ comment everywhere, few people understand the most basic aspects of our sexual behaviours. Sex has always been a subject where the science clashes with deeply-held feelings, and so the science of sex regularly comes under attack for reasons of superstition and dogma. The rapid recent decline of religion has (unfortunately) not been matched by a rise in scientific literacy. New, God-free myths about sex have been created to replace the old religious ones.

This was perfectly illustrated when I participated in a 2015 porn debate at Cambridge Union. Three comments from participants summed up the current mythology surrounding sex, even among those presenting themselves as experts. A student speaking from the floor demanded I apologise for claiming a correlation between porn viewing and a decline in rape; then, an anti-porn speaker pointed out that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men, and presented this as evidence of insidious patriarchal influences; and finally, a pro-porn feminist speaker declared that the world could never be equal until women watched as much porn as men.

All three statements are based on the same popular myth: that differences in sexual behaviour between men and women are entirely social rather than biological in origin, and can therefore be ‘fixed’ – in much the same way that the American religious right declares homosexuality to be a choice, and therefore curable. Just as religious zealots cannot imagine a God who would create homosexuals, so certain feminists cannot tolerate a Mother Nature who would make men and women in any way different from each other.

The demand that I apologise for mentioning the reverse correlation between rape and porn was not issued on the basis that my information was inaccurate. My crime was far more serious than one of merely getting my facts wrong: I had blasphemed. It has become an article of feminist faith that ‘rape is about violence, not sex’. The student’s reasoning was correct: if (as she had been taught) rape is primarily motivated by a misogynistic desire to harm women, implanted in young men’s minds by an entrenched system of patriarchal oppression, then porn-aided masturbation should not result in a steep decline in rape. Here was a classic problem: fact clashing with dogma, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

There is, of course, no contradiction between human biology and the classic feminist demand for equal rights. Whether or not men and women are biologically different is irrelevant: equal rights are an ethical construct, not a natural one, and do not depend on people being identical. However, once equal rights had been won in law by the mid-70s, sections of the left set out to go further and demand equal outcomes. This required a belief that significant biological differences between sexes did not exist, which set feminism – or at least some strands of feminism – on the course from political movement to religious one. Now, any scientific research finding differences must, of necessity, be denounced as heresy.”

Porn Panic! is available in paperback and ebook formats. Donors to this campaign will receive a signed copy.

Free Tickets to Mary Millington Film Screening

Porn Panic - The Book
Porn Panic – The Book

On 27th September, the Naked Truth Film club is screening Simon Sheridan’s acclaimed documentary Respectable: The Mary Millington Story. The screening will take place at 6pm at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square.

Naked Truth are offering a pair of free tickets to anyone who buys (or has bought) my book Porn Panic!

I will be taking part in the panel discussion following the screening. Also on the panel are the film’s director Simon Sheridan, activist pornographer Pandora Blake, and model, pornstar and Page 3 girl Linsey Dawn McKenzie.

How to Get Your Free Tickets

If you’ve already bought Porn Panic!, take a selfie with the book or mail me a proof of purchase. Extra kudos for tweeting a selfie and tagging @PornPanic. If you haven’t yet bought the book, you can get a copy direct from this campaign for a £20 donation; or you can buy at all good book shops. I’ll be signing copies of the book at the screening.

More About the Film

In the 1970s there was a pretty English girl-next-door who personified ‘glamour’. Her rise to the top was meteoric, controversial and scandalous. Mary Millington’s fame brought her a lavish lifestyle and an affair with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson . Her success had its pitfalls. Persecuted by the authorities, police corruption and tortured by self-doubt, she died at the height of her fame in August 1979 at just 33. Mary’s life unfolds as a capricious tale of Seventies’ Britain, documenting a young woman’s courage and determination as a trail-blazing sexual liberator, but thwarted by a society morally conflicted to accept her.

The Naked Truth Film Club is proud to bring you an exclusive screening of the documentary movie Respectable- The Mary Millington Story and a Q&A with Simon Sheridan, the film’s director, and guests to draw parallels with the 70s and discuss where we are 35 years later with the rise of the internet, porn stars and webcam girls.

Keith Vaz, Brothel Clampdowns and Dark Clouds

When, a few weeks ago, a parliamentary committee – chaired by Keith Vaz MP – declared its support, in an interim report, for decriminalising sex workers, I was sceptical. My scepticism was based, not on inside knowledge of the committee, but on two main things:

  1. The declared purpose of the inquiry was to determine whether clients should be criminalised for paying for sex. But this point was ignored in the interim report. So why was an interim report issued before even considering the most important issue? This remains unclear.
  2. Over recent years, I’ve documented a rising ultra-conservatism which is permeating society, and is prevalent across the entire political spectrum (see my book Porn Panic! for details). Could it be, just as the pendulum is so clearly swinging away from liberal values, that we are about to see sex work fully decriminalised? Much as I’d like to believe that, it seems unlikely.

In the mean time, a couple of things have happened. The sudden downfall of Keith Vaz, following a tabloid sting, has led to him stepping down from the committee. The sting (which involved recording his alleged encounter with two young Romanian men), exposes him as a potential hypocrite (MP IN HYPOCRITE SHOCKER!) and has led to him stepping down from the committee. This was immediately seized upon by abolitionists, who called for the entire review to be scrapped.

Whether it is, in fact, hypocritical to pay sex workers while chairing a committee on sex work, will be left for another discussion. Can one imagine “Hypocrite MP who chaired football enquiry discovered to be Arsenal fan!”? Me neither.

Even more creepy than the carefully planned sting on Vaz was yesterday’s call from the “anti-slavery commissioner” (ugh) for Londoners to shop suspected brothels to the Metropolitan Police. The “sex trafficking” narrative has been escalated to a “sex slavery” one. The new campaign has been accompanied by hysterical language: “…sex workers in the capital were being beaten, raped and sometimes starved by the men controlling them in a form of human slavery that was blighting the capital”.

The coverage neglected to mention the almost total failure of the police to find “sex slaves”. In fact, raids on brothels have been used to arrest and humiliate sex workers, bust them for drug possession, and identify (and then deport) illegal immigrants. In short, the sex slavery hysteria is yet another new cover for the recently merged anti-prostitution and anti-immigration movements. “Rescuing” has become code for “harassing, criminalising and deporting”.

This new, Stasi-type attempt at citizen spying also ignores the fact that Vaz’s parliamentary committee has recommended the decriminalisation of brothel keeping. The police are ramping up anti-brothel raids under a law that is now widely seen – including by parliamentarians – as outdated and redundant.

Not only have illegal immigrants been targeted in this way, but even legal migrants have been targeted for deportation. In May it was reported that Romanian sex workers – EU citizens – are facing deportation on the basis that they are criminals. And their crime? This is unclear, as prostitution is legal in the UK.

So while we appear to be looking at isolated incidents, these events take place in an atmosphere of rising authoritarianism, anti-sex prudery and xenophobia. While Keith Vaz is in no way a libertine, one can predict with confidence that he will be replaced (on the Home Affairs committee) by somebody more socially conservative.

As I document the rising fascism in British society, I frequently check myself: am I cherry-picking to fit my narrative? Have I been swayed by conspiracy theorists? I’d like to discover that my pessimism about the state of society is misplaced. But sadly, I don’t think it is (feel free to reassure me in the comments section below).

Podcast 10: Porn Panic!

In this episode, the interview tables are turned: I’m interviewed about my book Porn Panic! by publisher Douglas Lain of Zero Books. This was a wide-ranging and enjoyable interview about the book and the political ideas surrounding it.

Pro-Censorship Feminists vs Tyler the Creator

A feminist campaign against Tyler the Creator, a hip hop artist, led to Theresa May banning him from touring the UK.

One of the core themes of my book Porn Panic! is the way in which feminism has become a force for censorship. While pro-censorship feminism began decades ago by attacking pornography as ‘misogynistic’, its scope has since broadened significantly. Now, any expression that might be labelled as misogynistic, or offensive to women, becomes a valid target for censorship.

One of the most shocking recent examples of feminism-as-censorship  was the ban (by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May) on a popular hip hop artist, Tyler the Creator, from the UK. The following is an extract from Porn Panic!:

… The next ban of an ‘unsuitable foreigner’ was a breathtakingly pointless piece of cultural (and probably racial) bullying. Tyler the Creator, a young, black American hip hop artist was barred from the UK (where he had been planning to tour) in August 2015. The basis of the ban was that he had written and performed misogynistic and homophobic lyrics several years earlier, at the age of 18. There could have been no serious suggestion that Tyler was any kind of threat to anyone – especially since his lyrics were no longer of the crude kind that had once caused offence. But now, his mere physical presence was deemed to be a significant enough problem that he should be barred from entering the country.

The smell of witch-hunt was again in the air. Some primitive human fear instinct had elevated a young man who had once penned some unpleasant words to the status of kryptonite; merely being in his presence might turn young British men into violent rapists and homophobes! The ‘rape culture’ meme came into play. While rape is measurable, rape culture is not. It is the superstitious idea that rape somehow hangs in the air and infects people like a virus. Carriers must be quarantined.

The hand of pro-censorship feminism was again visible. Collective Shout, an Australian feminist group with a history of anti-porn campaigning, had already successfully petitioned to have Tyler banned from Australia based on his lyrics and alleged bad behaviour. The British ban merely rubber-stamped the earlier Australian decision. Where have all the racists gone? Leftward. They appear to have realised that lynching a black man is no longer OK; unless you first label him a misogynist. Then it’s fine.

Hip hop has long been a proxy for racism. It is a black artform that has lasted decades and grown from strength to strength. Although a creation of New York City, it encapsulates the African excellence in rhythmic, spoken word performance. It has elevated poetry to new heights and become the world’s most widely-adopted musical form, in every language. It is common to hear hip hop dismissed in its entirety as ‘cRap’ (geddit?) This makes no more sense than to dismiss all poetry, or all guitar music. Hip hop infuriates because it represents a global triumph of something uniquely African.

Small, forgettable events like the inexplicable travel ban on a young American man are litmus tests for our political system and societal attitudes. Our culture does not appear to be in a good place right now.

Porn Panic! is now available in paperback and ebook formats

September’s Sex & Censorship Events

September looks to be a busy month for me, in part because of the recent publication of Porn Panic!

I’ll be taking part in events in London, Birmingham and Exeter, as well as online. This schedule is liable to change. To stay up to date, please follow on Twitter, Like the Facebook page, or join the mailing list.

Tuesday 6th September London (Greenwich)

I’ll be signing my book, and reading from it, between 17:30 and 19:30, at Waterstones in Greenwich. Waterstones will be kindly providing wine, and we’ll likely migrate to a pub afterward (the Duke is an easy 10 minute walk). Click here for the Facebook event page.

Monday 12th September Fubar Radio, Online

I will be interviewed on Fubar Radio at 3pm.

Friday 16th September Exeter

I will take part in a debate at Exeter University titled “This house believes porn is a harmful industry”. I’m told this will be a very popular event, so come early if you want a seat. The debate will start at 7pm at: The Amory Moot Room, University of Exeter Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter EX4 4RJ

Thursday 22nd September Birmingham

From 19:30, I will participate in a debate, to be held by Birmingham Salon, on the subject “Can Pornography Ever be Liberating?” The event will take place at The Victoria, John Bright Street, Birmingham B1 1BN. Full details at the Birmingham Salon website.

Tuesday 27th September London

Screening of the documentary film Respectable: The Mary Millington story. I’ll be taking part in the panel discussion.

TBC: Fiona Patten of the Australian Sex Party

I’m hoping to arrange a short event in late-September with the wonderful campaigner Fiona Patten, the leader of the Australian Sex Party and MP, when she visits London. Further information to be posted soon.

Audio: Zero Books Interview with Jerry Barnett

My book Porn Panic! is to be published this week, by Zero Books. I porn-panic-zero-bookswas recently interviewed at length about the book by Douglas Lain of Zero Books, and this has now been published at the Zero Books site as a podcast. Douglas is a great interviewer, and I thoroughly enjoyed our lengthy discussion – I hope you will too.

Please click here to subscribe or listen to the podcast at the Zero Books site

The Anti-Sex Left and its War on Free Expression

My left-wing pedigree runs deep. As a teenage activist in the early 1980s I joined every cause and every march of the day, from anti-racism and CND to anti-Apartheid and Cuba solidarity.

I read Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and I joined one of the proliferation of far-left groups of the day. Like many of my comrades, I drifted away from the struggle after Margaret Thatcher’s defeat of the miners, but I retained my core identity as a leftie.

Until, that is, decades later, when a stripper rocked my world.

Continue reading at Heat Street…

Podcast 9: Dr David J Ley on Sex Addiction

This week, I spoke with Dr David J Ley, a clinical psychologist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is also an occasional contributor to Sex & Censorship and to Psychology Today. In 2012, David’s book The Myth of Sex Addiction confronted the rising moral panic over “sex addiction” and “porn addiction”, as well as the “addiction cure” industry which sells expensive remedies. His new book, Ethical Porn for Dicks, is a guide for men on how to use pornography responsibly, and will be published later this year.

The UK is sleepwalking into censorship

  • Thousands of websites blocked by filters
  • Porn is just the starting point
  • Free expression is under threat!

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