Category Archives: Comment

In The Press

It’s been a busy week for me, following the (totally unsurprising) announcement that the BBFC will be getting the power to block websites that breach its own rules. Or to put it another way, a private organisation is going to be writing its own law and applying its own punishments without oversight from Parliament or the courts.

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Below are some press links from the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent. These are article I’ve written or in which I’ve been quoted. I’ve also been on the radio, and have made a video on this subject.

 

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Donald Trump, the Identity Candidate

Watching the past four years unfold in western politics has been like watching a train wreck in ultra-slow motion. It’s been painfully obvious where all this is leading, and equally painful that the people who created the wreck were – and still are – utterly oblivious to what they were doing. President Donald Trump (and Brexit, come to that) could have been avoided, in theory.

I fully woke up to the sickness on the political left in 2012. My awakening had been coming for many years – I can look all the way back to the 1980s, and see the sickness there – the signs were there for all to see; but as the working class gradually abandoned the left, so the left gradually abandoned the working class. As progressive class politics died, regressive identity politics filled the void.

I’ve witnessed so many signs of this growing problem. I vividly remember one moment: a huge anti-Apartheid march and rally in Hyde Park, circa 1989. This was a moment in British history when, for the first time, gay men could openly hold hands and kiss in public. It was a warm summer day; I was sitting on the grass with my young son. And nearby, a gay man was viciously assaulted by a young black man for daring to kiss his partner in public. Marchers were confused; surely blacks and gays are both oppressed groups? Why would they turn against each other, at an anti-Apartheid rally of all places? Perhaps the black man had been programmed by the white supremacist state to hate other minorities? Here was the white, middle-class identity-obsessed left in action, unable to see the simple truth: a bigot (colour irrelevant) had assaulted a man for being gay. They couldn’t see the black man as aggressor, because they could only understand black people in one role: victim. They couldn’t see that a black bigot is every bit as responsible for his actions as a white bigot. They couldn’t deal with the bigot, because he was black. They couldn’t see beyond skin colour. Here was an early sign of something that is today rampant: left-wing racism.

But 2012 seems to be a particular turning point. At that moment, it became generally acceptable – for the first time in generations – to openly express bigotry. New, racist ideas suddenly became fashionable: among the most dangerous was that black people were incapable of being racist: only whites were afforded this right. Although I’d been involved in the anti-racism movement since 1979, I had never before heard such a divisive idea. Racial bigotry had never been tolerated on the left, by anyone, or towards anyone. And yet now, for the first time, the left was creating a racial hierarchy, and assigning different rules of behaviour to different people based on nothing more than their skin colour. The most fundamental value of the civil rights era, racial equality, was under sustained assault by white, middle-class people masquerading as liberals.

Although this superficially looked like an attack on white people, it wasn’t. It was an assault on that most hated of all groups: the working class. The mostly white, middle-class new left – which had long ago been rooted in the industrial labour movement – had declared class war. Even the anti-racism movement joined the fight against the working class. I had been heavily involved in countering the anti-Islamic propaganda of the English Defence League, but I became uneasy with the people who I thought were on my side. As I recount in my book, Porn Panic!

[Many] EDL supporters apparently joined simply for a social life. Coaches were chartered from working-class towns and estates to take supporters to each protest. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, one could see them on their way to demonstrations, boasting about how many cans of beer they were bringing, how many lines of mephedrone or cocaine they had consumed on the way. Here were young, white, working-class people finding a rare opportunity to assemble and feel pride in their own beleaguered identities: hatred of the white working-class is, after all, the last acceptable prejudice. And online, I began to feel uneasy about my own Twitter followers. I saw middle-class student leftists mocking working-class people for their poor spelling rather than their racist views, telling them they were scum; those EDL supporters who tried to explain why they were uneasy about immigration were told they were racists, and blocked. Many of those I spoke to were clearly not racists, though they had absorbed lies about Muslims that needed to be countered. How were we to defuse the EDL if we refused to speak to them?

Twin narratives – feminism and black nationalism – declared identity war, and the left became apologists for an outpouring of bigotry from these two groups. For feminists, “patriarchy” (i.e. men) was to blame for everything. For black nationalists, “white supremacy” (i.e. white people) was the cause of all evil. In practise, the two narratives borrowed heavily from each other. Feminists would silence men by accusing them of “mansplaining”; and then black racists would attack people for “whitesplaining”. Ultimately, the identity fascists united around a belief that white men were the greatest evil in the universe – and their class bigotry was hidden beneath this veil.

The left became obsessed with the idea that sexism and racism were everywhere, based on the flimsiest of evidence. Racism was found where none existed: Twitter storms raged over imaginary problems, such as the alleged under-representation of black people in the 2016 Oscars (actually, it turned out that black people were slightly over-represented, but screaming had taken over from fact).

A growing, once united movement against police brutality was suddenly hijacked by identity fascists, and became Black Lives Matter; and yet, 76% of police shooting victims were not black. Police brutality affected poor white men as well as poor blacks, but an opportunity to create common cause was lost. In this Kafkaesque nightmare, to suggest that All Lives might Matter became “racist”. And so the anti-racists had become the racists.

Many liberal black commentators tried to speak out against the rising black racism, but were screamed down. Racist language was deployed against black people who refused to accept their victimhood. They were told they were not “pro-black”, or that they were “self-hating”, or (in the UK) they were labelled “coconuts” (an old term of black-on-black abuse, suggesting they are white people in black skin). Morgan Freeman suggested that the way to end racism was to stop talking about it, upsetting those who were revelling in their self-declared oppression. Whoopi Goldberg mocked the “cultural appropriation” idea, again to derision from black people who were using the idea to attack white people for their musical or clothing tastes. And when the actress Raven Symoné decided she no longer wanted to be labelled as African American, she was again attacked by bullies who refused her right to self-determination. Black self-pity was increasingly mocked by black people (such as in this amusing video by the rapper Doc Brown); but identity fascists missed all this, because it didn’t match their deep belief that people are mostly defined by their race or gender. Like all authoritarian movements in history, they rejected individuality for group identity.

And meanwhile, rage grew among some of America’s poorest people, who (in the new left narrative) were dismissed as privileged and entitled, on account of being white. There can be few sights more vile than a wealthy person attacking a poor person for their “privilege”, but this was now becoming normal.

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And nobody understood all this better than Donald Trump. His racist and sexist remarks were designed to mock an identity narrative that was (for good reason) becoming widely hated beyond the liberal echo chamber. His “pussy grab” comment was ugly and childish, but the hysterical response to it was laughable, and only bolstered his position. Liberals assumed that no woman would vote for someone who talked in this way, which only underscored how completely out of touch liberals had become. Many women did vote for him, because women didn’t see themselves as the downtrodden victims of patriarchy that feminists had declared them to be. Many Hispanics voted for him, because (to the surprise of identity fascists) people are defined by more than their race and colour. Even a good number of black people voted for him, perhaps sick of being told how black people should behave. And many working class white Democrats who once voted for Barack Obama now voted for Trump. Predictably, liberals are accusing these people of racism or sexism, only underscoring how out of touch they are with reality, and helping to demonstrate why Donald Trump won.

Rather than sit back and wonder why voters didn’t behave as they were told, identity zealots have doubled down, deciding that the Trump victory proves that everybody is sexist and racist. A particularly silly post in (supposedly liberal) Slate attacks white women for betraying “the sisterhood”; demonstration, if any, of the left’s loss of class consciousness.

Trump is a deeply dangerous man, and not because he’s racist or sexist. He is dangerous because he intends to attack free trade and disrupt the world order. He is dangerous because he denies climate change, because he will empower dictators in Russia, China, and other countries. He is dangerous because he will undermine the global shift towards democracy and international law. His election unleashes a new era of nationalism that ends the globalist era of the past four decades.

I warned in a post in June that identity politics was fuelling fascism. We learned the truth of that with Trump’s election, and will continue to learn it as fascists triumph in Europe in the coming years. This will continue until the left rids itself of identity politics and nationalism, and once again learns the lesson of the liberal movements of the 1960s: to treat people as equals, irrespective of race, colour, gender or sexuality.

My book Porn Panic! is available from Amazon and all good bookshops

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Porn Panic! Reviewed at Spiked Online and Elsewhere

Porn Panic! – my book on sex, censorship and fascism – has been on sale for two months, and is receiving strong reviews. You can support my campaign against censorship by buying a copy, and spreading the word to your social networks. In fact, since Christmas is almost upon us, why not buy copies for your politically-minded friends and family?

Below are three recent reviews of the book.

1. Spiked Online

The latest review was written by Helene Guldberg for Spiked Online:

Barnett recognises that to defend free speech we need to wholeheartedly defend the right of those with whom we disagree to say and think whatever they want. We have the right and capacity to challenge or ignore them, as we see fit. ‘Only a true elitist could try to dictate which ideas other people have access to, rather than join the debate and win by force of reason’, he writes. The most shocking aspect of the new forms of censorship for Barnett was the near silence on this issue from so-called liberals. ‘I found many apparently liberal people were only opposed to censorship of things they enjoyed, but would not extend that principle to things they disapproved of.’

You can read her full review at Spiked

2. Emmeline Peaches

Porn Panic! was also recently reviewed by Emmeline Peaches, a sex blogger, feminist, and social and cultural historian. While she finds areas of disagreement, she concludes:

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Porn Panic! is an indisputably addictive read and I loved every minute of it. Porn Panic!isn’t just a book—it’s a call to arms (or activism) for anyone who is truly passionate about the adult industry or our freedom as a nation.

As soon as I was done reading Porn Panic! I couldn’t help but recommend it to others, I want everyone I know to read this book and I want to discuss it with them and hear their own thoughts and opinions. For a book that rails against our culture’s current attempts to keep sex and pornography hush-hush I cannot think of more appropriate nor higher praise than that.

Read her review in full at Emmeline’s site

3. Jay Blevins of Awen Therapy

Jay Blevins is a sex-positive therapist who deals with a wide range of issues including: depression, anxiety, marital and relationship issues, personality disorders, low self esteem, stage of life issues, compulsive behaviors, divorce, parenting and co-parenting issues, physical and sexual abuse, trauma and with  alternative lifestyle clients and issues including transitioning transexuals, coming out, polyamory, fetishes, kink and bdsm.

I’m grateful that he took time out to read and review Porn Panic! He writes:

Barnett’s book is in some ways a brutal, but thought-provoking, read. While much of the focus of the book is on efforts to censor porn, the best part of the book is how Barnett looks at the historical perspectives on porn while it deftly intertwines critical analysis of those perspectives. And when I say brutal, I mean Barnett pulls no punches. He clearly shows how the ongoing battle against porn is fueled by emotion, moral judgment, and religion as opposed to research, evidence and logical, rational thought…

I doubt this book will do much to change the hearts and minds of the most strident anti-porn crusaders. However, for anyone open to critically thinking about the issue, this book is fantastic. It is thorough, thoughtful, and easy to read. Both porn and censorship are important topics of great relevance. I encourage everyone to read this book!

Read the full review at Jay’s website

Interview with Polyamory.org.uk

I was interviewed for polyamory.org.uk about my book Porn Panic!, fascism, censorship and anti-sex morality:

“As part of Polyamory UK’s support of freedom or speech, sexual expression, and anti-censorship principles today I am speaking with veteran activist Jerry Barnett from the Sex & Censorship group.

To begin the interview I would like to ask you what your definition of pornography is?

I think porn is simply erotica that people are uncomfortable with. And since that applies to all erotica, then porn and erotica are basically the same thing. As the quote goes: “What I like is erotica. What you like is porn.”

In reading the opening of your book, it’s interesting how you frame the current situation over free speech, censorship, and pornography within a historical framework. You see the main groups attacking pornography as being on the left now, is that correct?

Yes, the worst attacks on porn (and all free expression for that matter) today are on the left, whereas that wasn’t always the case. My book looks at fascism in a historical context. The fascism of the 1930s was right-wing in nature. Today’s fascists are on both wings of politics….”

Read more at polyamory.org.uk

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.

***

“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.

The Great Sex Work Decriminalisation Swindle

As reported here last week, a parliamentary committee issued a report calling for sex work decriminalisation. My own reaction was somewhat sceptical; in contrast, sex worker activists and commentators rejoiced at a “historic victory” which, to me, didn’t seem much like a victory at all. This rejoicing led to deep confusion among observers, many of whom mistakenly believed that Parliament had rejected the “Nordic model”, which criminalises the purchase of sex.

In the intervening days, my scepticism has deepened. The sex work author and researcher Laura Agustín also questioned the report, referring to it as “meaningless”, and writing on Facebook:

“My advice is do not rejoice: This is stage one of making an anti-sex-buying law in which women selling are decriminalised while men buying are criminalised”

I agree: last week’s announcement was not a win for decriminalisation, but simply a deferral of the key decision wrapped in confusing language. And while, yes, the way is still left open for the committee to back decriminalisation, that isn’t what happened last week. Nor, I suspect, will it be the committee’s final verdict.

No decision has yet been made

First of all, the committee (as it made clear) has not reached a decision on whether to follow the New Zealand model (decriminalisation), the Nordic model (criminalise buyers) or some form of legalisation. Since this is the only decision that matters, then nothing of substance has yet happened. All the committee announced was that, whichever decision it eventually makes, it recommends the reform of laws on brothel-keeping and soliciting. But this is just stating the obvious: whether the committee favours New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, or some other model, there will be no point maintaining existing restrictions on brothels. So the lip-service paid to decriminalisation is – as Agustín says – meaningless, and apparently designed to mislead.

“Decriminalisation” has changed meaning

A good way to tell if you’re winning is to watch the reactions of your enemies. If – as sex worker campaigners claim – this is a victory, then prohibitionists will be fuming, right? Except… they aren’t. What the campaigners seem to have missed is that both sides have embraced the language of “decriminalisation”. Here, for example, is Vera Baird QC:

“Regardless of whatever brings women into sex work … I fully back the notion of decriminalising sex workers”

Yet Baird is a staunch prohibitionist. This is politics: when your opponent has succeeded in setting the narrative, steal their narrative. Note the subtle use of “workers” rather than “work”. Similarly, the Christian Tory MP David Burrowes has called for soliciting to be decriminalised. Both Baird and Burrowes went on to call for the Nordic model to be implemented in the UK: which is semantic nonsense, since the Nordic model criminalises sex buyers.

In other words, “decriminalisation” can now either mean decriminalisation, or the exact opposite, depending who uses it.

Why has a meaningless statement been issued?

Given that the interim report means almost nothing until the key decision has been made, the question then arises as to why it was issued at all. I asked activists who were close to the inquiry process, but none seemed able to answer the question. The report was clearly issued to get media attention; if it was intended to confuse and misdirect people, it apparently succeeded.

The political climate is ugly

As I have noted for some years, British liberalism appears to be in decline across the spectrum. This is true on both the political right and left; the liberal centre has shrunk as social conservatives and authoritarians have taken over both wings of politics. In this climate, it would be surprising if a radical decision – such as decriminalising sex work – were to take place.

I hope Augustín and I are wrong, and the sex work representatives are right; but as things stand right now, it seems to me that we have been witness to the Great Decriminalisation Swindle.

Britons Light Fuse With Brexit

This article was first published at XBIZ.com on Friday.

In my new book, Porn Panic!, I recount the rise of a new British fascism. What began a few years ago, for me, as a campaign against anti-sex feminists who were trying to censor pornography, grew gradually into a realisation that free speech and other fundamental underpinnings of liberty were under fierce assault from all sides. This new authoritarian movement, which is taking over both wings of politics, has been slowly gaining ground over the past 10-15 years. But with yesterday’s Brexit vote, the way is clear for an explosive rise in fascism across Europe – and beyond.

Having stayed up most of last night to watch, with increasing incredulity, the EU referendum results, I’m still reeling. It’s not that the result was especially unexpected; but the scale of the catastrophe that is now – in real time – engulfing the UK and European economy is staggering, and dwarfs the 2008 meltdown. And if the economic fallout is massive, the political implications will be even more so. Yesterday, the British people lit the fuse. The explosions are only just beginning.

For months, most people with any understanding of what has been unfolding have just looked at each other and said “But we’d never actually vote to leave the EU, would we?”, and we’ve reassured each other that, no, when it comes to the crunch, the British people would pull back from the brink. And so this morning’s news – that the UK population voted by 52% to 48% to exit the EU – is hard to stomach.

From the perspective of the goals of my campaign, Sex & Censorship, the news is very bad. Many of the protections of free speech, net neutrality and human rights that exist in British law have been passed down to us from the EU. EU law offers a good deal of protection against the anti-sex and anti-free speech laws and regulations that I’ve campaigned against. Now, those protections risk being stripped away. The British state, restrained in many ways by the liberalising influence of the EU, may shortly get free rein to pass laws that would not have been acceptable in a western democracy during the liberal postwar era. It’s probably fair to say that yesterday, that era came to an end.

The fact that the resignation of the Prime Minister is one of the more minor stories in today’s news helps illustrate the scale of events. It’s hard to find a comparison on a historical scale. Certainly, this crisis of European politics looks to be every bit as significant as that of the 1930s. Nationalism, which has been slowly rising in Europe (as well as globally) since 9/11, has now been unleashed in a way that few living Europeans have seen in their lifetimes. The European Union has presided over the longest era of peace in European history; the British people just voted to burn it down.

The global significance of the referendum was underpinned by the fact that Donald Trump chose today to fly in and visit the UK (he quietly pre-announced the visit a few weeks ago). Trump understands the nature of fascism, and has shown a far deeper understanding of the threat to western democracy than most of the established political class. This morning, he hailed the referendum result. Simultaneously, the odds of a Trump win in November were cut sharply. Nationalism begets nationalism, and today’s Europe provides Trump with all the nationalistic sentiment he needs to further his authoritarian bandwagon. Elsewhere in Europe, fascists are celebrating. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders celebrated the British poll and called for one to be held locally. In France, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen did the same. Those with a knowledge of WWII history will know that the Netherlands and France were deeply infected by the fascist bug in the 1930s/40s. It is not so surprising that the anti-immigrant backlash is growing rapidly in those same countries today.

Amidst the chaos, it seems churlish to ask what this means for the adult industry. But as has been so often pointed out, sex is the canary in the coalmine of liberty. Sexual and political freedoms have always gone hand-in hand; an attack on one is an attack on the other. And so surely we all – on both sides of the Atlantic – are in for a huge battle in the coming months.

 

Jerry Barnett is an author and campaigner, and runs the Sex & Censorship campaign and blog. His book, Porn Panic!, will be published in August, and is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

Identity Politics is Killing Solidarity and Fuelling Fascism

There was a time when we on the British left owned terms like Unity and Solidarity. The broad left had formed around a single, enormous issue: the obscenity of poverty. Thus, the left once represented the disadvantaged, and the right fought to maintain the old status quo. When fascism last surged in the 1930s, it was the left’s broad base that ensured British fascism was crushed: it alone could unite the mighty industrial working class with immigrants and sympathetic liberals. It was opposition to poverty that united white working class people with the immigrants – Irish, Jewish, Black and Asian – that came to Britain over the past century. Ultimately, this was why the left eventually championed the fight against racism: because it understood that the biggest problems faced by immigrants – bad housing, low pay, state indifference, routine violence – were shared by poor white people, and formed alliances in factories and poor communities that transcended race.

Racism was never a one-way street. Tension and violence grew in high-immigration communities because of mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. Mass immigration – then, as now – benefited the economy as a whole, but placed a disproportionate burden on poor communities. People who complained about rapid, disconcerting change in their neighbourhoods were not uniformly attacked as “racists”; instead, the left sought to find common ground and build unity. The Notting Hill Carnival is one of the lasting testaments to this approach: it was a community creation designed to bring white and black people together in the wake of race riots.

But the Labour Movement, the foundation of the old left, effectively collapsed during the 1980s and 90s for a variety of reasons. The left dwindled, and found new power bases: no longer in factories or council estates; instead in academia and the public sector. It lost touch with working class people, and lost interest in poverty. It instead adopted identity politics, dividing people by race, gender, sexuality just as it once united people across these lines. It became whiter and more middle-class, and gradually came to represent the interests of white, middle-class people above all others. Step by step, from the 80s onward, the left took on the attitudes of the old fascist movements, seeking to divide society into isolated, opposing groups of people.

None of this mattered much, until a new surge in left-wing support followed the 2008 financial crash. My initial excitement at the left-wing resurgence turned into disgust as I saw what the left had now become.

I first noticed the shift via my involvement in sexual freedom causes. The old Christian right had died along with Mary Whitehouse. Now, a new conservative movement surfaced, this time based around the remnants of the old feminist movement. The new attackers of sexual freedom came from the organs of the new-left: universities, trade unions, local authorities and the Labour Party. This new left had lost all interest in tackling poverty and disadvantage, because they had no experience or understanding of it. Instead, they declared gender, skin colour and sexuality to be the true marks of oppression. So, porn and other sexual expression came under attack, not because it was “ungodly” but because it was deemed to “oppress women”. Thieves had stolen the language of the (now defunct) progressive left and used it to advance fascist agendas.

So we saw the grotesque sight of middle-class “left-wing” people declaring themselves to be “oppressed” (for reason of possessing a vagina or extra melanin in their skin), and attacking poor white communities as “privileged”. The new-left had restarted the class war, but this time was firmly on the other side.

So when Edie Lamort, a stripper-activist (who I interviewed some time back), declared herself some years ago to be the “canary in the coalmine”, she was very prescient. The attacks on her and her comrades, by fascists in left-wing clothing, were indeed an early sign of a broad attack on liberal values from the political left.

The pus-filled boil of identity politics, quietly swelling since the 80s, really only burst within the past couple of years. And now, the identity fascists are dismantling all remnants of cross-community solidarity as rapidly as possible. Every progressive movement of recent years is collapsing as identity politics moves in. Among the most spectacular examples has been the undermining of the campaign against police violence in the United States. A few years ago, thanks to smartphones and social media, and campaigns such as Copblock, a bright light was shone for the first time on the astonishing violence of US policing. Although there was clearly a strong racial element, police violence was meted out across all communities. If there was a particular “identity” group at the receiving end, it was overwhelmingly poor, young men, of all races.

But to make it a “male issue” would have been foolish and divisive. A Martin Luther King character, should one exist today, would identify a common cause and an opportunity for cross-community solidarity; but this is not the liberal 60s, and there appears to be no room for uniting characters like MLK today. Instead, the issue was seized by black nationalists. The hashtag #filmthepolice gave way to #blacklivesmatter. In a remarkable reversal of logic, black nationalists – backed by identity fascists – declared #alllivesmatter to be a “racist” sentiment. Never mind that numerically, the single biggest identity group to be shot by police was white men; or that, proportionately the greatest sufferers were native American men. The issue was now owned by the 24% of victims who were black, and the other 76% were excluded (Source: The Counted). This marked the high watermark of the campaign against police violence: it had been killed by sectarianism. If there ever was a signal to white working class people that nobody cares for them, here it was.

Now, when a 12 year old (white) girl was shot dead by police, there would be no community mobilisation, no public outcry. After all, what hashtag does one use in such a case? #Alllivesmatter was already deemed racist, and #whitelivesmatter would be even worse. So, the girl’s name never made it into the public consciousness: Ciara Meyer RIP: killed by police, forgotten by identity politics.

Now, it seems, the scourge of mass shootings in the US is going the same way. While only a couple of years ago, every shooting was met with horror, and renewed calls for gun controls, now the campaign has been targeted, divided and sunk by identity politics. A steady stream of mass killings – driven by easy access to guns, however much the gun lobby denied it – was punctuated a year ago by the killing of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina. Like many such mass killings, the shooter was an angry/crazy/hateful (take your pick) white man. Unlike most others, the targets were exclusively black.

Dylan Roof, the shooter, was no doubt motivated by racist views: but statistically, the event was an outlier. It makes no sense to declare a single atrocity, carried out by a single person, to be representative of anything but the views of that person. Racial violence has, in fact, tumbled a long, long way since the days of the lynch mob. But identity politics (which previously had no interest in the long succession of mass shootings) now awoke, and declared the issue a black-owned one.

And with the recent mass-shooting in a gay club in Orlando, the divisiveness reaches a whole new level. This time, identity fascists of the right blame “Islam”, while those of the left are determined to blame “Homophobia”. But neither explanation is matched by a genuine trend: neither Islamist nor homophobic atrocities are regular enough events to be anything but outliers. Homophobia may still be commonplace, but is almost certainly at its lowest level in US history. The same old explanation holds true for this mass shooting as for all the hundreds of others: an angry/crazy/hateful individual managed to get hold of military-style weaponry.

Identity politics is really the politics of the self. The identity warrior’s deepest instinct is: “How can I make this all about MEEEE?” Thus, the ever-vapid commentator Owen Jones walked out of a Sky News dicussion on the Orlando shooting, ostensibly because the other commentators were refusing to acknowledge homophobia. But in reality, Jones had finally found an American massacre that he, as a gay man, could associate himself with, and so become outraged about. Never mind that, as a British person, the chance he will ever encounter a mass shooting is close to zero. Never mind that many of the dead were undocumented Latino migrants rather than middle-class British journalists. Jones’ sexuality is the hook with which he can claim a stake in the misery of strangers, far away.

And here is the real tragedy of identity politics: solidarity is dying. While, only a few years ago, we could all unite to express shock at the killing of a black person by a racist, or a gay person by a homophobe, or a Jew by an anti-semite, now this is quietly breaking down. Now, every atrocity is an identity atrocity, and so every atrocity fosters further anger and division, while not so long ago we could unite in our common humanity against the tiny minority that commit vile acts of hate.

Identity politics is the politics of self-pity. If I were to choose this route, I could assert my Jewishness: henceforth, I could declare any anti-semitic attack to be all about MEEE. But I choose not to be defined by my Jewish heritage, however much self-pity it could allow me to wallow in. My children are Nigerian-Jewish; should they revel only in the victimhood of Jews and Nigerians? Should my daughter declare herself a Judeo-Nigerian Feminist, and add gender self-pity to black and semitic self-pity? We are in a race to the bottom: when we selectively ignore horror, because we don’t identify with the identity of the victims, we are losing our humanity.

Is it surprising, therefore, that poor whites would now also choose to unite around their racial identity? Is the rise of Donald Trump or of Nigel Farage so surprising in this climate? This new ascent of the fascist right was clearly preempted and driven by the rise of fascist politics on the left. We have no chance of resisting the rise of of the far-right in Europe and America if we adopt fascist methods and ideas ourselves. We need to rediscover the solidarity of the old left: we must stand shoulder to shoulder with those who suffer, however much – or little – they resemble ourselves.

The Biology of Prostitution

The biological roots of prostitution are well documented, but upset religious and political sensibilities.

As a frequent speaker and debate participant on pornography and other sexual issues, I’m often shocked by the lack of scientific understanding of sex, the most fundamental of human issues. This doesn’t just apply to students and casual listeners, but also to many presenting themselves as experts. Science isn’t just absent from the discussion, but often appears to have been deliberately pushed out for political reasons.

Sex is, and always has been, a controversial subject, and so discussion of it is heavily censored. While, on the surface, discussion of sex has become far more acceptable in recent years, in practise, many facts are still considered unpalatable. And no subject arouses more emotion than the evolution of sex as a tradeable commodity: the biology of prostitution.

The idea that prostitution might be a biological impulse can deeply upset those with dogmatic viewpoints. For religious people, the thought of a God that created prostitution is too much to take: fundamentalists are still reeling from the revelation that homosexuality is widespread in nature. But revulsion at the thought of sex trade goes far beyond religion. As the political left has become increasingly conservative in its attitudes, it has become common to blame the existence of prostitution on Patriarchy or Capitalism. Thus, for some feminists, banning prostitution is a part of their war on Patriarchy. And for socialists, attacking prostitution is part of a righteous war against Capital.

But the history of sex trade goes back many millions of years before humanity. To understand how deeply it is embedded in our behaviours, we need to start from the beginning. In the case of sex, the beginning happened about 1.2 billion years ago. Prior to sex, creatures reproduced asexually – by cloning themselves. But cloning simply produces multiple identical copies. Cloned populations lack diversity: this means that they can be quickly wiped out by a disease, climate change or other external factor. Sex fixed this problem.

Sex combines genes from two individuals of different sexes. Unlike cloning, every individual produced is unique. This creates diversity, and makes species more resilient to change; it also vastly accelerates the speed of evolution, by providing far more variety to select from. The two sexes were originally very similar to each other, but quickly sexual strategies evolved, and became more sophisticated. One sex evolved a lazy strategy, and the other responded by taking on most of the reproductive effort. This strategic change defines the sexes. The key difference between males and females is quantitative rather than qualitative: males are low investors in reproduction, and females are high investors. This applies to all sexual species, including – of course – humans.

On the surface then, males were early winners in the evolutionary arms race that biologists sometimes refer to as the Battle of the Sexes. However, although males could (in theory) reproduce at far less cost than females, they faced one enormous obstacle to reproduction: a shortage of available females. Sexual strategies evolved and became more sophisticated. Since reproduction was limited by female availability, then increasingly females could set the terms for reproduction. Males, for whom reproduction was cheap, became forced to jump through hoops in exchange for the right to reproduce.

In some species (such as lions) males are required to violently compete for the right to mate: females simply wait for a winner to emerge. This process means that the strongest, and most violent males get to reproduce, which means that genes for strong, violent males are more likely to be passed down to future generations; this explains why in many cases – especially in mammals – males are bigger and stronger than females, as well as more adept fighters. Human males are around 20% more heavily built than females; in gorillas, the difference is as much as 50%

In other species, males may be required to pay for the right to reproduce. Perhaps the most extreme examples of this are in insects and spiders where males are eaten after sex. The value of reproduction is so high that males will pay with their lives in order to replicate their genes.

Generally though, sex trade is somewhat less terminal than this. Females of many species trade sex for food or other nuptial gifts. This behaviour is common throughout the animal kingdom. Male scorpion flies offer gifts in exchange for sex. Prostitution was observed in penguins over a century ago, and it is common in our close relatives, apes and monkeys.

A Yale economist, Keith Chen, studying whether monkeys could understand the concept of money, made a surprise discovery. Having worked out that coins had value, male monkeys then began to offer them to females for sex, instead of (as expected) trading them for food or drink. As the New York Times pointed out, behaviour that was once assumed to be uniquely human, is actually far more widespread:

“When taught to use money, a group of capuchin monkeys responded quite rationally to simple incentives; responded irrationally to risky gambles; failed to save; stole when they could; used money for food and, on occasion, sex. In other words, they behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen’s more traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.”

The fact that female sex is far more valuable than male sex provides a strong explanation for many human behaviours. When I recently interviewed black dominatrix Lady Andromeda for the Sex & Censorship podcast, I asked what options were open to people who were down to their last penny. Women, she said, can sell sex. And as for men? “They steal cars, or sell drugs.” This helps explain why the UK prison population is 96% male – a fact that’s hard to explain if one believes (as is fashionable in some places) that the world is run by men, for men. It also neatly explains lower male life expectancies and higher male suicide rates. An understanding of the biology of prostitution provides far better explanations of human behaviour than either the feminist “patriarchal oppression” narrative, or the correspondingly confused claims (by men’s rights activists) that men are oppressed. We are all, male and female, slaves to our biology. We tend to believe that we have free will, but increasingly, science suggests otherwise.

Porn debates I’ve attended tend to be littered with claims that our sexual behaviours are socially constructed, despite all the evidence to the contrary. These ideas aren’t just silly: they’re deeply misguided. If one believes that differences in gender behaviour are primarily social in origin, then it is tempting to look for authoritarian “cures”. If those people selling gay cures are dangerous, then those people who believe men and women should behave the same as each other are far more so.

The good news is that social progress is closing the gaps between men and women. Sexual freedom and migration have significantly brought down the price of sex, and rising food production means that hunger – a major driver of sex trade – is also in steep decline. Correspondingly, violence appears to also be in long-term decline (contrary to popular belief) – at least in part due to the easier availability of sex and food.

This is why anti-sex conservatism – as evidenced by events like France’s recent ban on prostitution – is such a dangerous force. Sexual freedom is about far more than the right to have fun. It affects every aspect of our lives.

My book Porn Panic! is now available for pre-order.