Tag Archives: feminism

The Far-Right, “Muslim Rape” Hoaxes, and Feminism

Currently circulating on social media: a video purporting to show a woman being attacked by a “Muslim rape gang”, somewhere in Europe. This video pops up repeatedly, often claimed to be in different locations. Its spread is orchestrated by far-right blogs, which may in turn be creations of the Russian state as part of Putin’s war on the EU and European stability. The claim is a hoax – the video in fact shows an attack on a woman by a Czech drug gang last May. The protagonist was jailed in December.

There is no accusation more potent than a rape allegation against “foreigners”. This taps deep into our primitive, evolved instincts; as I’ve written previously, the most valuable asset in any human society is its fertile women. Much of what is called “racism” actually stems from anger amongst men that “their women” may cross tribal lines to mate with outsiders. The loss of female mates from the tribe is the greatest loss of all. Thus, a stereotypical complaint about immigration is that “they come over here, take our women…”. When an accusation of rape is made against outsiders – whether true or false – the lynch mob is more than happy to spring into action. The idea that “our women” might voluntarily mate with foreigners is difficult to accept – far easier to believe that force was used.

Rape claims were a driving force behind the lynchings of black men in the US South in the early 20th century. Nobody knows how many of these claims were fabricated. But one can suspect that the proportion is high – after all, with lynch mobs on the loose, and no effective protection by the law, how many Southern black men would be likely to risk raping white women? This was demonstrated only recently, when a woman – Caroline Bryant Donham – admitted she had fabricated a rape allegation against a 14 year old black boy in 1955. The accused, Emmett Till, was lynched.

Foreigner rape claims are so powerful that they can even be utilised as a tool of war. During the 2003 Iraq War, a US soldier, Jessica Lynch, was famously captured by Iraqi forces. Rape claims abounded. It shows something about the human psyche (and the relative value put on male and female lives) that claims of rape against one woman aroused more anti-Arab emotion in America than dozens of male deaths in battle. The rape claims turned out to be false, but the propaganda helped rally American support for Bush’s war. As if to demonstrate the link between rape accusations and racism, two other female soldiers had also been captured: one black, and one native American. Unlike Lynch, neither became household names.

So it is unsurprising that, of all the accusations made against Muslim men in Europe by the far-right, rape allegations are the most popular. This formula has been reused and refined for a number of years. The English Defence League often focused on accusations against Pakistani men, while ignoring similar claims against white men. Their attitude seemed to be: rapes are OK, so long as “our tribe” is perpetrating them.

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As racial tension rises in Europe, we must be extremely sceptical of rape allegations against “Muslim mobs”. A few days ago, the German newspaper Bild apologised for reporting an Arab “rape mob” in Frankfurt. The claims were entirely unfounded, and were the work of two people – probably far-right sympathisers.

The feminist movement has been culpable of aiding and abetting the far-right by also making false or exaggerated rape claims, though typically against all men as a group rather than immigrants. In recent years, some feminist commentators have deliberately stoked up fear of sexual violence, using fake statistics and unrepresentative anecdotes. The prevalence of sexual violence in the western world has, in fact, been falling for decades, rather than rising. This is inconvenient for a movement that claims ‘rape culture’ is a dangerous force and is turning men everywhere into dangerous brutes. The “campus rape” hoax has been a recent example – the media happily reported a fake epidemic of sexual violence on university campuses.

These claims are used to empower an increasingly intolerant feminist movement, which requires male evil for its continued existence. Further, there is good money for “women’s rights” organisations in false rape claims. Canadian columnist Margaret Wente has exposed the rape culture myth, and accused its proponents of being a ‘grievance industry’:

“The evidence is overwhelming. We are more enlightened now, and men – most men, anyway – behave much better. That is bad news for the grievance industry, which must stretch its definitions of assault and abuse to ridiculous extremes to keep its numbers up.”

The far-right has increasingly adopted feminist language and propaganda in its attempts to demonise Europe’s Muslim population. The fascists of the 1930s had a traditional view of women as mothers and home-makers. Today’s fascists stress how liberal they are, and use their supposed liberalism against Muslim migrants, accusing Muslims (mostly falsely) of not accepting European values such as women’s rights. This ignores, of course, the fact that women’s rights are almost as recent an innovation in the West as they are in the rest of the world.

We must demand proof rather than blindly accept far-right accusations of “Muslim rape”, or feminist rape-culture accusations against men in general. Among the strongest of our western values is the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In the specific case of rape, this value is under attack by fascists and feminists alike.

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Why I wrote Porn Panic! – a Book About Porn and Fascism

My book Porn Panic!, which was published in August by Zero Books, is an unusual book, and has had strong reviews – from those on both sides of the porn debate. The book charts attacks on pornography – in part from a personal perspective – and then takes a big step back to take a broad look at the state of our society today; and concludes that we’re not in a good place, nor moving in a good direction. This is more than a book about pornography: it’s a book about fascism.

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It’s no secret that authoritarians will always target sexual libertines, nor that authoritarian states consistently attempt to suppress the sexual urge. This is a lesson that has been learned repeatedly through history; every spike in sexual freedom has eventually been met with a conservative backlash. The pattern is so marked, and so consistent, that it almost seems burned into our DNA. And of course, it is: sex is such a fundamental part of the human psyche that it plays a hidden role in most of our behaviours. Sex is about far more than either reproduction or pleasure. It forms a vital role in our economic and social life; it is probably the most valuable commodity we as humans trade, and it was certainly the first. Sexual freedom offends, because it threatens so many vested interests.

So when, as a tech entrepreneur in the mid-90s, I built some of the earliest Internet porn sites, I was uniquely positioned to watch the backlash unfold. Indeed, I fully expected the backlash, and watched with interest. After all, I live in the UK, a country that has gone through more contortions than almost any other to stop its citizens watching smut. Would our prudish authorities simply roll over as the digital network swept away their carefully assembled powers of censorship? Not a chance.

And similarly, the grassroots backlash was to be expected. What took me by surprise was the nature of the backlash. In a country where religion has withered to a point of virtual irrelevance, a Christian campaign for decency would be simply laughed off. Instead, the anti-sex fury came from my tribe, the political left. A conservative strand of feminism, born in the USA in the 1980s, was at the core of the anti-sex reaction. Its first victims were strippers in east London, who fought back as feminists and trade unionists attempted to put them out of well-paid work and kill a niche culture. One of the strippers, who features in Porn Panic!, referred to herself as the “canary in the coalmine”. She understood like few others that a tsunami was building.

From strip clubs, the movement surged forward, attacking sexual expression in all forms, and then expanding to attack free speech in general. It was a movement of the left that embodied all the worst attributes of the old conservative right: it began to attack concepts of racial and sexual equality that had been the outcome of the liberal revolutions of the 1960s. It was inherently anti-science, preferring to create new facts that suited its ideology. This was a new fascism, and its ideas were entering the mainstream.

Porn Panic!, by Jerry Barnett, is published by Zero Book, and available through all good book outlets.

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.

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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

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 Guardian and the Return of the Victorian Lady

Guardian Journalist
Guardian Journalist

I have a confession: for many years, I was a loyal Guardian reader. At one point, prior to the arrival of smartphones and apps, I bought the paper, at a quid a time, perhaps three or four times a week. I always enjoyed, and wanted to support, its high quality, liberal-minded news coverage. It was saddening, therefore, to became aware of the deeply conservative slide the paper was taking, most of all when it came to the subject of sex. In the Guardian’s war on sexual expression, honest journalism at the paper has been sidelined, and bigoted opinions have appeared in place of fact. This bigotry hasn’t  just been directed towards strippers, models and pornstars, but also has included deeply racist attitudes. I documented much of this in my book Porn Panic! (which is now available for pre-order on Amazon).

The Guardian’s descent into social conservatism dates back more than a decade. Brooke Magnanti – better known as Belle de Jour – who had blogged about her life as a sex worker, was awarded the Guardian’s blogger of the year award in 2003. She recounts in her book The Sex Myth that a group of Guardian journalists threatened to resign en-masse should she be offered a column. She instead went to write for the Telegraph. The irony that the right-wing paper was more accepting of sex work than the supposedly liberal Guardian was not lost on Magnanti.

In 2013, the paper published an editorial titled “Internet pornography: never again” in which it openly called for Internet censorship. The paper’s liberal values had been overruled by its hatred of sexual expression.

But porn is not the only area in which the Graun has succumbed to moral panic and pro-censorship attitudes. It has joined a far bigger and more worrying war on free expression. This time, the justification for censorship is the very Victorian idea that women are incapable of dealing with the same situations as men. Gender equality is under fierce attack, as it has been many times in history; this time, bemusingly, the attacks come from the political left. This massive assault on gender equality, and on free speech, began to rear its head a few years ago, and began with Twitter.

The War on Twitter

Twitter has long been hated by control freaks. Unlike Facebook, Twitter has been reluctant to censor the content of its posts. This has led the platform to be far edgier than Facebook, and thus more exciting and anarchic. The UK government first signalled its discomfort with free speech on this scale when it blamed Twitter, in part, for the UK riots of 2011. You get the message: free speech is all very well when you’re sending photos of kittens, but too much can be a dangerous thing. This is the age-old mantra of dictators and fascists, and it apparently never gets tired. Threats by David Cameron to provide a “kill switch” for emergency situations were thankfully ignored by Twitter, which is protected from state censorship by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The control freak tendency instead reached for the oldest trick in the book: Twitter’s free speech is a threat to womankind! The opportunity to play this card came when a journalist, Caroline Criado-Perez, was abused on Twitter. Now, here was the perfect victim: a photogenic, blonde, middle-class journalist. The press initially reported the abuse as if it had come from a multitude of people, implying that Twitter’s free speech policy was somehow turning hordes of men into misogynistic monsters, and coining the term “misogynistic Twitter trolls”.

Yet once the moral panic had dissipated, it turned out that the abuse received by Criado-Perez had largely originated from two people, and (inconvenient for the “MASSIVE MISOGYNY” narrative), the worst offender was a woman, Isabella Sorley. Furthermore, Sorley had 25 previous arrests, mostly for being drunk and disorderly. Here was a minor story of two unpleasant people – at least one of whom was probably mentally ill – sending horrible tweets to another person; but in the hands of the pro-censorship feminist lobby, it had become a false message that misogyny was everywhere, and that too much free speech can be a bad thing – at least, for ladies.

A line had been crossed: ugly, foul-mouthed working class people are not supposed to come into contact with nice, blonde, middle-class ladies. When the two were imprisoned for their speech crime, the press was notably silent in questioning the sentences.

The Criado-Perez case set a precedent, and suddenly feminist commentators were climbing over each other to discover widespread online misogyny.  The only problem with this “analysis” was that beyond anecdotes, there was no evidence to be found that women were being systemically targeted more than men. Indeed, when Demos carried out comprehensive research into abuse on Twitter, it was found that men were far more likely to be targeted than women.

This mirrored the situation with real-world violence, which men are far more likely to experience than women. Indeed, in a rare moment of clarity a 2008 Guardian article stated:

“Although it is the attacks on young women that we are most likely to respond to, it is young men who, overwhelmingly, are victims of violence (as the stories of knife attacks over the past year so well illustrate).”

This is hardly a radical new idea: we know that men are more likely to experience violence, and always have been. Despite this, neo-feminists have chosen to cherry-pick evidence to fit their “massive systemic misogyny” narrative. In other words, it isn’t that women are being targeted: it’s just that women are considered weaker and less capable of handling things that should be the preserve of men. This is, of course, not a feminist message at all: gender equality was once the core thing that feminists believed in, and the infantilisation of women was frowned upon. But from the 80s onward, the feminist movement has become ever more conservative in its attitudes, to the extent that it now largely opposes feminist positions from the 1960s. 1960s feminists argued that women were capable of handling any situation that men could. 2016 feminists disagree.

The neo-feminist view of women, while being nothing like the second-wave feminist view, is remarkably similar to the Victorian one. In Victorian times, women were considered to be frail creatures, prone to “hysteria”, “lunacy” and prone to fainting. Thus, they could not possibly be expected to handle gender equality. Since the Women’s Lib era, there have been frequent campaigns by conservatives to put women back in their place. What has changed is that now, the conservatives are on the political left, and call themselves feminists. The old forces that resisted gender equality – such as the Tory Party and the Daily Mail – have been replaced by new ones, including the Labour Party and the Guardian.

As demonstrated by violence statistics and the Demos study of online abuse, the feminist claim that women suffer more abuse than men is simply false. This is a huge problem for a movement whose single message is that women are “oppressed” by “patriarchy” and “structural misogyny”. Quite simply, if there did exist widespread hate of women by men, then women would suffer more violence and online abuse than men, not less.

And now, enter the Guardian to save the day. Last week, the paper published its own study into online abuse, and unlike any previous study, it found that women were, indeed, more likely to be victims. The study (and accompanying daily drumbeat of moral panic) was chillingly titled “The Web We Want” (“we”, meaning Oxbridge-educated Guardian journalists). Here was the Guardian in campaign mode, pretending to be publishing news but in reality whipping up a Daily Mail-esque moral panic over free speech:

“…along with online camaraderie, the vituperative modes of interaction took hold: bullying, shaming and intimidation… For women it frequently assumes a particularly violent and sexualised form, sometimes extending to public rape threats; for ethnic minorities it is often racist.”

In a nutshell, here is the methodology of the conservative left: attack free expression, but using left-wing language. Don’t say “Christian family values are under threat”, say “OMG people are being sexist, racist and homophobic! We must stop them!”

But it is, indeed, puzzling that the Guardian’s findings overturn conventional wisdom. Puzzling that is, until the methodology is examined: it is simply laughable. The explanation is packed with irrelevant technical detail (they used Postgres database software, and wrote scripts in Perl – so what?) which apparently is only included to distract the reader from the important bit. The entire article contains one useful, and very revealing, sentence:

“In our analysis we took blocked comments as an indicator of abuse and/or disruption”

So the reasoning is entirely circular, and hugely dishonest. Guardian moderators, acting (one presumes) under Guardian policy, block posts they subjectively consider to be sexist, racist and homophobic. They then examine the blocked posts and (shock horror!) discover they are largely sexist, racist and homophobic. The newspaper is guilty of the worst sort of misinformation: making a headline claim and then providing small print that doesn’t back it.

This is far from being the Guardian’s first campaign for censorship – it has actively campaigned for porn, “sexualised” imagery and (black) music videos to be censored. But this is the broadest attack so far, targeting the very basis of online free speech. Furthermore, the moral panic is obviously carefully planned and orchestrated, with day-by-day updates. Unsurprisingly, a Labour voice has now joined the campaign, with an Orwellian call by Yvette Cooper for “greater monitoring of online harassment”. Labour MP John Mann is already on record as calling for internet bans on “trolls”: crushing people’s right to speak out if the authorities consider them unsavoury. The implications for controversial political speech are profound.

Little of this could fly in America, where free speech has been protected since 1789. But speech in Britain has no such protection, and so (as predicted by George Orwell in 1984) is a soft touch for “nice” censorship, designed by a paternalistic state to protect us from ourselves.

My book Porn Panic!, which documents sexual prudery, the decline of the progressive left, and the rise of a new fascism, is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

The Slut-Shaming of a Sex Worker on Facebook

This story is hardly an unusual one. Sex workers experience slut-shaming and other abuse as standard if they dare have a public presence. I have a number of Facebook friends who are prostitutes, pornstars, webcam girls and strippers, and I’m all too aware how often they are attacked online. I’m sharing these images with permission from sex worker and activist Laura Renvoize, who was the subject of the abuse, and chose to share them on Facebook.

The comments reveal how a pseudo-left, pseudo-feminist narrative is often adopted by middle-class women who feel the need to intellectualise their slut-shaming. These days, since it’s become fashionable to be left-wing (or at least, to sound left-wing), attacks on sex workers tend to be veiled in pseudo-left language. It is fascinating that the old left issues of sexism, racism and capitalism have now become excuses for anti-sex work and other forms of bigotry.

Unfortunately, this is indicative of the intellectual rot on the new left. Simply shouting CAPITALISM has become a substitute for reasoned argument. Note the claim that Laura is ‘a disgrace to women and girls’: in this version of feminism, no woman can be liberated, since every woman is (we’re told) answerable to all other women for their behaviour.

Note also the argument-hopping: Laura is told that her chosen work is violence against women (one would think she would have been the first to notice that) and is then blamed for breaking up nice families by sleeping with attached men and other crimes. Prostitution is said to be a “sick industry that promotes everything wrong with the world”. Entertainingly, prostitutes are often (as here) that told they don’t “value themselves” – a strange accusation to throw at some of the highest paid people in society.

 

slut-shaming
slut-shaming
slut-shaming

The Trouble With the F Word: Documentary Fundraiser

f-wordA couple of years ago, as I was launching this campaign, I was contacted by Vanessa Pellegrin, who was working on a documentary called The Trouble With the F Word: a film examining why feminism has become so unpopular. She has now launched a Kickstarter campaign to help complete the film.

It’s an interesting question, and one that also partly drove me to write my own book, Porn Panic!

The film will take a balanced look at feminism and anti-feminism (whatever those things may be – sometimes, feminism itself appears to be so broad and self-contradictory that it could be labelled anti-feminism!)

In the short video below, Vanessa gives five reasons to help fund her project. Have a look, and check out her Kickstarter page if you’d like to be involved.

Anti-Sex Worker Bullying: a Sex Worker Replies

Many sex workers, especially those who dare to be open and proud of what they do, receive hateful messages. Here, sex worker Lila Rose replies to a person who has sent her a series of messages. This was originally posted on Facebook, and is copied here with the author’s permission.

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Ok so some of you may know that this person has been sending me horrible and offensive messages to me because they do not agree with me being a sex worker and believe that i’m in a bad situation, even though they just assume so. Here is my response…

Dear Francesca Lilla/Maria Rosa…whatever your name is.

I have yet remained silent throughout your offensive and ignorant messages on Facebook that you have sent me regarding your opinions of my persons and of my sex work. I have remained silent up until this point because it’s not really worth my time to worry with such ignorance and criticism that is thrown my way every time it presents itself. But, seeing as you so kindly feel the need to reduce me to a victim and use your hetero-white privileged god saving complex to try to “save me” from myself as well as messaging my friends and hurling racist/xenophobic and down right disgusting comments to them, I feel the need to now educate you on my life and why I don’t give a shit about YOUR own insecurities.

So here is my response to every single message you have sent me so far:

Message ONE

Do I remember you? I vaguely remember someone by the name of Maria Rosa on my BA course at Wimbledon College of Art, if I’m not mistaken she was Italian. What happened to her? Who was she? I haven’t a clue and it’s none of my concern. Frankly, I don’t care to know either.

You discovered I’m a Sex Worker, good for you. Yes I REALLY AM A SEX WORKER and I have worked in the sex industry since I was 20/21 years old. I started escorting around a year ago now but have worked with various aspects of the industry: porn, stripping, escorting, web cam, domination, etc.

What happened to me? Lots of things have happened to me. And once again, YES I REALLY AM A SEX WORKER. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. What bastard told me to do sex work? This bastard right here – ME-MYSELF-AND-I. If by asking whether I am paid by someone who convinces me to do this, you actually mean that I have a pimp who “coerces” me into “prostitution” then my answer is NO. I WORK FOR MYSELF AND CHOSE TO WORK WITH ANY AGENCY THAT I’M CONNECTED WITH.

You say that there is nothing “feminist” about being a sex worker, I think you are wrong and here’s why…

For me FEMINISM is a way of life that allows me to freely act as my own agent: making the life choices that I want and dealing with them on my own terms. It’s a movement that represents all people from all walks of life, regardless of: gender, race, sexuality, class, profession, etc. And that for me includes SEX WORK. As you can see, I’m an INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST. You can read more about it here.

By stating that being a sex worker is “non –feminist” what you are really stating is that SOME women have more validity than others, that somewhat you are superior because you believe that your way of thinking and way of life is the “right way” and any choices they have made are wrong. This to me is what I like to call: THE ANTI-WOMAN FEMINIST.

WHO MADE YOU SPOKES PERSON FOR FEMINISM WORLD-WIDE?

Here’s a nice little extract with a website you may be familiar with (Wikipedia) and their information about Sex-positive feminism (which is what I am part of):

“Pro-sex work and pro-sex worker’s rights feminists[edit]
Unlike those feminists critical of prostitution, pro-sex work perspectives do not concede that prostitution sexual acts have an inherent element of coercion, exploitation, and domination. As such, pro-sex feminists instead assert that sex-work can be a positive experience for women who have employed their autonomy to make an informed decision to engage in prostitution.

Many feminists, particularly those associated with the sex workers’ rights movement or sex-positive feminism, argue that the act of selling sex need not inherently be exploitative; but that attempts to abolish prostitution, and the attitudes that lead to such attempts, lead to an abusive climate for sex workers that must be changed. In this view, prostitution, along with other forms of sex work, can be valid choices for the women and men who engage in it. This perspective has led to the rise since the 1970s of an international sex workers’ rights movement, comprising organizations such as COYOTE, the International Prostitutes Collective, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, and other sex worker rights groups.

An important argument advanced by pro-sex work feminists such as Carol Queen highlights that all too often feminists who are critical of prostitution have failed to adequately consider the viewpoints of women who are themselves engaged in sex work, choosing instead to base their arguments in theory and outdated experiences.[39] Feminists who do not support the radical anti-prostitution view, argue that there are serious problems with the anti-prostitution position, one of which is that, according to Sarah Bromberg, “it evolves from a political theory that is over-verbalized, generalized, and too often uses stereotypical notions of what a prostitute is. The radical [anti-prostitution] feminist views are … not always delineated sufficiently to support a credible theory that prostitution degrades all women”.

Pro-sex work feminists say that the sex industry is not a “monolith”, that it is large and varied, that people are sex workers for many different reasons, and that it is unproductive to target prostitution as an institution. Instead, they believe things should be done to improve the lives of the people within the industry.”

Who told me I could be a fantastic artist? I DID. AND I AM FUCKING AWESOME.

“what the thing about being a slut?” – Honey, a slut is nothing more than a word used to reduce (predominantly) women to mere objects void of any form of agency and free will. If you allow this word to be used against you in a negative way, then you allow yourself to be reduced as such. For me, I proudly use the word SLUT. Why? BECAUSE HAVING SEX WITH LOTS OF PEOPLE IS FUN AND I ENJOY IT. AND FRANKLY, IT’S NO ONE’S BUISINESS IF I DO. IF PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF A WOMAN’S SEXUALITY THEN THAT IS THEIR PROBLEM, I AM MY OWN SEXUAL BEING AND NO ONE WILL TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, IT IS MY PEROGATIVE TO ENJOY SEX, TO USE IT AS I WISH AND WITH WHOM I WISH.

“I remember you were talented…” – I STILL AM TALENTED. Talent is relative and it isn’t something you can strip away because of life choices and/or other people’s opinions. I’m still doing really well in terms of art. I still make art, I exhibit a lot, I usually have around 7-8 shows a year since graduating from my art degree – and unlike you, I ACTUALLY graduated. See, I can still do both: be a sex worker and have an education…who’d have thought?!

“There is a lot of people who want to ruin feminism and make feminists sluts” – I totally agree with you: “feminists” such as yourself for example, who use their white-hetero-cis gendered privilege against those who do not fit into their system, “feminists” such as yourself who feel the need to dictate to other feminists what the “right way” is purely because they have some sort of white status. Honey, it’s “feminists” such as yourself who reduce sexually free acting women such as myself to “sluts” because you feel the need to shame them for their own agency, something you clearly don’t seem to understand. I have fought long and hard to be the free agent that I am, I have undergone extensive battles within myself, I have been shunned by my own family numerous times in order to be the free agent that I am, in order to be true to who I am. And NO ONE, NOT EVEN YOU WILL TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. PERIOD.

The key word here is AGENCY and I understand that you may not know what it means…here you go, educate yourself: http://www.britannica.com/…/284…/Feminist-theories-of-agency

Regarding Richard Layzell – he was my performance art tutor at art school and whilst he was influential in my way of working and communicating performance, he in no way has had any involvement in my personal life and/or life post-graduation. It is none of my concern whether or not you got on well with him at uni and maybe you should care less about rumours that other people spread and make up your own judgements of people based on your interaction with them. Richard was and is a great artist and I have the upmost respect for him, artist to artist, human to human. I don’t understand why you are even bringing him up in your already flawed arguments.

You feel bad to see me like this? DON’T. Feel bad that you are unable to mind your own business and feel the need to indulge your own narcissistic flaws by acquiring a god-complex. I pity you.

Message TWO

You say you understand that I might not want to listen to you – clearly YOU DON’T. You go on to say that I “should” listen to you and even though I had never responded you still continue to message me to make me change my mind. Once again: look at me I’m a white-hetero-cis gendered privileged feminist and you must listen to me for my way is the right way BLAH BLAH BLAH. Here’s the thing, you state that there are people who are trying to persuade me to make certain life choices and yet you are doing the EXACT thing that you claim these so called “pimps” are supposedly trying to do. It’s vile that you think you have some sort of superiority over me and therefore I must listen to your saviour complex. Well here’s some words of advice: check your privilege before you feel the need to impose your views on others and mind your own business if you are not prepared to be open minded about other people’s lives.

“if you like to fuck from different men doesn’t mean be a sex worker you can have a normal job and normal relation with men or a lot of men, or the person you like” – why, thank you for pointing out the obvious. It doesn’t mean I HAVE to be a sex worker, you are right there, but it sure does make my job a hell of a lot easier! I still have normal relations with people outside of my sex work, I can still have lots of sex with people who are not clients and guess what: I STILL ENJOY IT. I don’t want a “normal” job that doesn’t fit to my personality, this job however, does.

I find it very condescending of you to proceed to send me job applications and links, as if to assume that I am incapable of job hunting if I wish to change my job. And then, to make matters worse, you feel the need to “educate” me on how to conduct myself in interviews and in job applications. Because I have never done such things? I have worked in so many areas, in various jobs and have attended numerous interviews: I know exactly how to conduct myself in such situations and don’t need you to tell me how to do so. You seem to miss the point. I am a sex worker AND also highly educated, the two are more than capable of going hand-in-hand. And for one to assume that sex workers are an uneducated bunch emphasizes your lack of understanding on the subject matter.

Collaborating with other artists is still something I do and I create my art alongside my sex work, for me the two work alongside each other perfectly well.

“I’m really busy I cannot come to rescue you I’m so sad for that I do my best so please listen to me” – clearly you are not that busy if you have time to pester me with your anti-sex work crap. I have been busy due to being awesome, hence why I have not responded until now.

Message THREE

“I don’t know what they did to you some people they told me you are abused and you don’t remember” – First of all who are “they” and what exactly did they say to you? Whether or not I have or haven’t been abused is none of your concern nor is it any one else’s. It is up to me whether or not I reveal such information and to whom. Even if it were true, in no way is that relevant to the sex work debate, NOT EVERY SEX WORKER HAS COME FROM A LIFE OF ABUSE AND BY PROFILING THEM AS SUCH IS ANOTHER WAY OF VICTIMISING THEM WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT AS WELL AS TAKING THEIR AGENCY FROM WHAT THEY DO.

“I will save you” – Save yourself first. You clearly need it more than I do.

“I want to fucking destroy that fucking city of English bastards” – clearly your racism has gotten the best of you and you need to “check yourself, before you wreck yourself girlfriend”. Seriously, sort yourself out.

“You can have an amazing normal work having a normal life full of normal people that likes and love you as you have when I meet you” – I have an AMAZING life already, it may not be perfect but it sure has been a great learning curve and in no way would I change it. Life can always be better, but it’s what you make with it that makes it beautiful. As for the people in my life, I have plenty of amazing people who love me and who support me when I need them, and if they don’t: well, they soon loose any relevance in the story of my life. Simple.

“I can’t believe you prefer being a slut rather than have a normal job” – seriously, my job is just as normal as someone who works a 9-5 in an office, we both sell our bodies for money. I just so happen to have sex and enjoy it. And being a slut? Well: FEMINIST SLUT POWER ALL THE WAY <3

“I told you to try” – I’m telling you to mind your own business.

“I’m a feminist I risk my life for what I believe for that I’m so successful and thousands of people love me” – this is not a “who’s popular” contest. I’m glad you are successful, but guess what, so am I. You are loved by thousands of people? So am I. Who even cares?

“people don’t like slut people never like slut slut are slut these are not feminist” – well clearly you are not part of my feminism, which is fine, but keep your white collar feminism out of my grill. “sluts” as you call them, are people, they’re women, if you as a feminist can’t even see them as human beings just like every body else then for what does your feminism serve? And for whom? Get your head out of your arse.

“YOU ARE NOT A SLUT YOU ARE IN A SHIT SITUATION YOU ARE ABUSED OH GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GONNA SMASH EVERTHING IN THIS WORLD UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE WITH A NORMAL LIFE FUKIN ENGLISH MAN FUKIN EACH BASTARD OF ENGLAND THAT BRING YOU IN THAT SHIT” – Make up your damn mind. One minute I’m a slut and I shouldn’t put myself in this position the next I’m a victim and abused, blah blah blah. Do you even know what you are talking about or did you just Google up “anti-sex work feminism arguments”? Smash whatever you like, I’ll still be here: having sex, loving my life and getting paid for it. Enjoy your chaos on your own.

Message FOUR

You say you won’t calm down until I am safe in another place. I have a normal life, well as normal as one can be when you’re me ha ha. I won’t listen to you because I am acting out of my own choice and I am safe within my world. Of course one should always be cautious, whether or not you are a sex worker or a man or woman or other. I don’t need you to whisk me away to another country to stay with your family. And don’t worry, I’m constantly reflecting on my future, I don’t need you to tell me so. Yes I can go to Brazil, to Rio. I was born there and my family have a house there, I don’t need you to take me there to live with your family member. I have my own family there.

No I don’t want to meet you. You are not worthy of my time.

Message FIVE

In your opinion, sex work is the “problem for women” and that it’s “against feminism” but then you state that you are a feminist and that you “scream that women have to have their rights”, yet you fail to understand that women should have that right to choose who they and how many people they sleep with and whether or not they get paid for it. Women should have the right to be “sluts” if they choose then, surely?

Your comments about the CIA running programs to ruin feminism and that they are behind sex work is just ludicrous and I have no words to give you apart from: are you even for real?

Referring to sex workers as “prostitutes” is not only demeaning of their autonomy, it is also an out-dated term that is heavily embedded within a historical and socio-political context. Whilst it is important to understand the term “prostitute” and it’s cultural implications, one must also understand that prostitution has come a long way and we now use the term sex worker as a broader term that is more inclusive.

You say that “the system” for centuries has enslaved women and makes them passive, that “prostitutes” are never part of society, that they “never take the decisions that men in industries/politics take”, that they are “behind men”. You see, YOU ARE SO WRONG. Prostitution is the oldest profession in the books, if you really think about it, “prostitutes” were the first entrepreneurs and still are. You say they are passive, but really most are not, and I know many! You seem to assume that all working girls are in fact victims and can’t take care of themselves. And I assure you I am the LEAST passive person you will ever find, yet I still am a working girl. Do you even know any sex workers personally? Have you even engaged with any? Have you taken the time to find out about their lives, about how they operate, how they feel before casting judgements?

And yes I am behind men quite a lot, usually with my dick in their arse. It’s so much fun, you should try it some time.

“oh god the other day I thought that if you know what I am doing with feminism how you would look at me” – So what, you want a fucking medal?! I do as much within feminism myself and I am a proactive speaker through my art work as well as social media, I go to protests, to marches, to rallies.

“Oh I thought also what you might didn’t listen to me that you mike think I’m lesbian, I’m straight I have a boyfriend” – well first of all, your sexuality and sexual preferences aren’t of any interest to me and even if you were a lesbian, it would have nothing to do with me listening to you or not. I myself am pansexual, I am attracted to various people of various genders and sexualities. I’m LGBTQ friendly.

“if I am a feminist, if I know a person is in a bad situation if I don’t help what kind of feminism I speak for?” – But you don’t know whether I am in a bad situation or not…you just ASSUMED so purely based on the fact that I am a sex worker. That is all. You haven’t even asked if I’m ok, if I’m enjoying myself, if I like my work.

“I’m an activist, I have passed a lot of bad things for what I’m doing and I continue for make real the dream that women have decades ago even if it is difficult” – well I’m glad that you are passionate about your activism but ask yourself this: for whom am I doing it for? I’m also an activist, I can be a sex worker AND an activist: SHOCK HORROR! And may I add that what feminists fought for decades ago isn’t necessarily viable in this day and age. Society has moved on and we have other worries and other fights to fight. It’s not just about women any more, I can’t stress this enough. Yes women still feel the brunt of things, yes women still suffer inequalities, but so do other people and in order to achieve any sort of equality then surely everyone must fight along side each other?

Message SIX

You want me to explain to you why I continue being a sex worker: because I enjoy having sex and getting paid for it, whether that be through escorting, through my porn work or web cam. I get paid a better wage than most people dream of and it allows me time and flexibility with art making. By being paid well, it means that I am able to fund my main career as an artist. Because I meet so many different people from all walks of live, not all men, some times women. I have met so many wonderful people who respect me and treat me well.

Don’t get me wrong, there are bad days and there are times when you feel like you don’t like it, but then isn’t that the same with most jobs? Don’t most people feel that way about their jobs? It’s been a learning curve more importantly, and I relish in the fact that I’m a very strong person and that my feminism has informed my sex work. I have opened up strong communications with my clients, who know that I’m an artist and an activist, who support what I stand for, and for that it makes me more determined in my role as a service provider.

No, I haven’t listened to you because I do not share your opinions, your values and I most certainly do not appreciate your accusatory tone with which you have approached me. It is one thing to express your opinion on the subject matter, another to demand that I change my life for you simply because you fail to understand my life and feminism. I think it’s time to end this tiresome port of communication, don’t you? I will not respond to anything else you have to say for I have said all that I needed to say.

<3 FEMINIST SLUT POWER <3

From your dearest slut…

Trans-Denying Feminists (aka “TERFs”) – Transphobic or Just Plain Wrong?

I had generally avoided the “debate” over trans rights and transphobia, which is characterised by plenty of heat and little light, until I debated against Julie Bindel last year on pornography at the University of Essex. There had been calls to cancel the debate, based on Bindel’s alleged transphobia (despite the debate having nothing to do with the issue), and we were inevitably met by a shouty little group of students accusing Bindel of being a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist).

Bindel has been “No Platformed” by  a number of student unions (or rather, the elitist little clique that controls many student unions and decides what the rest of the student body should or should not hear on campus). Ludicrously, such people claim that refusing to allow a person to speak on campus isn’t censorship. “It’s not censorship to deny someone a platform…”. It’s worrying that some of these authoritarian bullies will form the next generation of politicians, and will inevitably try to extend No Platform beyond universities: “It’s not censorship. We’re simply denying bloggers a platform by throwing them in jail”.

The new left, obsessed with identity politics, and lacking the intelligent analysis of earlier generations of progressives, has trouble formulating intelligent positions, and instead resorts to labelling people bigots and trying to silence them. Are Bindel, Germaine Greer and other feminists really hate-filled “transphobes”? To me, this avoids the more important question: are they right? And undoubtedly, the answer is No. They are wrong: but their mistake is a fundamental one that is broadly shared across the new left, not just TERFs.

The success of liberal values in the 1960s established equality as an essential for any enlightened society. Women, racial minorities and homosexuals all took great strides forward in their legal statuses (although the inevitable cultural battles continued). But post-modern left thinkers, especially feminists, took things further, deciding that nature itself must be declared equal. Thus, biological differences were increasingly denied: it was deemed that every child was equally capable of everything, and that individual differences in intelligence, in ability and in gender behaviours were therefore cultural, rather than rooted in biology.

So as religious objections to evolution have faded, the post-modernists have become the new creationists, denying the increasing weight of science that demonstrates how important genes are to all of our core instincts and behaviours.

The 1970s feminist movement declared gender identity to be a cultural, not a biological attribute, with hilarious consequences, which I remember well, as my mother and her friends were Women’s Libbers. It was widely predicted for example that women, now liberated, would come to equal men in sporting achievements (to be fair, there was an uptick in female world records, but this turned out to be down to the widespread use of drugs by Eastern bloc countries). It was also believed that the tendency for women to obsess over their appearances far more than men was due to “patriarchal oppression”, and so women’s lib would mean an end to mini-skirts, make-up and high heels: in fact, greater female economic independence has led to exactly the opposite scenario, with sales of cosmetics, beauty products and female clothes booming. On race, the success of West Africans in power sports, and East Africans in endurance events, was put down to “racial oppression”, rather than biological advantages.

Most fundamentally, it was deemed that children’s gender identities could be crafted by giving them different toys to play with. Thus, boys of my generation were given dolls to play with as well as trains, and toy weaponry was frowned upon. Generation after generation of feminist mothers have tried, and failed, to override their children’s innate sense of gender identity. (Some time ago I saw a very good blog by a feminist mother on how giving birth to two boys destroyed her belief that gender behaviours were merely cultural – if anyone knows of the link, please let me know and I’ll add it here).

By the 1990s, the science was well advanced, and increasingly showed that gender and sexual behaviours were in large part genetic. Twin studies allowed the effects of genes and environment to be isolated and measured, and once the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, we gained the ability to directly “read” which genes were linked with each of our behaviours. Evolutionary psychology, neuroscience and genetics all developed rapidly and gradually demolished the foundations of post-modern thinking. The 1999 book Why Men Don’t Iron was one of many that explained the emerging understanding about gender behaviours, and was made into a TV programme. Similarly, the book Why Is Sex Fun included a chapter titled “Why Do Men Hunt?” By 2013, neuroscience had advanced to the point where it unveiled, in detail, the different wiring of male and female brains.

But like all true religious believers, the post-modernists became increasingly shrill, as the rug of scientific evidence was yanked from beneath them. They attacked biology covertly, dismissing solid, mainstream science as “biological determinism”. In terms of science denial, they are greater offenders than even climate-change sceptics: the science they deny is far older and more solid than climate science.

Bizarrely, the post-modernists allow for one loophole: in response to claims from the religious right that homosexuality is cultural and therefore curable, they are prepared to accept the biological roots of homosexuality. But on gender, they take the same position as the religious right do over homosexuality: it is cultural, and therefore must be curable.

As with sexuality, a minority of individuals are born possessing gender identities that depart from the mainstream. As with all other people, trans people deserve equality, and their human rights to be upheld. They deserve to live a life free from stigma and bullying, and for their chosen identities to be honoured by the world. The battle for trans rights is belatedly being fought, having been largely overlooked by earlier generations. In a sign that this debate has now fully entered the mainstream, new-left darling Owen Jones, never an early entrant to any issue, has recently contributed one of his typically worthy-but-unenlightening perspectives.

And so inevitably, trans activists have clashed with some among the older generation of feminists, still wed to the discredited idea of nurture over nature. Bindel and co are probably not bigoted; they are simply wrong; they cannot shake off the progressive ideas of their youths that have turned out to be discredited by science.

But the TERFs are not the only people still clinging on to this rejection of science. A leading female sex blogger responded to a science article I tweeted by tweeting back at me: “Biological determinism is fucking bollocks!” – illustrating the low quality of debate around these subjects. The ongoing arguments over “gendered” toys continue, based on the silly assumption that Barbie dolls and pink Lego bricks are somehow responsible for the lack of female CEOs and nuclear physicists. Despite 50 years of post-modern parenting, gender differences are as strong as ever.

Like all religious-type movements, biology-denying feminism will crash and burn, but it will become increasingly shrill on the way down. Discussions over sex, sexuality and gender in the absence of scientific understanding invariably produce laughable nonsense. Equal rights are a legal and ethical idea: they don’t require underlying conformity. We are all different, we are all equal.

Through the Looking Glass with No More Page 3

If you want to attract mass support for a dodgy cause, the trick is to sound eminently reasonable. Extremists tend to alienate most people, including those that are inclined to agree with them. If you have extreme objectives, the important thing is to deny them vociferously, however implausible the denial. Remember that most of your supporters don’t pay close attention to the detail: it’s the presentation that counts.

The far-right know this. The British National Party abruptly switched from an anti-Asian message to an anti-Muslim one within days of 9/11. Their target (working class Pakistani communities) hadn’t changed, but the presentation had. Similarly the English Defence League, eager to avert accusations of fascism, tried to show how pro-Jewish they were by carrying Israeli flags on their protests. “You see,” they were saying, “how can we be Nazis when we love Israel so much?” (although their supporters didn’t always get the message).

The anti-sex movement has had similar presentational problems. The powerful campaigner Mary Whitehouse had become widely mocked by the younger generation by the end of the 20th century. The new generation could no longer be convinced that enjoying and flaunting their sexuality was a bad thing. It seemed that the fear of sex had become a thing of a more prudish past.

The Whitehouse style of moral outrage gave way to a new presentation, re-wrapped in feminist terms. The new anti-sex movement talked in terms of objectification rather than decency or permissiveness, and tried to demonstrate that sexual expression was harmful to women, and thus censorship could be justified in the name of feminism. But beyond the realm of student unions and Guardian comment pages, anti-sex feminists suffered from the same problems that had afflicted Whitehouse: they were seen as prudish, humourless and ideological.

The biggest problem with building a popular anti-sex movement is that most people like sex. Trying to ban all visible displays of sexuality is unlikely to attract mass support, especially when the reasoning (“OMG Objectification, Sexualisation and RAPE CULTURE!!!”) is so easy to pick apart, given the chance for debate.

The problem is one of presentation. Just as the far right was forced to adopt a “we’re not racist, but…” approach, so the anti-sex movement had to learn to to be more subtle than repeating “porn is rape”. A soft target for censorship had to be found – one that attracted little sympathy. Enter No More Page 3.

The success of the No More Page 3 campaign has been based on two decisions: first, to pick the widely-hated Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper as the target for censorship; and second, to deny that their blatantly anti-sex, pro-censorship campaign was either anti-sex or pro-censorship. The first move was smart; the second took sheer brass nerve, reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (aka Comical Ali), who famously claimed Iraq was winning the war, against a backdrop of invading American troops.

As well as nerve, denying the obvious with a straight face takes a good deal of PR expertise and media training, and NMP3 clearly has no shortage of such resources. In politics, most people follow the voice they like, not the one with reasoned argument, and the nice ladies of NMP3 have fashioned themselves an image as the Women’s Institute of the anti-sex movement (though of course, they’re NOT anti-sex). They have successfully formed a broad church ranging from middle-English Christians and girl guides to various strands of feminism and the puritan left.

Last week, my long-held ambition to meet NMP3 came to fruition, when I was invited to debate the issue against a NMP3 representative at Loughborough University. The NMP3 “argument” is almost identical to the anti-porn one that I’ve found so easy to overturn in numerous debates; the big difference is that NMP3 caveat everything they say with “But we’re not anti-sex, we only care about Page 3”.

Thus: Naked models “objectify women” BUT ONLY WHEN THEY’RE ON PAGE 3! WE LOVE PORN!; Bare female breasts contribute to a culture of misogyny and sexism BUT ONLY WHEN THEY’RE ON PAGE 3! WE LOVE BOOBS! And so on…

It’s all so silly, one should laugh; except that 250,000 people have signed a petition on the back of this nonsense, and various public figures, including MPs, have supported the campaign.

The debate itself felt like some combination of Alice Through the Looking Glass and Orwell’s 1984. Bianca, the NMP3 representative, seemed to be treating the occasion as though she were a government minister, sent to appear on Newsnight to defend a policy she didn’t really agree with. So, for example, when I questioned whether she really didn’t have a problem with sexual imagery in general (for example, lads’ mags), she simply refused to answer, saying that her own views were irrelevant, and she had come to represent the official position of NMP3. When I pushed the issue, she embarked on a long, skilled and off-topic ramble of the type that Jeremy Paxman is so often forced to deal with.

Again, asked why NMP3 appears to have strong links with anti-sex organisations and individuals, the response was one of faux outrage: To label NMP3 anti-sex was totally unjustified! (Although I hadn’t actually done that). Yet she refused to provide any clarity as to why NMP3 mingles with anti-sex campaigners when it is a pro-sex organisation. Questioned as to why NMP3 attended the extremist Stop Porn Culture conference in London, she simply denied that they were anti-porn, but didn’t clarify why they had attended. Surely if an “anti-racist” had attended a BNP conference, they would at least have a case to answer.

I was genuinely impressed, and somewhat thrown, by the skilled use of doublespeak. When I pointed out the the lack of any research evidence linking Page 3 with harm against women, Bianca announced that NMP3 have never claimed Page 3 was harmful! And as I tried to stop myself falling off my chair, she then embarked on a speech listing instances of harm caused by Page 3: body image problems, a culture of sexism, and so on. So no evidence of harm, but lots of harm. Who needs evidence when you just know, deep in your heart, that it’s wrong? Again, doublespeak was much in evidence when dealing with the issue of censorship: NMP3 is definitely NOT in favour of banning anything, explained Bianca, before proudly stating that 33 student unions, with the support of NMP3, had voted not to allow sales of the Sun on campus. But – I questioned – isn’t that a ban? No, she replied, because NMP3 don’t call for legislation. The Sun isn’t banned from those 33 campuses. It’s simply not sold because the student unions voted to – er …. No, not ban it! Simply prevent it from being sold. There’s a word for that kind of thing… it’s on the tip of my tongue.

Similar wordplay is in evidence whenever NMP3 talk about their goals. They don’t want to censor anything! They simply want the Sun to remove Page 3 so people can’t see it any more. I was ultimately reduced to suggesting the attendees should look up the words “ban” and “censor” in a dictionary, as well as read 1984, to get an understanding for how skilled NMP3’s abuse of the English language was. Dictionary.com provides this definition of censor: “any person who supervises the manners or morality of others”… and what could better describe a mob of non-Sun readers trying to dictate what Sun readers can look at?

The debate ended with a stereotypical, and comical, student-leftie discussion about “capitalism”: It’s outrageous, claimed a speaker, that Rupert Murdoch is profiting from women! Ignoring the fact that “profit from women” happens anywhere that women choose to work, from banking to sport to journalism to… well, everything. The only solution to this horrible exploitation would be to ban all women from working! And although that may sound snarky, it reveals a truth about much that is said in the name of feminism these days: many self-declared feminists are working to reverse, not defend, the gains of the Women’s Lib movement.

No More Page 3 is establishing a dangerous pro-censorship precedent: that there are cases (or one case, anyway) where imagery of women must be suppressed for the wider good of all decent women and girls. It’s an old, moralistic viewpoint with a new twist. That precedent being established, where would the anti-sex, anti-woman witch-hunt end?