Tag Archives: feminism

Almost Everyone in the Gender “Debate” is Wrong

I began the Sex & Censorship campaign in 2013 in order to cast light on UK government attempts to censor the Internet (attempts which are now worryingly close to fruition), and to oppose feminist-led moral panics for the censorship of sexual expression. I assembled a broad coalition of support, including sex-positive feminists. What I hadn’t bargained for was a widespread belief among my allies that gender was a social construct.

I was familiar with social constructionist ideas, which had been popularised in the second wave feminist movement of the 1960s. My mother, in common with much of her generation, had once subscribed to the idea that ‘gendered toys’ and socially-constructed stereotypes were to blame for unruly male behaviours. And so, like many Generation Xers, I didn’t own any toy guns or swords, I was briefly enrolled into ballet classes, and I had a doll (called Jemima). All this provided little obstacle to the expression of my gender identity. Weapons could be made out of sticks. I refused (age 5) to participate in ballet, and I don’t remember having any great interest in Jemima. My long-suffering mum, who produced two more boys after me, learned the hard way that gender identity isn’t something you can mould like dough. Having sons appears to be a quick cure for mothers who subscribe to wishful theories on gender. I had assumed, in the intervening years, that this view of gender identity had been quietly left behind. I could not have been more wrong.

What I hadn’t fully realised in 2013 is that, rather than remain a whimsical idea of the baby boomers, the belief that ‘gender is a social construct’ had become popularised, embedded in academia (via Women’s and then Gender Studies), and then become part of the education of countless young people. Many of these had gone on to become the next generations of journalists, educators and politicians. Rather than attempt to discover the realities of gender, these new ‘theorists’ simply adopted a theological approach. A recent, confessional article by a gender academic reveals the truth about gender theory: it begins from a key false assumption, and then much of the rest is made up. As gender theory matured, so the body of work based on this false assumption grew. Social scientists cited earlier social scientists, piles of books were written, and the new religion became solid. The myth became fact, because it was built on a huge foundation of erroneous works, each one adding credence to the rest.

As I came into contact with gender theorists, I was confused by the theory I began to encounter, which seemed to clash with much of the sex science I had read, and I would ask these new acquaintances to explain their view of gender to me. I was rewarded with blank looks, or scornful ones for asking the wrong questions. Finally, I got the chance to interrogate an actual lecturer in gender studies, the husband of a friend. Over a pint, I explained my confusion regarding ‘gender theory’, and asked a simple, devil’s advocate question to get the ball rolling: surely, gender was rooted in biology? To my surprise, the man became flustered, (literally) began tugging at his his hair and became incoherently angry. He then called on a fellow academic (a historian of comic books, I recall) to explain why my question was wrong. From this encounter, I learned little about gender theory, except one thing: gender theorists did not behave remotely like scientists. They didn’t revel in defending or explaining their field, nor in the cut and thrust of discussion.

Around the same time, I shared a story on Twitter from a scientific publication about a research paper on the mating habits of bears. The story revealed a close match between human and bear mating behaviours. I hadn’t expected any response save, perhaps, some smutty dad jokes. My tweet, however, received an outraged response from a well-known feminist sex blogger, who angrily tweeted me that BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISM IS FUCKING BOLLOCKS.

Biological determinism is not a scientific term, but a social constructionist pejorative to be directed against evolutionary science that threatens the cult’s belief system. This accusation was confusing: if the similarities between bear and human behaviours were not biological in origin, was bear behaviour constructed by copying mating behaviour from humans? Or were humans copying bears? The blogger failed to explain, but launched into a Twitter rage against me. Puzzled, I spoke to a feminist journalist who was a mutual friend of myself and the sex blogger, but she too dismissed my belief in behavioural evolution as so extreme that “not even Richard Dawkins would support that!” (Dawkins, of course does support that, but in any case, he isn’t the High Priest of Evolution). I experienced the unsettling sensation that many of my acquaintances were joining a cult.

Having inadvertently crossed swords with the fledgling Woke movement, I began to hear rumours about myself that friends had heard from their friends: first that I was a misogynist, and later an Islamophobe. Since nobody directed these attacks at me directly, I never got to understand why I was being called these names, and was not given the chance to defend myself. I had a decades-long background in anti-fascist activism, and in the era of the English Defence League I had been one of the best-known online activists debunking their brand of anti-Muslim hate, so the Islamophobe label was especially puzzling. I had become (in the terminology of the cult) problematic, so I was a valid witch-hunt target.

Attempting to seek enlightenment from gender theorists or their followers had failed. Transgender friends proved more useful in explaining matters than academics. I observed over a period of time as a trans friend transitioned from female to male, and saw the remarkable effects of testosterone in altering his personality. Another trans friend in her 60s explained her journey to me in language that was refreshingly clear, if not politically correct: she was born, she told me, with a ‘defect’ in her brain that did not recognise her male body. Surgery, hormones, a new name and living as a woman had allowed her to be comfortable in herself, for the first time in her life. Her harrowing story helped convince me that trans people must have the right to live as as the gender they choose rather than the sex they were born as.

The existence of trans people (which refers to people born with gender dysphoria) creates a problem for social constructionists. If gender is a social construct, then how can one be born believing one is the wrong gender, with such distressing consequences? Social constructionists are forced into a position of either surrendering their belief system, or suggesting that gender dysphoria is a social creation. The latter explanation both belittles the traumatic experiences of trans people, and suggests their condition might be ‘curable’ by therapy alone. This puts social constructionists in a similar position to American Christians who advocate for a ‘gay cure’. I have found that some Woke friends, while publicly echoing acceptable positions on transgender issues, are quietly uncomfortable with the issue.

Science clearly backs the idea that gender identity is innate. Neuroscience has only recently begun to mature as a discipline (this is easily explained by the fact that an adult human brain is almost unfathomably complex, and is formed of around 100 billion neurons), but it is clear that most brains are identifiable as male or female. The interesting word in the last sentence is ‘most’. Gender isn’t a single, binary brain feature with two settings, but appears to be a combination of features. In a 2015 study (‘Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic‘ by Daphna Joel and others), 29 regions of the brain were scanned in multiple people, and each region was a different size depending on the person’s sex. However, in only a small proportion (no more than eight percent) of brains were all 29 regions either typically male or female. The vast majority of us show some combination of the two.

Nobody should be too surprised by this finding. After all, while most people show fairly typically gendered behaviours, most also show some atypical ones. As Joel’s paper states in its introduction: ‘… human brains are comprised of unique “mosaics” of features, some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males’.

Based on this mosaic model of the brain, it becomes easier to understand that a more typically male brain might (somehow) occur in a female body, and vice-versa. It also becomes clear that some people are likely to feel ‘non-binary’, meaning they don’t identify strongly as either male or female. Gender is therefore a spectrum rather than ‘binary’ – however, brains are not evenly distributed across the spectrum, but mostly fall within the ranges of typically male or typically female.

Unfortunately, gender politics misses any such nuance. Feminism has a history of dividing deeply over controversial issues. The subject of pornography split the movement in the 1980s; gender dysphoria is another such issue. The appalling ‘debate’ over transgender rights has broadly split the Left into two dogmatic tribes, each with its own set of simplistic positions and slogans. While it seems an obvious ethical point that transgender people should be allowed to choose their gender expression, there are caveats and exceptions to be considered.

One such exception is in sport, where (despite loud insistence to the contrary), it is possible that trans women may have an advantage over cis women. Although sporting performance is heavily based on testosterone levels, which are heavily reduced in trans women, this does not mean that trans women do not have any residual advantage: height, musculature, bone density or lung capacity, for example. Female athletes are increasingly challenging the inclusion of trans women in elite sport as unfair, but in turn they face accusations of ‘transphobia’ for raising the issue. These should be interesting and complex discussions, but gender politics is often so polarised that nuanced points become unsayable if one is determined not to be labelled problematic.

On one side of the argument are trans-exclusionary radical feminists (often referred to as TERFs, though they generally refer to themselves as ‘gender realists’). These take what is essentially a gender-nationalist position, and refuse to accept trans women into the sorority. TERF behaviours appear to be heavily driven by spite, though are typically couched as a defence of women’s rights against the encrosion of men into women’s spaces. Many TERFs appear to enjoy referring to trans women as ‘he’, or yelling that ‘women don’t have penises’. These behaviours shed little light on why TERFs care so much about how trans women choose to define themselves. Beyond exception cases, there is little evidence that trans rights impinge on women’s rights, and yet this is the central claim of TERF arguments. There is also the complex matter of how transgender children and teenagers should be treated, but TERFs offer no deep insight into this, and this seems to be a matter for medical professionals, researchers, parents and the children themselves, rather than for political point-scoring. Referring to the acceptance of transgender children as ‘child abuse’ may be useful for stirring up rage on social media, but does not add to useful discussion.

A case in point is that of Meghan Murphy, the founder of Feminist Current, who (like so many other radical feminists) apparently became bored of campaigning to get genitals deleted from the internet, and turned to the anti-trans cause. Murphy was banned from Twitter in 2018 for referring to a trans woman as ‘him’. This level of petty bullying appears to be the norm for TERFs, who have little to contribute beyond endlessly repetition of ‘you’re not a woman!’ Ironically, Murphy had, for years previously, been a strident campaigner for bans against pornography and other form of sexual expression, but this didn’t prevent her being lauded as a free speech hero by others in the anti-trans movement. While I oppose social media censorship of this kind, Murphy is certainly no defender of free expression.

The brutish arguments of TERFs should be easy to oppose in debate, if it wasn’t for the equal intransigence of many of those claiming to represent transgender interests. The pointless ‘Women don’t have penises!’ is met with the equally vapid ‘Trans women are women!’. There is nowhere to go from here other than a loop: ‘No they are not!’, ‘Yes they are!’, “TERF scum!”, “Misogynist!”, and so on. This bald statement (that trans women are women) is designed to close down discussion, rather than illuminate, advocate or educate. To illustrate how far the rot has spread, consider the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which once had such a deep commitment to free speech that it defended the Ku Klux Klan. Now, the ACLU appears to have succumbed to the Woke authoritarianism that has torn through the Left, and shuts down speech by tweeting “Trans girls are GIRLS. Period

To be a labelled a TERF is (among the Woke) roughly akin to being called a Nazi. Just as political violence against  (alleged) Nazis is now acceptable among Wokeys, so is the advocating of violence against TERFs – as a quick Twitter search on punch a terf demonstrates. As with all censorious and threatening behaviour, this simply encourages sympathy for people who don’t deserve sympathy, and who would be easily defeated in debate. Debate is, however impossible in this climate. Leading TERFs such as the Guardian journalist Jule Bindel are routinely no-platformed, and clearly enjoy this treatment.

While trans people have often had traumatic life experiences, and deserve heartfelt support and solidarity, neither side in this debate does. TERFs tend to deny the biological roots of gender dysphoria, and dismiss trans women as ‘deluded men’. And yet gender dysphoria isn’t ‘delusion’. Trans women appear to have brains that are more female-typical than male. This is not a delusion or a mental illness, but biology. The TERF response – refusing to honour a person’s choice of pronouns – is pure, malicious spite, designed to cause individuals pain.

While each side shouts slogans at each other, a third group muddies the waters still further. ‘Coming out as non-binary’ has become a trend, as illustrated by the recent announcement by the singer Sam Smith. Unlike coming out as transgender (which typically means a person will start living as the opposite sex, take hormones and possibly prepare for surgery), coming out as non-binary means little to the observer. Other than refer to Smith as ‘they’ rather than ‘he’, how is one supposed to respond to such an announcement? A couple of years ago, a feminist pornmaker of my acquaintance similarly announced she (now they) identified as ‘non-binary trans’. Like Smith, this change meant nothing more to observers than the adoption of new pronouns, but it did also increase their Woke score, and certainly provided a publicity boost for their business. A while before that, a (female, white) activist that I knew announced she was not just gender-fluid (the predecessor of non-binary), but a ‘woman of colour’ as well. These announcements appear to have little purpose, beyond self-promotion for those living in Woke social circles.

There’s nothing wrong with people posturing in this way. ‘Gender bending’ (as it used to be known) is a perfectly good challenge to rigid gender stereotypes. But to compare this attention-seeking behaviour with the suffering experienced by people with gender dysphoria is ludicrous, and somewhat akin to a gender version of blackface… ‘You’re trans? I feel a little bit trans too, sometimes…’

Transgender people (at least in the vast majority of cases) don’t come out for publicity, or to ‘bring attention to an important issue’. They do it because they have no choice, if they want to lead fulfilled lives. Because they need to express as their chosen gender before they can receive the medical treatment they need. To the wider, uninformed public, announcements like Sam Smith’s give the impression that gender is a choice, and that a casual flip of pronouns will sort it all out. Far from bringing understanding and support to trans people, the ‘coming out as non-binary’ trend suggests to the uninitiated that gender dysphoria is a fashion statement, and a choice. Furthermore, one suspects, the adoption of the awkward ‘they’ formulation, is often done as an excuse for Woke bullying, a chance to attack people if they accidentally misgender as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘they’.

All sides – the social constructionists, the anti-trans activists, the self-appointed trans rights activists, and the I-feel-a-bit-trans-today fashionistas are guilty of misrepresenting gender, or of trying to suppress discussion, or both. The losers are scientific reason, public understanding, and transgender people seeking support.

Stripper

The Guardian’s Sexual Hangups

This is a (slightly updated) repost of an article I originally wrote in 2011, regarding the decline of Britain’s (once) great liberal paper, the Guardian

The British press is among the best in the world. And among the worst. We have some of the most intelligent journalism that can be found anywhere, but also some of the most appalling. There are five daily newspapers (Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent and FT), from across the political spectrum, that are worth reading; of these, the Guardian often stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to providing high-quality journalism. When it comes to challenging dangerous abuse of power within the British state and corporations, The Guardian is often alone in publishing stories ignored by the rest of the British media.

At a time when social conservatism is on the rise in many pernicious ways, it was good to see a Guardian article by Zoe Margolis (aka The Girl With The One Track Mind) challenging the anti-sex crusade spear-headed in parliament by rightwing Tory MP Nadine Dorries. And yet, on the broad subject area of sex and sexuality, The Guardian, more often than not, comes down on the side of repression. The paper comes very much from the liberal, middle-class, English tradition, and the one subject the English middle-classes have always had trouble dealing with is sex. The Guardian also tends to take anti-sex campaigners more seriously if they adopt the “feminist” label than if they crusade under a more old-fashioned “morality” banner. On this subject, the Guardian’s coverage can swing from liberal to deeply conservative in the blink of an eye.

I blogged recently about the UK Government’s steps towards Internet censorship, using the excuse of “protecting children from pornography”. The Guardian, normally a warrior against censorship, lost its mind in an editorial on the subject, using Daily Mail-type phrasing such as “…bombarding of people’s homes and children by pornography…” and “…the destructive effects of pornography on relationships and values…“. The editorial also mentioned a recent government-commissioned report on “sexualisation”, neglecting to mention that it came from a Christian lobbying organisation. The idea that anyone who doesn’t want to see porn is “bombarded” with it is of course laughable, and serious research on porn has yet to reveal the harmful side effects claimed by conservatives of various shades.

And this wasn’t a one-off: on the icky subject of sex, The Guardian is often deeply conservative. For a podcast, I interviewed London strippers who are defending themselves against campaigners who threaten their right to work in the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. These women are articulate, well-paid and belong to trade unions. Yet, the Guardian is apparently convinced that stripping is bad, and refuses to take seriously the voices of the women themselves who earn a living that way; instead, they give a platform to “feminist” (aka sexual morality) groups who use dubious propaganda methods (such as claiming a non-existent link between strip venues and rape) to attack the venues and the people who work in them. While women who strip have offered to write for the Guardian about their experiences, only one ex-dancer, Homa Khaleeli is published, because she tells “the truth about lap dancing” – in other words, she makes the “exploitation” and “objectification” noises that Guardianistas want to hear.

The Guardian has a confused idea of defending sexual freedom. While Gay, Lesbian, Transgender issues are treated with the appropriate straight-faced correctness, other forms of sexuality and sexual freedom have Guardian journos giggling like schoolchildren. Fetishes, swinging, polyamory, BDSM, open lifestyles, bisexuality and sex work… these aren’t causes for free speech but excuses for The Guardian to pander to middle-England prejudices.

It’s not that I’m asking for the Guardian to become a campaigner for sexual freedom; but it should be delivering the quality of journalism it does so well elsewhere. Repeating misinformation about porn leading to marriage break-up, lap dancing leading to rape or most prostitutes being “victims” isn’t good journalism. Accepting the word of a woman simply because she calls herself a feminist but ignoring the many voices of women who earn their money this way isn’t fair or balanced. Ignoring researchers in these fields but listening to morality campaigners lets down the readership.

It’s not that The Guardian is the worst offender – not by a long way! – but it’s the one (or am I being naive?) that should “know better”. In fact, the most level-headed coverage of sex and the sex industries comes from the Financial Times and its stable mate The Economist, but these are targeted primarily at business people. Among mainstream press, the Guardian, often alone, has the courage to expose police brutality and corporate corruption. Why not maintain the same high standards on the difficult subjects of sex and sexuality? Up your game Guardian, and stop being so damn English about sex!

Book Review: Last Days at Hot Slit by Andrea Dworkin

The late Andrea Dworkin pioneered a conservative, anti-sex, pro-censorship strand of feminism. In doing so, she changed the feminist movement, and the political left, forever. A new collection of her writing, Last Days at Hot Slit, was published this year. My review of the book is now online at Quillette.

Incel, Sexual Frustration and Male Violence

The aftermath of the recent van attack in Toronto, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people, followed a now familiar pattern. Immediately after the attack, people divided into their rigid political tribes. Right-wingers expressed the belief (possibly even the hope) that the attacker was an Islamist. Even if he wasn’t, they said, this is surely the modus operandi of the Islamist terrorist. Similarly, left-wingers quietly hoped they could somehow pin this on the alt-right.

Such is the sad state of political discourse today: blaming the opposite side has become more important than respectfully remembering the individuals who died. The need for “our side” to be good and “their side” to be evil is now stronger than the need for compassion and human kindness. Politics is no longer politics: it has become religion.

The attacker, it turned out, was declared to be an Incel: an involuntarily celibate man. Incel is defined by Wikipedia as: “online communities whose members define themselves by being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner”.

This news was seized on with enthusiasm by the identitarian left. It perfectly fitted the “toxic masculinity” and “systemic misogyny” narratives of neo-feminism. And it gave a chance to mock those who had confidently pinned the attack on Muslims. Like most political narratives today, of left or right, it was sneering, hateful, triumphant, and an excuse to hate a broad group of people for the actions of one person. This is all so predictable now. If Owen Jones hasn’t yet penned a Guardian opinion piece on how all men need to take responsibility for this murderer, he will soon.

But there is a broad truth here, about humans as a species, and it’s about sex. If the mass media and the political establishment weren’t so tightly wed to social-construction theories of human behaviour, they might realise that evolutionary, genetic and psychological science has far better explanations for these occurrences than sociology can provide.

I have said, repeatedly, that a rise in violence is the inevitable outcome of attacks on sexual freedom. In my 2016 response to Ofcom’s consultation on porn regulation, I warned the regulator as follows:

“…the government’s own research suggests that restricting sexual imagery to teenagers may result in a rise in sexual violence…”

The government ignored such feedback, and has pressed ahead with censorship plans that will cause a rise in sexual and other violence: we must hold them to account for this.

Involuntary celibacy isn’t new: it is an ancient condition of mankind. Sexual relations between humans, in all societies, are defined by the fact that women, not men, choose mates. Given a free choice, women will opt for the genetically and socially fittest mate, even if he already has other mates. So polygyny (one man with multiple mates) is the predominant form of family unit in ancient societies. Recent genetic research has revealed the astounding fact that, 8,000 years ago, women were 17 times more successful at mating than men were. In other words, for every man that mated, there were at least 16 who never did. This gross inequality in the distribution of sex has defined the human state for most of our existence.

Women, past or present, have had no problem finding mates: the issue for women is to find the best available mate. For men, on the other hand, the issue has been simply one of mating at all. The rise of civilisation in the Middle East gave rise to new ideas, including egalitarianism. For the first time, societies recognised the unfair distribution of sex, and set out to balance this. This can be clearly seen in the writings of the Abrahamic religions: ancient Jewish law is inclined towards monogamy, and Christianity strongly so. Islam imposes a limit of four wives.

Although state-imposed rules on marriage are increasingly seen as outdated, the imposition of monogamy was radical and egalitarian. It recognised that most men were losers in the mating game, and that this situation created grave problems for society, including sexual violence.

Put simply, a truth about humanity is this: the more sexual frustration that exists, the more violent society will be. Anyone who has travelled in sexually repressed cultures will be aware of this: for example, while we travelled in Morocco, my partner was groped repeatedly, even in my company. When I attended a hip hop festival in Morocco, fist-fights broke out constantly around me, despite the almost complete absence of alcohol. Sexually frustrated men are more likely to be violent, it’s this simple.

The Incel phenomenon isn’t just confined to angry western men. The promise of “72 virgins in heaven” to Al Qaida terrorists was a strong motivation for their mass murder. The promise of sex slaves in Syria was a motivation to go and fight jihad there.

The rise in sexual freedom since the invention of the pill has created new problems to solve. Monogamy is declining, and the number of single men has increased, especially among those with autistic and other social disorders. There are remedies to this new sexual tension: free pornography, legal and destigmatised sex work, and (in the near future) realistic sex dolls. The easier and cheaper sex and relationships (even virtual relationships) are to find, the less sexual frustration we will have to deal with. And the less frustration, the more peaceful and safe society will be.

Later this year, the British authorities will attempt to block pornography from exactly that segment of the population that is most inclined towards violence: 15-18 year old teenage males. They are creating a tinder box. Please help me fight back.

Podcast: Stripper Activism

This podcast contains two interviews I did in 2012, with “Shelley” and “Edie”, two strippers-turned-activists. In hindsight, these interviews are important, because they mark the point when a small feminist morality movement began to grow. In Edie’s words, the strippers were “the canaries in the coalmine”. The attacks on strip clubs may have seemed irrelevant to most people, but they were followed by far bigger attacks on free expression in the subsequent years. You can also find this podcast on YouTube.

Porn Panic! Attacked on “Level Up” Facebook Group

Thanks to a supporter who contacted me via my Facebook page, I discovered that my book Porn Panic! has been briefly discussed on a Facebook feminist group called Level Up. Which is nice – except that the discussion is deeply inaccurate, and handily illustrates some of the deep  problems within the identity-obsessed left that my book identifies.

I should point out here (to anyone poised to suggest that my taking issue with feminism is “sexist”) that the book has been well reviewed by female reviewers and readers, including this lovely tweet received today:

So anyway, the Level Up thread (shown in this screenshot) begins by complaining that Porn Panic! conflates “objecting to the objectification of female bodies with censorship” (followed by a sad/angry face).

It then proceeds with a series of increasingly wrong claims. I applied to join the group in order to respond (politely, of course!) but it’s looking like my application is being overlooked. Hence this post.

Having been branded everything from a Nazi to a misogynist and (this week’s favourite insult) an alt-right sympathiser, I think it becomes ever more important to correct false claims.

Do I conflate objecting about objectification with censorship?

Yes, pretty much. Not directly, but by pointing out that claims of “objectification” invariably come along with “something must be done!” demands. The deeper point is that objectification itself is a dodgy concept, suggesting that one woman can demand another woman’s image be removed, simply on the basis they’re both women. So a model doesn’t have a right to work, because feminists demand a right for no woman, anywhere, to be “objectified”. It’s nonsense, of course – the only person who has a right to decide where her image is seen is the person who owns the body in the image, not random strangers. “Objectification” has become an excuse for bullies to attack the right of women to self-expression.

Do I claim feminism is a driving force for censorship?

Yes, very much so. The poster complains that  I equate censors with “feminists complaining about sexism”. That’s not very accurate, except in the sense that some feminists don’t know the difference between sexism and sexual expression. So when a feminist says “sexualised music videos are sexist and something should be done!” then really they’re saying “erotic images of women are harmful and must be censored”. Porn Panic! documents many real-life examples of this behaviour.

Am I connected with Spiked?

A commenter responds: “A quick google suggests that the author is connected with the vile brigade of Spiked”. Quick googling has replaced genuine research for many people online. I can only assume she found a review of my book in Spiked. But then, the book has also been reviewed (favourably) by feminist bloggers, and nobody’s suggested this connects me to feminism.

Are Spiked vile? “Vile” is one of those words that identitarians (including feminists) seem to throw around with abandon. Spiked is an interesting publication, with roots in the far-left Revolutionary Communist Party, but currently is a blend of liberal/libertarian and other viewpoints. I support the excellent Spiked defence of free speech, which is desperately needed in these censorious times. Spiked is refreshingly radical on other issues too, though we part company on issues like Brexit (I’m a staunch remoaner).

Have Zero Books gone all libertarian?

The commentor goes on to say: “…Zero Books which used to be a very interesting publisher has been literally taken over by the Spiked/Institute of Ideas crowd and they seem to publish little else than their questionable ‘libertarian’ stuff…”

I’m incredibly proud to have been published by Zero Books. They’re a left-wing imprint that (unlike much of the left) hasn’t been gripped by authoritarian or identitarian viewpoints. My publisher Douglas Lain seems to be one of the few Marxists left in the world who knows what Marxism is; and though I no longer call myself a Marxist, it’s important to differentiate between Marx’s ideas and the claptrap spouted by most “Marxists”. I’m also an ex-leftie left distraught at the atrociously reactionary state of the political left, so Zero Books is my ideal publisher. Unlike many on the left, ZB looks for intelligent viewpoints from many sides for their podcast and YouTube channel. They have not “literally” been taken over by Spiked, Institute of Ideas (which is linked to Spiked) or libertarians.

Freeze Peach is bad, m’kay?

The poster replies: “Eurgh yeah I’ve seen way too much of Spiked moaning about freeze peach on university campuses. They can’t even be bothered to find out what freedom of speech entails” – which is pretty hilarious, as she goes on to say “…no platforming is people demonstrating freedom of action!” (No Platform being one of the most blatant forms of censorship now prevalent on the left).

“Freeze Peach” is a way of sneering at free speech that has become fashionable among lefties (the fact they need to sneer at free speech  at all is revealing). Ironically, I even mention the term in my book:

Free speech, once the bedrock of liberalism, has – quite literally – become a dirty word on the political left. For a while in 2014, it even became fashionable for some online activists to mock the defence of free speech as FREEZEPEACH, using the argument that free speech cannot be allowed while some groups remain oppressed. The argument is a circular one, because in the swamp of identity politics, some groups are deemed to be permanently oppressed, by definition. So the argument goes: all women are oppressed; all men are privileged; therefore men cannot have free speech, because they use it to oppress women.”

I’d welcome the chance to discuss these points further via the Level Up group or elsewhere. You know where to find me!

Psychologist Hounded and Censored by Anti-Sex Activists

Dr David J Ley, a psychologist specialising in sexual matters, and especially pornography, has recently been at the receiving end of a barrage of online abuse, following the announcement he would be speaking at a conference on the treatment of adolescent sex offenders. Dr Ley (author of Ethical Porn For Dicks) was due to give a speech titled: “Promoting Responsible Porn Use in Youth and Adolescents”.

Sexual violence is highest in the adolescent age group. An influential study called Pornography, Rape and the Internet (PDF) found that pornography viewing appears to significantly reduce sexual violence in this age group:

I find that the arrival of the internet was associated with a reduction in rape incidence. While the internet is obviously used for many purposes other than pornography, it is notable that growth in internet usage had no apparent effect on other crimes. Moreover, when I disaggregate the rape data by offender age, I find that the effect of the internet on rape is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest – men ages 15-19″

So anyone with an interest in reducing sexual violence – one might assume – would have found Dr Ley’s talk informative and beneficial. But morality campaigners thought otherwise, and set out to get the talk cancelled.

The tweets varied from the infantile…

 

… to the murderous…

 

… and of course, someone managed to blame capitalism (because nobody EVER thought of wanking before Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations)…

 

 

 

Ley’s Speech Cancelled

Following the abuse, and a letter-writing campaign to the conference organiser, Dr Ley’s invitation was withdrawn, and he will no longer be speaking at the event. The letters repeated standard myths about pornography, and contained veiled threats to disrupt the conference:

“You are hosting the porn industry. This is quite likely to increase sex trafficking at the hotel where hosting!
I certainly will raise my voice and bring women to protest this conference!!
We will protest the venue as well as the entire conference. Pornography does not help sexual offenders!

88% of porn is sexual violence!”

Sexual Repression is Harmful

We need to retake the moral high ground: We believe sexual repression is harmful. We believe sexual freedom reduces harm. The puritan left, like the religious right, would return us to the sexual dark ages, and that will be deeply harmful for everyone.

Black Music and Racist Feminists

I’ve attended London’s Notting Hill Carnival most years since 1981. This year, like most, I went both days: Sunday with the family, Monday just to dance. Carnival showcases a West Indian culture that (unlike European cultures) shows no shame in blurring the line between dance and sex. And of course, this openness is bound to upset western sensibilities. Once, conservatives would have complained bitterly about the displays of sexuality, but the mantle of anti-sex puritanism has now been firmly taken over by the political left, and especially by parts of the feminist movement.

So it was that Star Wars actor John Boyega posted a video of himself wining with a woman at this year’s Carnival, and so it was, inevitably, that feminists (unable to tell the difference between sex and sexism) attacked his behaviour.

As an anti-censorship activist over the past decade, I began to notice about five years ago that anti-sex feminists had particular issues with black music and dance. I dedicated some time to documenting this in my book Porn Panic!

The following extract is from Chapter 7 of Porn Panic!

“Since their invention, music videos had come under fire from morality campaigners, but this was a phenomenon better known in the United States, with its powerful Christian right, than in Britain. Many of the attacks on popular music in America contained thinly-veiled racism. US Society was racially segregated for most of its history, until relatively recently, and most white Americans had had little contact with black Americans or their cultures, until the rise of music recording and radio. Although black artists were often boycotted by radio stations, white performers, from Elvis Presley onwards, began to copy black music, and young white people began to dance to it. Unsurprisingly, this infuriated white conservatives.

A 1960s circular from the Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans reads as follows:

"Don't Buy Negro Records"
“Don’t Buy Negro Records”

“Help Save The Youth of America

DON’T BUY NEGRO RECORDS

(If you don’t want to serve negroes in your place of business, then do not have negro records on your jukebox or listen to negro records on the radio.)

The screaming, idiotic words, and savage music of these records are undermining the morals of our white youth in America.

Don’t Let Your Children Buy, or Listen To These Negro Records…”

Such a message shows more than hatred or anger: it reveals fear. As well as breaching the carefully constructed walls of racial segregation, black music and dance had caused a deeper concern: it was highly sexual. African dance had always been more ‘wild’ than the European equivalent. Now, as civil rights and anti-colonialism movements peaked, and segregation ended, continents were belatedly colliding. For the first time, black music entered mainstream Western culture. The dam broke. This was not a meeting of equals: African culture poured over white society like a tsunami.

Blues, jazz and rock and roll had just been the beginning. Now soul, hip hop, disco, reggae, dancehall, afrobeat, soca, dub, house, R&B, and many other genres sold records by the millions and entered the charts worldwide. By the turn of the century, it was hard to find music in the British charts that did not have some black roots.

And the videos that came with the music showed another African influence: clothing became skimpier, hips and backsides rolled in a way that white bodies had never before moved. As the moral panic against ‘sexualised’ music videos took root, it was not just a reaction to music; it was a reaction to black music.

Black female artists came under particular attack during the Big Panic. Especially singled out for criticism were Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. But far from apologise and cover themselves up, all three of these artists revelled in their displays of sexuality, and responded to attacks by becoming more ‘sexualised’, apparently taking enjoyment from taunting the mostly white, middle-class commentators that were attacking them. Beyoncé’s famous performance outfits became more revealing. Rihanna turned up to the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers Awards in a near-transparent dress, which generated an inevitable barrage of outrage. Minaj’s Anaconda video gave the finger to her critics, being a celebration of her famously rounded backside, and featuring the line, delivered as a parody of a prissy, white girl: “Oh. My. Gosh. Look at her BUTT!”

Prudish anger mounted, with article headlines such as “Don’t call Beyonce’s sexual empowerment feminism” trying to create a faux-liberal case for demanding that the singers cover themselves up. But there was no contest: three of the world’s most confident and talented black female performers could easily handle whatever the bloggers and journalists could dish out. Commentators were reduced to whining, inaccurately and patronisingly, that the singers were the ‘victims’ of a white, male-dominated capitalist music machine. The women, and their millions of fans, paid little attention.

Given how deeply rooted the Big Panic was in the political left, and that the anti-sex movement was dominated by white, middle-class women, endless overt attacks on black performers would begin to look suspiciously racist. A white target for the rage was needed. Enter Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus had committed multiple sins in the eyes of moralists. She had been a child star, and now had the nerve to grow up and become an attractive young woman. She appeared naked in the video for her single, Wrecking Ball, and, most outrageous of all, during a 2013 live TV performance, she twerked.

Although twerking was a fairly new term, it described a dance move that had been around for decades, if not centuries. Nobody who has seen videos for hip hop, dancehall, R&B or other black music styles could be unaware of the ways in which some black female dancers could move their hips, buttocks and thighs. I had been a happy witness to this at least since I started attending London’s Notting Hill Carnival and West Indian parties in my teens. It is hardly surprising that twerking provoked the backlash it did among so many commentators: the link between dance and sex had never been more obvious.

Now the anti-sex movement could finally take aim from the moral high ground. Object teamed up with black feminist group Imkaan, created an astroturf campaign to censor music videos called Rewind and Reframe, and, with help of the ever-supportive Guardian, began to insinuate that Cyrus’s twerking was not just sexist, but in some way racist too. Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman ludicrously complained that Cyrus had ‘culturally appropriated’ black people by daring to move her buttocks in a certain way, and having apparently worked herself into an angry froth, described the performance as a ‘minstrel show’. Under the guise of anti-racism, here was a white ‘liberal’ journalist doing what racists had done in the Deep South decades earlier: trying to stop black culture from being adopted by white people. In place of an exhortation not to buy ‘negro records’, the new left had found new language to express their discomfort that white kids were copying the dance moves of black artists.

Freeman’s real problem was revealed in the article when she wrote of Cyrus “…adding in a racial element while she copied the dance moves of strippers and bellowed her love of drugs”. Black people, nudity and drugs: the triumvirate that has upset white conservatives for centuries. She even dared to invoke (or appropriate, perhaps) Martin Luther King, ending the article by stating that she ‘had a dream’:

“I have a dream that female celebrities will one day feel that they don’t need to imitate porn actors on magazine covers and in their stage acts. I have a dream that the predominantly white music world will stop reducing black music to grills and bitches and twerking. And I have a dream that stupid songs about seducing “good girls” will be laughed at instead of sent to No 1.”

Freeman’s dream, of a world free of strippers, porn, drugs, good girls doing bad things, and white people doing black things, is hardly a progressive one. She could have found her dream in Selma, Alabama, in 1963, where King made his famous speech. If any article summed up the 21st century collapse of the left into ugly conservatism, this one did.

If it had appeared alone, Freeman’s article might have simply been a one-off piece representing her own views. But it was not: the Guardian was in campaign mode. The piece was handily followed and supported a couple of months later by an article from Imkaan’s Ikamara Larasi titled ‘Why must we accept the casual racism in pop videos?’, putting the boot in on Miley Cyrus once again, and adding the ‘authenticity’ of a black voice to Freeman’s messy argument (albeit a black voice with close links to Object). And in case we did not get the message, a month later Larasi wrote another Guardian piece, ‘Sexed-up music videos are everyone’s problem’. Beyond her two attacks on music videos, Larasi was not again seen in the Guardian; her work was done.

In addition to Freeman’s and Larasi’s contributions, the Guardian carried a surreal ‘news’ piece on the story that 73 year old Christian singer Cliff Richard also disapproved of Cyrus’s behaviour, and he “just hopes she grows out of it”.

However clumsy and quasi-racist it might have been, the Guardian’s attack on ‘sexualised music videos’ helped do the trick. It was never about convincing Cyrus fans – the goal was to put pressure on the UK authorities. Just one month after Larasi’s second article, in January 2014, the Guardian wrote in approving terms that the BBFC wanted to regulate (i.e. censor) music videos in the same way it did feature films. Of course it did: the BBFC, let us not forget, is a private business.

“Following the issuing of new classification guidance from the BBFC on Monday, the organisation’s assistant director, David Austin, said it was responding to pressure from parents who were concerned about the sexual imagery freely available to children who had access to the web…”

And a few months afterwards, in August 2014, the Prime Minister, David Cameron announced in a speech on (ominously) The Family that the government was backing censorship of music videos:

“From October, we’re going to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos by working with the British Board of Film Classification, Vevo and YouTube to pilot the age rating of these videos.”

The Big Panic had claimed a an important cultural scalp. Without any genuine public discussion or outcry, and certainly without any research showing that ‘sexualised music videos’ were causing any harm to anyone, music – and especially black music – would be subject to prurient censorship controls. The old Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans would be proud.”

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.

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.