Non binary identity aka not fitting in with the popular clique

Here is a young woman who made a video called “How I knew I was non binary.”

Since this is the title of the video, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the things she talks about in her video are the reasons why she knew she was non binary. This is what she talks about in her video:

  • In fifth grade, a girl called her legs “gross” because she hadn’t shaved them, and she didn’t understand why her legs were gross. She hadn’t even reached puberty yet.
  • In middle school there was strong policing of gender by her peers and she felt depressed. She knew it was ridiculous to try and fit in by being as girly as she could, however, this is what she did.
  • A girl she knew put on lip gloss to kiss a boy she had a crush on but she didn’t like wearing that kind of lip gloss. (However in the video she has lipstick on, so….?)
  • She got up early in the morning to style her hair and do her makeup because she felt she had to do this to fit in. She considers compliments about her hair to be signs of “fitting in.” However, she didn’t feel like herself while doing this.
  • One day, she cut her hair short and wore androgynous clothes, and her mother expressed her disapproval because people might think she’s a boy. She thought it was okay if people thought she was a boy.
  • She remembers being happier and more extroverted when she was young enough that people hadn’t started policing her appearance.
  • In senior high school, she wanted to throw out all her girls’ clothes and buy all boys’ clothes, but she was dating a jerk boyfriend and wanted his approval, so she “pretended to be a girl.”
  • She felt validated while reading Tumblr posts about non binary.

Wow! Based on this information, being non binary means being a whole, unique person with a distinct personality who doesn’t meet the shallow, limiting criteria for behavior set by middle school kids. According to this explanation, I’m non binary and so are every person I’ve ever gotten along with, because we’ve also never met the dumb expectations of the popular clique. But I don’t call myself non binary, because I don’t think that’s a useful way to describe what’s happening here.

Non binary identity is an attempt to identify outside of your actual sex in order to avoid having sex-related stereotypes placed on you by other people. It’s not just a synonym for androgynous, which would make some sense, but instead it’s supposed to imply that the sex of your body doesn’t exist and you are neither male nor female (despite not actually having an intersex condition.) Actually, if non binary was a synonym for intersex, that would probably make more sense—if you didn’t have the usual sex characteristics that males and females come with 99% of the time, then “non binary” could describe that. But non binary is not about physical sex characteristics, it’s about the social gender role.

In this video, the young woman talks mostly about having her appearance policed by other people, (her peers and her mother,) and them wanting her to meet their current definition of how girls and women should look. This is a totally normal experience that girls go through as they’re growing up. Depending on how much sexism there is among the people they grow up around, girl children are taught to varying degrees that girls have to look a certain way in order to be acceptable. If a girl is lucky, and her family and peers are not sexist, then she’ll be allowed to be herself. But if her family and peers are sexist, as many people are, then they’ll teach her that she absolutely must look feminine or else she’s a failure as a human being. That’s what happened with the woman in this video. Her peers were very sexist, and it sounds like her mother was too, and that led to her feeling like she needed to style her hair and wear makeup in order to be acceptable, even though she didn’t feel like herself when engaging in these behaviours.

There are lots of reasons why kids and teens are sexist. They learn it from their families, their religions and the media, and a few developmental characteristics makes them very keen on enforcing the rules they’ve learned. Kids and teens are unsure of themselves and very concerned about fitting in. Since they are immature they haven’t developed the ability to find their self-worth from within, and they try to find it through superficial signs of acceptance from their peers. They don’t have well developed social skills and so they engage in bullying and other anti-social behaviours. Boys learn that they have to behave in domineering and aggressive ways in order to be acceptable as boys, and they enforce this on each other. Girls learn that they have to be pretty and pleasing to boys, and they enforce this on other girls. These sexist attitudes come directly from patriarchy, which all children are socialized into.

Lesbian and bisexual women are very likely not to fit the feminine gender role, since it’s entirely based on heterosexuality. However, there are also straight women who don’t fit into femininity. There are plenty of straight women who don’t feel comfortable being limited in life to wife and mother and having her whole existence center around pleasing her man. The reason why there has been a feminist movement going on for decades now is because large numbers of women don’t identify with the sexist expectations placed on us and the limited role reserved for us in patriarchy.

This particular “non binary” woman is attracted to men and eager for their approval, and she is struggling to find a balance between pleasing men and staying true to herself. Surely this is a common experience among all women who are attracted to men, especially when they are in high school.

When I see young women who are going through the normal experience of having their appearance policed by high school peers and believing this makes them literally not female, I realize that navigating a sexist, heteronormative high school social environment is just as difficult as ever and yet we are farther away from helping girls navigate it than we used to be. All these same things happened to me when I was in school. The girls around me had arbitrary, silly, nonsensical, strongly-held beliefs that I was supposed to wear certain clothes, listen to certain music, and say certain things, and if I messed up it was their job to punish me for my transgression. It was terrifying and confusing for me because no one ever explained to me ahead of time what the rules were, and I never knew I was breaking one until the punishment came. Completely random things, like a zipper being in the wrong spot on a pair of pants, or a jacket being “too shiny,” were cause for belittling people.

When I was in high school there was a different word for those of us who didn’t understand the social rules and couldn’t follow them. We called ourselves “outsiders.” We may have gotten this word from the excellent young adult book The Outsiders, actually. Whatever vocabulary young people are given to explain their experiences is the vocabulary they will use. In the 1990s, nobody was telling us that if we didn’t fit in with the popular clique then our biological sex didn’t exist and we had to take on a “gender identity.” The experience of not fitting it hasn’t changed a bit, but the way we conceive of our differences has changed into something totally nonsensical.

There are a few things that I would tell my younger self, to help her navigate the strange and scary world of middle and high school, based on my adult knowledge of the world. The first thing I’d tell her is that social skills aren’t what she thinks they are. I used to think that social skills meant being “cool” and popular, and knowing how to do and say the right things to not get made fun of. Now that I’m an adult, I know that I had good social skills all along, but my peers did not. I knew how to treat people with respect, honour differences, appreciate a person for her personality rather than her appearance, and be kind to my friends. The kids at my school who were bullies were the ones with poor social skills. They didn’t know how to get along with other people, they were shallow and superficial and mean. They needed to be taught better how to interact with their peers.

The second thing I’d tell my younger self is that it was good that I didn’t meet the dumb criteria set by the girls at school. It was good that I wasn’t so shallow that I thought clothing had to only be the latest styles by designer brands, and it was good that I didn’t make rude, snappy comebacks and put people down, because that doesn’t make you cool, it makes you an asshole, and it was good that I had interests in arts and culture and the humanities, even though this made me “nerdy” when I was young. All the things about me that the bullies didn’t like were the things that would make me the person I am, make me proud of myself as an adult, and save my life over and over. My interest in the arts has always been the thing that keeps me from being suicidal. It’s been the main thing that makes sense to me in life and the thing that makes me feel the joy of human existence. It was good that nobody managed to bully that wonderful blessing out of me.

I would then explain to my younger self that superficial approval from my peers in the form of them liking my clothes or hair didn’t actually consist of a meaningful friendship. Further, the people who are really shallow and superficial were not even capable of meaningful friendship. The deep friendships I had with a small number of other nerdy girls were worth thousands of times more than the superficial approval from shallow assholes that I kept craving.

I would also explain to my younger self that the reason I didn’t think I needed an expensive salon haircut and a push-up bra starting at age 13 is because I was a feminist who resisted being a sex object for men and who saw herself as a fully human person. This was a positive thing about me. One of the reasons I found a lot of my female peers’ behavior baffling is because I was a lesbian and I didn’t think the same way they did. I didn’t have this sophisticated understanding back then, but I had an instinct that being overly sexualized and dressed up was not for me, and didn’t make much sense for anybody. Those girls who were 13-going-on-20 were groomed by a sexist culture and they were entering dangerous territory. Some of them were hurt while trying to please boys in these shallow ways.

High school girls who don’t fit in with the popular clique don’t need a gender identity label, they need to be taught how to navigate bullying and sexism. They need to understand that this sort of bullying has been happening for a long time, at least several decades, and maybe since time immemorial, and their mothers dealt with it too. They need to understand what positive values and good social skills are and identify bullies and sexism as the problems. They need to understand that their natural personalities are not a problem and don’t cancel out their womanhood in any way, because women do in fact have a variety of personalities. Girls and women who resist sexist expectations are normal girls and women, and if they need to be given any sort of label, a really useful label would be feminist. Girls who take on a gender identity label are not exempt from sexist expectations, because they are still female and sexist expectations are enforced based on sex, not internally-felt identities.

The main thing the feminist movement has taught me is that trying to identify your way out of oppression by claiming to be “not like the other girls” doesn’t work as a strategy. The strategy that will work to end sexism and female oppression is the strategy of making structural changes to society so that women are freed from being sex objects for men. As long as women are oppressed based on our sex, we will be targeted for misogyny, regardless of how we feel we identify. The more steps we make toward the goal of ending patriarchy, the fewer girls there will be who feel extreme discomfort when they’re expected to meet the demands of femininity, which is literally the social role created to keep us subordinate to men.

Advertisements

Women: better flush twice, your toilet might be monitored

I couldn’t believe it when I saw this article from the small town of Cahokia in Illinois, U.S.A. A janitor found a discarded menstruation product in a toilet and thought it might be a fetus, so the police and the coroner were called to inspect the mysterious item.

From the site kmov.com:

Sheriff: Item found in Cahokia school bathroom was feminine hygiene product, not fetus

The item a custodian found in a Cahokia middle school bathroom has been identified as feminine hygiene products, according to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office said they were called to the Wirth/Parks Middle School after the custodian found what he believed to be a fetus in the girls bathroom Wednesday night.

After the discovery was made, a hearse was brought out to the school to take what was found to the coroner’s office so authorities could figure out what it was.

Thursday morning, the sheriff’s office said the item was not a fetus but feminine hygiene products.

No other information has been released.

Un-fucking-believable! Men are so paranoid that women might discard undeveloped fetal tissue instead of incubating it that they pull tampons out of toilets and have them inspected by the authorities. They are so ignorant about how female bodies work that they can’t even identify a tampon while looking at it. It’s not anyone’s damn business what women flush down toilets after it’s discarded by our bodies. And this was a middle school! Like, you can be just 12 years old and getting your first period and the local male establishment is already inspecting your bodily secretions to try to identify any signs of wrongdoing so they can persecute you.

Imagine how paranoid and fucking hysterical you have to be to call a hearse just because you found a bloody tampon. For gawd sake, boys, stay in your lane.

I hope the girls at this school all grow up to be radical feminists. Let’s BURN THIS SHIT DOWN!

The couple who invented love

Hello friends!

I’m still generally staying as far away from politics as possible, because basically I think that civilization is over and I wish it would just hurry up and collapse already, and you don’t want to hear me whine about that. However I have been doing something really fun, which is writing fiction! This involves some historical research, and sometimes I come across something really cool while browsing through a book.

Today’s cool find is a paragraph on love from The Companion to Medieval Society by Franco Cardini, translated by Corrado Federici. I was innocently reading along hoping to find information about foods eaten at the time, and I came across this startling declaration:

“Love was invented in the twelfth century, according to Denis de Rougemont, a scholar who devoted a great deal of research to the subject.” (p177)

Holy-fucken-moly! What a claim to make! Love was invented in the twelfth century!

The paragraph goes on to describe a relationship between a philosophy teacher and one of his students, who were married in 1120, and who were then separated, and who wrote each other passionate letters during their separation.

“Abelard is undoubtedly one of the fundamental figures not only of the twelfth century but of western culture as a whole. His love for Héloïse was not merely a historical event; we can say that the two “invented” love as it would come to be understood in modern times—as passion and complete devotion on the part of two human beings for each other.” (p179)

Wow! Imagine being the couple who invented love!

Now, I’m not a historian, and I’ve never researched the history or philosophy of love, so the information you see here is the sum total of everything I know about the subject. But this raises some fascinating questions, such as:

  • Is love a social construct, and can we actually pinpoint when it was constructed?
  • If love is a social construct, have different cultures and time periods constructed it to suit their purposes? (Probably yes).
  • Does the concept of love taught by our culture influence the way we behave and interpret our feelings? (Maybe).
  • Were primitive humans unable to feel love as we understand it today, and if not, was there a point in human evolution where love became possible?
  • If we did evolve a capacity to feel love, and if capitalism doesn’t kill us all in the near future, will we eventually evolve to a point where we are capable of some even greater thing than love? What will it be like?
  • Are homophobic people working from some Medieval idea of relationships, where passionate love is either nonexistent or morally wrong, and unions between men and women should be only for practical purposes? (I think the answer here is yes. Some of them actually state this out loud, don’t they? Honestly, homophobic people are several hundred years behind in human development.)

This is such a beautiful topic for a writer to come across. Imagine writing from a prompt such as “Write the story of the couple who invented love” or “Write a futuristic piece imagining what the next evolutionary stage of love will be?” How enchanting!

I shall not be writing on these topics, because there are only so many hours in a day, but dear readers, if you have any answers, please share!

Changing definitions

If you are reading this blog, then you likely know that there is a push to change the definition of the word ‘woman.’ This word has always been what we call female humans, much in the same way that we call a female horse a ‘mare’ and a female deer a ‘doe.’ We give specific names to the male and female members of species because sex differences are significant in animals that reproduce sexually.

Male humans who feel they identify as female humans want the definition of the word that designates female humans changed to include them. This would cause the word ‘woman’ to be synonymous with ‘human.’ In the transgenderist belief system, a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman. (This is a circular definition, and doesn’t name what a woman is at all.) Since identification with the social category of ‘woman’ is something any human can claim, regardless of their personal characteristics, there is nothing to distinguish the category of ‘woman’ from any other category. A fully-intact male with a beard and mustache who behaves with typical masculine socialization can call himself a ‘woman’ as long as ‘woman’ is a broad social category that includes anyone who makes a self-declaration.

Feminists disagree with changing the definition of ‘woman’ to accommodate human males for two reasons. As I have shown above, it makes the word ‘woman’ meaningless. In addition, violent males can legally declare themselves ‘women’ under this system, and that means they can gain access to sex-segregated spaces designed to protect females from dangerous men such as them. Those same dangerous males would also be counted as females in crime statistics, making it impossible to tell who is actually committing crimes.

One of the tactics that trans activists use to attempt to dismiss feminists’ valid concerns is to compare our not wanting to change the definition of ‘woman’ to conservatives not wanting to change the definition of ‘marriage.’ These are quite different situations. Trans activists want to present feminists as unreasonably rigid, old-fashioned, and prejudiced because we don’t want to update definitions. This is not the case.

I’d be completely willing to change the definition of ‘woman’ if it made any sense to do so. However, after giving it a lot of thought, and realizing that there is no other coherent definition of woman other than ‘adult human female,’ and considering the real-world impact on women of allowing human males to call themselves by our name, I cannot support this change.

The reason we have words is to communicate. If a word communicates absolutely nothing, then it’s useless as a word. I could go around calling myself a Ghrymk, but unless I define the characteristics of a Ghrymk, you will not understand what I mean. Having a word with no meaning is already absurd, and taking a word that has had a universally-understood meaning for hundreds of years and suddenly making it devoid of meaning is doubly absurd.

The change in the definition of marriage is quite another story. Marriage is a social institution whereby two people declare a commitment to each other and are legally considered a bonded pair. Changing the conception of marriage from between heterosexuals only to between people of any orientation doesn’t significantly alter what marriage is. It’s still a legal union between two romantic partners. It’s still a coherent concept, and in fact when same-sex partners enter into marriage their union is almost identical to the union of opposite-sex couples. The only difference is that the same-sex couple cannot produce children through sexual intercourse. Everything else is the same about the relationship—living together, being in love, cooking meals together, celebrating anniversaries, supporting each other through illnesses and hard times, spending quality time together and having sex. The opposition to this very slight change in the meaning of the word marriage has not made much sense. People argue that a union between same-sex persons is not a marriage because it doesn’t produce children, but there has been no movement to stop infertile or voluntarily childless couples from being considered legally married. People also argue that their belief in a non-existent mythological character means that homosexual persons should not have civil rights. However, this fails as an argument because people’s imaginary beliefs cannot dictate the law.

Since the definition of marriage remains coherent, and in fact not very different from before, and since opposition to the change has been nonsensical, this is a completely opposite situation from the change to the word ‘woman.’

I’d like to see anyone define a social category of person called ‘woman’ that includes both human males and human females. It would be gloriously entertaining to watch the attempt. What characteristics are shared universally among both human females and human males who wish they were female, I’d like to know? It isn’t biology, we know that. It isn’t thoughts or feelings because women have all sorts of different thoughts and feelings. It isn’t behavior because women engage in all sorts of different behaviours. What is it? If the definition of ‘woman’ is to ever change, then someone is going to have to name the characteristic that is universal to all ‘self-declared women,’ and I predict this will be impossible. And no, it can’t be that the person ‘identifies as a woman,’ because that phrase gives no indication as to what people are identifying as. They might as well identify as a Ghrymk.

Ironically, if trans activists do bully linguists into defining ‘woman’ in a way that includes males, that will likely result in another large wave of Peak Trans. That’s also a show I want to watch. I’ll be making a big bowl of popcorn for that one!

The gender-neutral teacher

My trans-critical colleagues are sharing this article about a gender neutral teacher who was removed from a fifth-grade classroom, and some of them are happy to see this teacher removed. Interestingly enough, I find myself supporting the teacher, at least in the sense that I don’t think she should have been removed from her position.

In case you haven’t seen it:
“Transgender teacher removed from classroom after some parents object to gender-neutral prefix ‘Mx.’

A Florida school district this week transferred a fifth-grade teacher from working with children into a classroom with adults after the educator requested to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns.

The teacher’s preferences — using the prefix Mx. and the pronouns “they, them, their instead of he, his, she, hers” — had been met with support from some Canopy Oaks Elementary parents and complaints from others, including “a handful” who pulled their children from the classroom, according to a district spokesman. The Leon County school district said teacher Chloe Bressack’s transfer was a mutual decision.

“Given the complexity of this issue, we both agreed a different environment would be best for Teacher Bressack’s educational career and for the young students at Canopy Oaks,” superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement.”

According to the limited information given in the article, the parents objected to the very use of gender neutral pronouns, and that was enough to motivate them to remove their children from the class. I am unaware if there were other issues or concerns.

For the sake of conversation, let’s say that Bressack is an excellent teacher and a good role model and there are no concerns other than her use of “they/them” pronouns. In this case, I think it’s unreasonable and excessive to remove children from her class or to remove the teacher from her position. Although referring to people in the third person is silly and unnecessary, it’s also relatively harmless.

Teachers are whole human beings, not just robots with a chalk in their hand. Obviously they all have their own sets of beliefs, which will regularly differ from the beliefs of the parents of their students. One cannot ensure that their child’s teacher always shares one’s beliefs.

I have said that the use of gender-neutral pronouns is silly and unnecessary. I also think that belief in God is silly and unnecessary. I think that people who believe there is a man in the sky watching over us are just as crazy as people who don’t believe in human reproductive anatomy. But there are many religious people in the world and I can’t expect that none of my teachers will ever be religious.

The important thing is whether a teacher does her job well. Does she teach the subjects she is supposed to teach? Are the students learning? Are the students safe, supported, disciplined fairly, and treated with dignity? Is assessment and reporting completed accurately on the students’ progress? The personal beliefs of a teacher cannot be used to measure whether she is qualified or not.

I know my trans-critical colleagues will bring up at this point how harmful gender identity ideology is for women. Believe me, I have noticed! But many other ideologies are harmful to women too. In fact, the only ideology not harmful to women is radical feminism. It wouldn’t be practical to remove all teachers who aren’t radical feminists from the classroom. There would be very few teachers left remaining. We have to trust that all the teachers who believe in things like religion, gender, neoliberalism, capitalism etc, will do their jobs as teachers without spending all their time indoctrinating.

Here’s where we get to the other scenario. Maybe Bressack wants to spend all her time indoctrinating children into the belief that people can be any gender they want to be rather than teaching them the assigned school subjects. In this case, then she should be removed from her job, because she is not doing the job she’s been hired to do. She was hired to teach science and math, not queer theory. If her fifth-graders are learning to add and subtract fractions and name the planets and the continents, then she’s doing alright. If she’s teaching Judith Butler, then she’s not.

When I was in school, I did have some teachers who were Christians and who made that known. I had one teacher who spend a bit of class time talking about Catholic beliefs. It wasn’t very much time, but it was a little. She also did a very good job teaching her subject and I’m still good at it to this day. I really appreciate what she taught me. I never became a Catholic even though she talked about it briefly, but she did get to bring her whole self to the classroom, which I think was nice for her.

Bringing your whole self to work is a phrase I’ve learned from pro-gay materials designed to help gays and lesbians come out at work. If we can be our whole selves at work, shouldn’t everybody else too? (Within reason, of course. I’m not saying that criminals and child abusers should behave immorally at work.)

If I were a parent whose child had a teacher whose personal beliefs I found silly and unnecessary, my first approach would be just to have a gentle conversation with my child about it. I would explain that people have lots of different ideas about how to explain things. Some people explain things by saying that a mythical character called God made it that way. Some people explain things by saying that they were born in the wrong body. It’s natural for people to try to think of reasons why things happen to us and especially when we can’t explain something, we look for a story to tell about it. This is a good opportunity to discuss with your child what to do when someone has different beliefs. You respect them and treat them with common courtesy, despite their different beliefs, and you don’t make an issue out of it unless they start harming you in some way.

If this gender neutral teacher was doing things to make students uncomfortable, such as if she made all students share a washroom and incidents of harassment ensued, then it would be time to step in and complain. This is a definite possibility because trans activists tend to do this. However, people who are not trans and not using alternative pronouns or titles are also capable of desegregating facilities, and it’s wrong no matter who does it. It’s not the fact of believing oneself to be a different sex or neither sex that is the problem. The problem is the creation of policies that harm other people.

If the teacher was asking to be called “they” and otherwise not doing anything that created problems for other people, then this issue could be solved in one conversation. I’d explain to my child that some people don’t want to be referred to as men or women because they have an idea in their heads that men and women are supposed to think, behave and appear in a certain way, and they don’t think they measure up to that expectation. However, men and women can be any kind of people they want to be and we’ve never met up to the expectations that people impose on us. People have previously had other words for girls who didn’t measure up to expectations about what girls should be, such as “tomboy” or “androgynous.” The vocabulary changes with new generations, but the idea has always been there. It’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to express this with vocabulary that makes sense to you. That still doesn’t mean that you don’t have a male or a female body, because your body exists the same way no matter how you interpret it. This conversation should clear it all up.

If the teacher started creating policies that harmed students, then I’d oppose the policies of course. Mx. Gender-Neutral can be as nonbinary as she wants, but her students still have a right to safety and privacy in washrooms and locker rooms.

I don’t feel comfortable with a total ban on gender neutral teachers, because banning teachers based on their personal characteristics rather than their teaching skills is the wrong approach. Banning people because of their personal characteristics is just prejudice. Let’s not go down that road. The right approach is to balance people’s rights. Theoretically, if we had a sane, reasonable and nuanced conversation we could let gender neutral people have their space and also let men and women have their space. Sadly, the conversation about this has mostly been insane, unreasonable, and overly polarized, but at the very least, the end goal should be to accommodate everyone.

Dump your porn-watching husband and fire your male supremacist sex therapist

One of the things we do on radical feminist blogs is discuss the horrible advice given to us by the professionals who are supposed to help us but don’t, and provide a more woman-centered approach. This validates women’s feelings after they’ve been dismissed, ridiculed and gas-lighted by men, it makes us feel less alone, and it gives us the strength to face what we have to do.

Here is an article by a male sex therapist who excuses men’s use of porn as no big deal and his private business, and dismisses women’s objections to it. Now, I’m not an authority on heterosexual relationships, but I am a fully certified Radical Feminist Killjoy with a black belt in taking down patriarchal bullshit, and I think you’ll be quite pleased with my advice.

Husbands Watch Porn, Wives Despair—But Why?, asks sex therapist and professional male supremacist Marty Klein.

Klein opens his article by responding to a standard set of questions that wives ask him when they catch their husbands watching porn, and then explains some things, from a male perspective, about why wives should just disregard their feelings and let their husbands continue their objectionable habit.

Klein believes that porn is an innocent pastime, just entertainment the way romance novels and pictures of cats are entertainment, and that there is nothing for wives to be concerned about. He doesn’t even dimly grasp that porn is violence against women. He isn’t aware that porn represents a male-centered view of sex that is all about men’s use of women as sex objects, that there is verbal and physical abuse of women by men in a large percentage of porn scenes, that porn specifically celebrates male dominance and female submission, that plenty of porn is non-consensual, that many porn scenes specifically celebrate the non-consensual nature of the act, that porn actresses are physically harmed in a lot of scenes because of the brutal treatment, and a large portion of it depicts literal torture and rape of women. For a more thorough analysis than I’ve included here of what is wrong with porn, please read Pornland by Gail Dines and Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin (available in PDF). For a quicker read, my anti-porn trio of blog posts can be found here, here and here.

Since Klein hasn’t bothered to notice the really obvious misogyny inherent in the porn industry, the advice he gives to his sample letter-writer is completely ignorant and unhelpful. (Well, it does help the porn-watching husband.)

Klein reports that the wives who write to him asking for advice usually ask the following questions:

  • Why do men watch porn?
  • Why do men promise to stop watching, and then keep watching?
  • Why don’t men understand how their porn-watching breaks women’s hearts?
  • How can I make love with a man who watches porn?
  • How can I trust a man who watches porn?
  • Aren’t there any men who don’t hate women?

Klein gives the following answers:

  • Men watch porn because it’s entertaining to watch naked women (&/or men) while they masturbate. It generally has nothing to do with how they feel about women (or men).
  • Men don’t watch porn because their partners are inadequate.
  • Some men are jerks. Some of them watch porn, others don’t. Most men aren’t jerks. Some of them watch porn, others don’t. Porn-watching doesn’t predict jerk-itude.
  • Men promise to not watch porn because they don’t want to deal with their partner’s pain or anger. It’s an inappropriate promise to ask for, and it’s a foolish promise to make.
  • Men shouldn’t break their promises.
  • Women shouldn’t go hunting for evidence of men’s private behavior.
  • Almost all conflict about porn is actually about something else. If your partner never watched porn, would you two have an ideal relationship? If so (which I doubt), let go of the porn issue and enjoy paradise. If not, talk about the stuff you really need to talk about. If he refuses, let him know that’s a deal-breaker for you.

I’ve got some way more realistic explanations for these important questions.

Why do men watch porn?

There are many factors that lead to men watching porn, and they’re all about equally important. The porn industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that targets boys right from the time they are children. Even before the Internet, boys were familiar with porn in the form of their dad’s “dirty magazines” and videos only semi-hidden in the house, and late-night movies on cable TV, and advertising and magazines and calendars using women’s bodies as props and sex objects. Now that the average kid has a smart phone with Internet access, free high-resolution porn is only a click away.

Men are taught that they are entitled to women’s bodies. They are taught this through all the media they consume and through male-created culture, from locker room talk to social institions such as religion. Men are taught that they deserve beautiful women and that they have a right to expect women to cater to them sexually. Due to an almost complete lack of convictions for rape, and the popular promotion of rape culture, men are taught that they are allowed to “take” women whenever they want, no matter what—women’s willingness is irrelevant. This is something that men relish.

Rape in marriage has only been illegal, in some places, for a relatively short time in history, and is still legal in other places. It is legally and culturally acceptable for men to treat wives as sexual slaves, in many parts of the world, including in parts of North America. The prevalence of prostitution demonstrates that men will treat other woman as sexual merchandise, too—it’s not just wives that are abused.

Since men are taught that women are commodities and sexual playthings for them to use, and since they develop the habit of thinking of women this way right from childhood, it’s not surprising that they watch porn and think it’s normal. It’s heartbreaking, but not surprising. Men can’t understand why women object, because they don’t understand that it’s wrong to treat female people like things. Some of them don’t think we are people at all, and others know we’re people but get off on dehumanizing us.

Although men can certainly masturbate without looking at photos or videos of women being sexually used, they enjoy the exhilaration they get from viewing the sexual use of women and the reminder that women exist for their pleasure. It’s a high that comes from both sexual pleasure and the reinforcement of their dominant position in the sex hierarchy—an irresistible combination for them.

Why do men promise to stop watching, and then keep watching?

Men promise their wives they will stop watching porn, even though they have no intention to stop, because they don’t care about their wives’ feelings, they aren’t willing to examine the problems with their behavior, and their only interest is in getting their wives to stop complaining as soon as possible. They will say anything their wives want to hear so that they don’t have to talk about it anymore. They are interested in nothing but their own comfort.

Why don’t men understand how their porn-watching breaks women’s hearts?

Men are so conditioned to believe that women are things for them to use that they can’t even see that this is happening or that it’s not okay. They believe it’s natural for women to fulfill men’s sexual desires whenever and however men want, and they think that this is what women are for and that women agree with this treatment. They are taught this belief largely by porn itself, and the rest of the culture contributes too. Men are not willing to listen to women and understand how we actually feel. They cannot empathize with us and they’re not willing to try.

How can I make love with a man who watches porn?

It’s not enjoyable to make love to a man who watches porn. You can tell that he’s been watching porn by his attitude toward sex. I’ve heard several straight women now tell me that they can always tell if a man is a porn user by the way he treats her in bed, and I’m not surprised. Porn teaches men that what women really want is to be dominated and treated in a rough and callous manner. If a man thinks of women this way, he won’t be a good lover.

How can I trust a man who watches porn?

You most likely can’t trust him. He doesn’t respect women, and you’re a woman, so he doesn’t respect you. It’s difficult to face this, but it’s true.

Aren’t there any men who don’t hate women?

There are very few men who don’t hate women. In order to change this, please join radical feminism and help us create a culture where the sexes are equal and men are not allowed to abuse women. By fighting back against male supremacist institutions like the porn industry and prostitution, we tell men that they are not allowed to abuse us and they have to treat us like the human beings that we are. Men aren’t born hating women, this hatred is learned, and we need to teach a different lesson.

Our sex therapist explains:

“Some women seem to feel that there’s an implicit contract that their partner won’t watch porn, even though he never suggested such a thing. Therefore, they feel betrayed when he “breaks” the “contract.” That’s a mistake. You can dislike his porn-watching without deciding it’s a betrayal.”

Dear women, it’s not a mistake to assume your husband won’t watch porn, and to expect him not to. You have many legitimate reasons to expect that he won’t. For example, on your wedding day, he stood up in front of his and your family and friends and your religious leader and he promised to be faithful to you forever. Deliberately seeking out other women’s vaginas to get off on is not a part of being faithful, and he is breaking that promise. He also promised to love you. If his behavior indicates that he hates women, then that extends to you too. If he’s watching videos online of men shoving their penises down women’s throats until they gag, vomit and cry, or if he’s watching videos where “Dad” molests the babysitter, or videos where several men gang-rape a college student who was looking for her next class, then you are right to suspect that he hates women. It’s horrifying to realize that the man you thought was in love with you actually doesn’t think that women are fully human. Women who realize this will often use strategies to pretend it’s not true, such is convincing themselves that those women in the videos really “wanted” the abuse, or that the small amount of money they may have been given as compensation makes the abuse not hurt them, or that abuse is something sexy and fun, or any number of other excuses. Or they may not make excuses, they may repress their knowledge and just refuse altogether to think about it. But those repressed hurt feelings will eventually cause ulcers if they are not dealt with.

Men who watch videos of real sexual violence being enacted upon women and girls indeed are betraying their wives—and their daughters, and all women. Men who actually love women are sickened by violence against women.

Klein says:

“Some women seem to feel that because their partner watches porn they find disgusting or scary or confusing, they have a right to demand he stop watching it. A woman has no such right, any more than he has a right to patrol the TV, novels, or videos she watches. In an adult relationship, whatever objection she has to his porn shouldn’t carry more weight (or less weight) than his objection to her CSI or romance novels or cat videos.”

There is a reason why you would find abusive and misogynist porn disgusting or scary. It is disgusting and scary. Your husband would find it disgusting and scary too if he cared about women. Do not let anyone sell you the bullshit claim that videos of women being abused is the same thing as prime-time TV shows or pictures of cats. This is an obvious lie and anyone telling you this is deliberately dismissing your legitimate concerns in order to protect his abusive behavior. This is a tactic to allow him to continue hurting you.

“Some women seem to believe their partner has “left” them for porn. No sane person does that. People do withdraw from sexual relationships for many reasons, often passively or without adequate discussion. That’s a legitimate thing to complain about. Criticizing a man’s porn watching as the “cause” of a couple’s poor or missing sex life is as cowardly as a man withdrawing sexually without explaining his dissatisfaction.”

A porn user may very well withdraw from a sexual relationship. This may not mean he stops going through the motions of having sex with you. It might mean that he is having sex with the imaginary scenario he has in his head rather than paying attention to you, his real-life partner. Pay attention to how he treats his sex life with you.

Let me present two ways of viewing sex: the “menu of choices” or the “conversation.” In the “menu of choices” model, sex is a list of many possible activities that one can choose from as if choosing a sandwich off a lunch menu. The activity itself is the focus, rather than the relationship between the partners. The partner in fact is completely interchangeable because anyone could act out the activity, and the activity is what matters.

In the “conversation” model, sex consists of two partners relating to each other in a way that grows organically out of their feelings for each other and the time they spend together. Being together, doing things together, and talking with each other naturally produces sparks and feelings of excitement, and sexual activity is entered into as a part of their ongoing joy of their relationship. The method used to achieve orgasm isn’t what’s important. What is important here is the excitement of being together.

You wouldn’t enter into a conversation with your date with a list of things to talk about, or a pre-written script, and insist upon your date following those lines of dialogue whether she’s interested in them or not. You enter into conversations based on what the two of you want to talk about, because the two of you enjoy each other’s company, and because there is delight in finding out what your date might say. The conversation builds as the two of you interact, and the way you answer her depends on what she says. Same with sex. There should not be a script. There should be spontaneous response to your partner’s reactions and a mutual buildup of excitement as you interact.

If you feel that your husband has a preconceived idea in his head of what he wants to do, and expects you to act it out for him, regardless of whether that is one of your turn-ons or not, and regardless of whether you are feeling tired or anxious or insecure, and if you feel that he is not really making love to you the person, but just to the general concept of a woman, then your husband is viewing sex through the “menu of choices” model. He likely got this way from so many years of clicking on whatever sexual act he felt like watching at the time. Sexual acts are commodities that he as a consumer feels entitled to have. Sex with a man who thinks this way isn’t “making love.” It doesn’t create love between you, it just produces an orgasm for him.

Our male supremacist sex therapist asks the following questions of wives who have a problem with their husband’s porn use. These are designed to make women think they are being unreasonable. Let’s answer them from a feminist perspective.

Why do you feel you have a right to a porn-free house, and why is that right more important than your husband’s right to have porn in his house?

A woman has a right to a porn-free house because she has a right to a house free of abuse. Pornography is violence against women, and as such, is harmful to all women. Women have the right to expect love, respect, and support from their partners, and this obviously extends to not bringing material into the home that celebrates male supremacy and male violence against women.

Men should not have the right to abuse women, nor to consume depictions of the abuse of women, on the basis that women are human beings who do not deserve abuse.

It’s unbelievable that someone calling himself a “therapist” thinks that men’s desire to abuse women is just as important as women’s desire not to be abused.

Why do you give your husband’s porn-watching meaning that he doesn’t give it? And why do you believe that your interpretation—of HIS behavior—is more accurate than his?

This isn’t a simple matter of subjective opinion, like deciding which flavor of ice cream tastes the best. The violence and misogyny in porn is real, not imagined. Real men call real women bitches and whores in porn, real men choke real women in porn, and do things like double penetration, ass-to-mouth, rosebudding, simulated rape, real rape, and simulated molestation of underage girls. (As well as real molestation, in the case of child porn.) These abusive behaviors don’t hurt any less if the woman is compensated with money. These images aren’t any less harmful to women as a class because some of the women volunteered to step onto the porn set. Women don’t control what happens to them on the set—they are told what to do by male producers and male actors, and they are satisfying a demand from male viewers. None of it is driven by women’s desires. Even so-called “feminist porn” almost precisely resembles mainstream porn.

The reason you have a different “interpretation” of your husband’s porn use than your husband does is because you are naming the fact that porn is harmful, and he is denying this. You are allowed to trust your own perception. When you see violence, you are right that it’s violence. His denial is just that—denial. It’s not an equally valid opinion. The idea that male violence against women isn’t violence is not an opinion that should carry any weight. The apologies for male violence is another tactic of abuse.

Why is it OK for you to hack into your boyfriend’s private stuff?

Generally, I don’t recommend hacking into anyone’s private stuff. A person should only check into someone’s private things if they suspect a serious issue that needs to be dealt with. If your teenager was suicidal or running away from home you might read their diary. It would be a breach of privacy to do so, but you would do it because of the more important issue of keeping your child safe. If you have good reason to believe that your husband is accessing images of violence against women, you have a good reason to be concerned, because you are a woman, and you are allowed to protect yourself and your children from violence.

Partners should be able to trust each other and should have no reason to suspect wrongdoing. If you cannot trust your partner, then it’s probably best to break up. You can’t use snooping as a tactic to improve your relationship, because that won’t improve it. You want to be with someone who you don’t even feel tempted to snoop on, because you know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. If your partner is willing to do things that hurt you, then it’s over.

Why would you wreck a good relationship over his private behavior?

I wonder if a therapist would ask this question to a wife whose husband had been doing other harmful things “in private.” What if he was “privately” using illegal drugs in the home while she was out? Would this be “private behavior” that she shouldn’t interfere with, too?

This “private” excuse is bullshit. If you are doing something wrong, then it doesn’t matter whether you do it in public or private, it’s still wrong. When you contribute to an industry that sexually exploits women and girls, it doesn’t matter if you do it in the family home, on your smart phone, at the municipal library, at work, or wherever. The immorality of sexual exploitation is not location-dependent.

If your husband is engaging in immoral behavior that upsets you and if he won’t stop even when you tell him why it upsets you, then it’s not a good relationship. That’s an abusive relationship.

The field of sex therapy has always been a field dominated by men and male ideas about sex. Men have created the idea of the sexual “inhibition” which needs to be cured in women, which is a fancy way of saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to say no. Men have ignored the clitoris, have prioritized penis-in-vagina sex even when women don’t get any pleasure from it and they’ve named women “frigid” for not engaging in the kind of sex that men want them to have. Sex therapists will not help you to improve your sex life, they will just help your husband to keep his dominant position over you and continue engaging in harmful behaviours. A sex therapist who tells you to accept your husband’s porn use is nothing more than a male supremacist with a fancy title. Do not listen to him.

Here’s how to actually improve your sex life. First, make your husband read Pornland by Gail Dines and then explain to you, face-to-face, in his own words, what he learned from the book. I suggest proceeding one chapter at a time, to make sure he thoroughly understands all the issues. Discuss with him why he feels he needs to use porn, and correct any misconceptions he may have. For example, he might believe that you are forbidding him from masturbating. Men are so dumb that they have no idea that one can touch one’s genitals without looking at a computer screen. He may need this explained to him.

If he refuses to understand what’s wrong with porn, and if he begins dismissing your feelings or gas-lighting you, get a lawyer, and start planning to move out. If he never repents, finalize your divorce.

Next, overthrow the patriarchy. After the revolution, sex will get much better for women, along with everything else in life. Lots of your sisters are already fighting with you. We’ve got your back.

Fun with homophobic weirdos

Here’s one thing that’s political and doesn’t bum me out. Homophobic weirdos and their baffling and hilarious anti-gay brochures!

I hate-follow Autostraddle, and most of their articles either make me want to projectile vomit or roll my eyes right out of my head, but every once in a while they write something genuinely good. Here is an article about the homophobic brochures going around Australia right now. Whenever there is a vote or a change in law regarding same-sex marriage, all sorts of religious and right-wing buffoons create bizarre and laughable explanations and scare tactics designed to get people to oppose civil rights for gays and lesbians.

Oh man, they never fail to disappoint! Do click on the link to Autostraddle, but I’ll just post an image from their article here, because I just adore it.

See, because seat belts can’t be tied by putting the open ends together or the inserting ends together, that means that persons born with a homosexual orientation don’t deserve civil rights. Of course, they’re not talking about seat belts, they’re using a family-friendly euphemism for a penis entering a vagina. According to homophobic weirdos, there is nothing more important in the universe than penis-in-vagina sex that produces a baby. That’s what they live for and all they know. That’s not only the purpose, but the very definition of marriage. Just check out this other homophobic ad from the same Autostraddle article:

This writer explains marriage in the following way:

“When the wife’s egg is fertilized by the husband’s sperm in the marital act of love, a flash of light occurs and a baby is conceived. Nine months later, “their” baby is born….They have created a new life together. THIS IS MARRIAGE!”

So you see, folks…marriage is not the union of two people in love, and it’s not even the union of “one man and one woman,” as the homophobes define it. Marriage is the act of human procreation!

Of course, this means that even straight couples who don’t have children or who are infertile cannot possibly ever be married. Their marriages are not valid. The state should immediately revoke their marriage licenses, or the hounds of hell shall be released!

You know, every time I look at that seat belt graphic, I love it even more. The assertion that only one of these is a real seat belt is so precious! I’ve been trying to figure out how I can create an equally awesome graphic that responds adequately to the supreme level of awesomeness that this seat belt graphic achieves.

I pondered the meaning that this designer was trying to convey. Same-sex relationship are wrong, apparently, on the basis that our genitals don’t interlock while we’re having sex. Apparently that interlocking feature is the defining factor in what makes a relationship. What small, strange lives these people must have. And what terrible sex lives they must have! Even for straight people, the non-crazy ones anyway, sex is way more than just a mechanical motion of in-out, in-out. Most of the things that humans do during satisfying sex are common to all sexual orientations and body types: kissing, caressing, touching, cuddling, petting, and manual and oral stimulation are things we all do. But that one defining feature of heterosex is the only thing that counts for these homophobic weirdos.

Another, slightly more serious article from the Guardian also discusses the homophobic brochures going around Australia, and offers more quotes shedding more light on what exactly these folks are worried about. One fear is that if we allow same-sex couples to legally marry, then teachers will start teaching how to have gay sex in classrooms. Another fear is that homosexuality is a “curse of death” because it “terminates the family line.” (Again, what is this obsession with breeding? There are already 7.5 billion people on the planet, for gosh sake. If a small percentage of the population doesn’t reproduce, there will still be world overpopulation.) Another fear is that if we legalize same-sex marriage, that will directly lead to transsexuals raping women in washrooms.

Now, I do have to add a small disclaimer to that last point. It’s true that genderist ideology seeks to eliminate sex-segregated spaces which can lead to harassment of women in what were supposed to be our private spaces. I’m concerned about that too. I don’t think anyone is likely to actually rape a woman in a washroom—what is most likely to happen to women is verbal harassment, intimidation, and flashing by men who believe they are “women.” (Although you never know what men will do, some of them are pretty damn dangerous.) But legalization of same-sex marriage doesn’t desegregate washrooms and locker rooms. Same-sex marriage has absolutely nothing to do with genderist ideology, and the only reason these two things have become linked is because organizations that used to fight for gay rights have started promoting the gender identity movement. This shouldn’t be happening, and I’m frustrated that an ideology that harms lesbians is being associated with our fight for our own rights.

I always get the impression from the insane rantings of homophobic conservatives that they think heterosexuality is so fragile that if you merely suggest that homosexuality exists, all previously heterosexual people will suddenly lose interest in the opposite sex and will forevermore engage in no other activity than homosexual fornication. Also, judging by the symbolism used in their graphics where women are coloured pink and men are coloured blue, I get the impression that they fear humans won’t be able to figure out how to breed if we get rid of old-fashioned gender roles.

To get all radfem about it, those who are invested in preserving patriarchy know that you have to rigidly enforce heterosexuality, PIV sex, old-fashioned gender roles, and frequent reproduction, to keep patriarchy going. They think that without all these institutions in place, civilization would collapse, which reveals that they define “civilization” as capitalist patriarchy. Those of us who have a vision of a better, more egalitarian and sustainable civilization than capitalist patriarchy are very scary to them.

So, just for fun, I’ve created some silly graphics to respond to the awesome seat belt graphic above. Inspiration for creative work comes from unexpected places!

Here are my Awesome Graphics on the topic of which relationships are “real” relationships because the people “fit” together. Obviously I am going to use Comic Sans and liberal use of unnecessary all caps and random quotation marks, just to follow the conventions of the genre of crazy people’s crazy graphics. I also tried to capture the baffling incoherence that this genre generously offers. I hope you will like my submissions:

#logic