Gratitude

Here is an interview with Derrick Jensen and Robin Wall Kimmerer about gratitude. The excerpt that caught my attention and made me want to read more was this:

“And when we really practice gratitude, it brings forth a sense of enoughness and sufficiency, I think. It makes you feel rich when you’re grateful. You think “Oh my gosh!” You enumerate all these gifts that are around you. And I think in a sense there are practical consequences of that emotion of gratitude; they are that we take less. And when we look at climate change, when we look at the biodiversity crisis, we all know that that is, in a linear way, related to our own consumption. And so if gratitude can be a control or a restraint over our own consumption, gratitude then becomes a really powerful tool for caretaking, for the earth. And so that’s one of the things, I think, that the earth asks of us, is gratitude.”

Kimmerer describes the relationship we should have with the natural environment in terms of gratitude—viewing the things the earth gives us as gifts with intrinsic worth, rather than “resources” to be bought and sold. This perspective is incredibly important and I think that viewing the world this way is necessary for our survival.

I love the way she sees the natural world and I love how she explains greed in terms of a lack of gratitude. Some people turn their whole lives into an endless pursuit of material things, and this vice has gotten out of control to the point where it’s killing our whole planet. What these people need is to really experience the intrinsic value of what they have, instead of trying to always have more. I think the reason they keep wanting more is because they have failed to feel grateful for what they already had.

Kimmerer says this about the importance of paying attention:

“And I think that one of the first places that I always start, especially with my students, is with attention. That in a world that gives us redwoods and mosses and salamanders, we should at least be paying attention to all of those beings and gifts, and to the fact that our lives are utterly dependent on them. And that kind of paying attention is what I think’s needed to bring us to a place of feeling that we live in a world made of gifts, rather than a world made of natural resources.”

Recently I wrote a post about spirituality in which I explained that my personal sense of spirituality is related to the ability to feel awe. I think this is a similar thing that Kimmerer is saying —we need to pay attention to and appreciate the intrinsic value of the things around us, and with this attitude, we realize we are constantly surrounded by gifts.

The way you can feel awe about something is to sit still and focus on the experience of that thing. When I took a mindfulness course, I realized that absolutely everything can be awesome, if I really allow myself to experience it. We did an exercise where we ate a raisin mindfully, and it’s amazing how a simple exercise can be so impactful. I was able to be mindful of the whole experience of holding a box of raisins in my hand and watching my hand as it opened the box, and then I took the time to notice the taste in my mouth instead of just swallowing it right away, and I figured it out—I understood what mindfulness feels like. It wasn’t about the raisin, of course, it was about learning how to pay attention. I actually noticed that day how complex the human hand is, and how not only is it complex how the fingers work to perform tasks, but we can do all sorts of complex things automatically, without our conscious mind even getting involved. I had a good cry that day over the miracle that is my hand, and that exercise really enhanced my ability to see what could be called “miracles” or “gifts” around me. The main things that keep me out of despair are gratitude and awe. Feeling this way has done wonders for my mental health.

To see someone taking this concept and applying it to how to deal with climate change was just beautiful and amazing. I recommend reading or listening to the whole interview—every bit of it is fantastic and important. (Here’s that link again!) This is a concept we have to understand in order to build a sense of spirituality and to understand how to save the world.

The reason this interview was brought to my attention is because our dear comrade Miep has been transcribing interviews that Derrick Jensen does on his show Resistance Radio. Thank you so much Miep—I love the gifts you bring to me!

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Feminism and online fighting

Radical feminists, like many other groups, have an online community of people we hang out with and organize with every day. And like many other groups, sometimes we get into fights. We are not a homogenous group; we have a variety of different viewpoints on many things, and sometimes we find other women’s viewpoints to be very wrong. Every once in a while a fight rips through the community like a forest fire, destroying everything in its path, and leaving behind nothing but ashes, upon which new seedlings will have to grow. There are a few fights that happen over and over, and have been happening for a long time. Such as, for example, are straight women upholding the patriarchy by having relationships with men? Are mothers responsible for upholding patriarchy by giving birth to sons? Are straight feminists homophobic, and are lesbian feminists heterophobic? And there’s another fun fight, are meat and dairy eaters oppressing female animals by eating meat and dairy, and are vegans starving themselves and engaging in an elitist individual solution to a systemic problem? Honestly, I feel like rolling my eyes just typing out those sentences. No way do I want to get involved in any of those fights again!

There are many types of radical feminist. After a while you start to identify them when you see the stuff they write online. I’m gonna call my type a “traditional mainstream feminist.” One time a commenter came here and told me that I’m not a real radical feminist, I’m actually a traditional mainstream feminist. I didn’t take that as an insult, I thought it was a reasonable label and I embrace it. My feminism is real feminism, the kind that is about women, not the kind that has been ruined by post-modern academia, anti-feminist backlash, queer theory, and marketing schemes about buying products for Empowerment™. I’m not into certain extreme ideas that have come out of radical feminism, such as “kill all the male babies” or “all straight women are handmaidens,” but since I believe in analyzing patriarchy as the root cause of women’s oppression and believe that women are oppressed based on our biological sex, not our “feminine gender,” that puts me in the radical feminist camp.

There are lots of women who analyze biological sex as an axis of oppression and also have other philosophies, opinions, and viewpoints that don’t align with mine. There are essentialist types who believe that men are irredeemably evil, there are social constructionist types who think we are born completely blank slates and everything about ourselves comes from socialization, there are holier-than-thou types who want to die on the hill of political correctness and make it their mission to kick out anyone who isn’t politically pure, there are conspiracy types who are against Big Pharma and will heal the world with herbs and witchcraft (and there’s even a few anti-vaxxers in this group), there are vegans, and there are women who are against vegans, and there are women with personality problems who like to bully other women in the name of feminism. We are a wild and diverse group. It’s no surprise that the various personalities and viewpoints in our community lead to fights.

I’ve learned a few things about using the Internet over the last approximately ten years as I’ve engaged with online communities. Social media, as we all know, contributes to lots of misunderstandings and people saying extreme things anonymously that they probably wouldn’t say in real life. I have radar up that detect some of the following behaviours:

  • Ignoring what the original post said, and instead spewing out a bunch of their feelings of anger and frustration in a way that doesn’t respond to the original post, but just offers them personal catharsis, as if the topic or article someone shared was an invitation for people to vent their feelings about whatever is wrong in their lives
  • Ignoring what a person actually said, and instead responding to a strawman argument of their own invention, and delighting in getting angry over what they imagine the person to have said
  • Deciding to hate someone ahead of time, before even reading their work, and dismissing what they have to say or denouncing them without caring what they are actually saying
  • Taking things out of context to make them look bad, or getting angry about a statement that was clearly taken out of context and not looking for the original source to see if the anger is even justified
  • Immediately jumping to the worst conclusions about a statement without first clarifying what the person meant by it
  • Using excessive hyperbole, such as the ever popular claim that someone is violent and oppressive because they have a different analysis of a social phenomenon, or that someone is “literally killing” others by having a wrong opinion
  • Engaging in unnecessary and pointless drama, such as stirring people up on purpose on topics that are controversial, and jumping into arguments that don’t involve you just because you like arguing and adding inflammatory comments to an already smoldering argument

I have radar up for these behaviours because I know that people behaving like this will just take up my energy on pointless frustration, and I’m done engaging with people who can’t have a mature conversation. I’ve left many Facebook groups because I see lots of these behaviours going on, and I just don’t want to hang out with unreasonable people. The groups I stay in are the groups of people who I put into the “traditional mainstream feminist” category and where nobody is causing drama for the sake of drama.

Lots of these problems are a product of social media. Here’s a fun anecdote about how different things are between social media and real life. One time a feminist woman called me a troll. I forget what the conversation was or why she said that, but I was pissed. I decided I wanted nothing to do with her ever again. Then about three years later I met her in real life, and we had a lovely time together and she was very kind to me. I don’t think she even remembered that she once called me a troll.

We spend so much time trying to “correct” people who are wrong on the Internet, and we see people’s typed statements but not their flesh and blood reality, and we don’t take the time to ask “what did you mean by that?” when a statement sounds odd. But even people who type out dumb shit online might be perfectly nice in real life. You were just a screen name and a statement to them, they didn’t know anything about you and the dumb shit they said truly had nothing to do with you the real person, and it had everything to do with them trying to “correct” whatever they read into your statement. Internet culture encourages us to write witty comebacks and funny put-downs rather than engaging maturely with each other.

In my first few years of using the Internet, I did get engaged in online drama. I think that online drama can be addictive. You get a rush of emotion from reading stuff that you believe is wrong or stupid, and you enjoy both the anger and the righteousness of correcting someone who’s wrong. When there’s nothing to fight about, you get bored, and want that rush of anger again, so you jump into another argument. Years ago I used to argue online about abortion a lot, and I don’t anymore. I consider the matter settled that if you want abortion to be illegal then you’re a misogynist, and I’m done trying to convince people that a born woman is more important that a fertilized egg. People who think that a fertilized egg is more important that a fully-grown woman aren’t reasonable people and they’re not going to change their minds, and there’s no point in wasting energy on them. I must have argued about socialism at some point, too, because I remember this guy who was furiously angry over his idea that socialists wanted him to share his bed and his toothbrush with other people. That’s not true, socialists don’t want people to share their beds and toothbrushes with strangers. This is an example of inventing a strawman argument and delighting in getting angry over it. When you see people doing that, you have to walk away. That’s not a person who wants to have a real conversation.

Recently the fight that comes up among radical feminists came up again, the classic fight about whether it’s morally acceptable to be heterosexual. A giant shit storm happened, and lots of women were really upset. I read through a long comment thread and I saw that there were a ton of people who were misunderstanding other people’s statements without asking for clarification, jumping to the worst possible conclusions about other people, calling people names, arguing against straw men and jumping into the argument to add to the drama instead of just leaving it alone. All I could do was shake my head.

Every once in a while we have to remind ourselves of a few important things:

(1) “radical feminist” should not be thought of as an identity,
(2) purity politics gets us nowhere, and
(3) online arguments don’t define feminism.

Identity politics have infiltrated everything, including feminism. Some people get caught up in thinking that we can determine whether or not a woman is a “radical feminist” by assessing whether she meets certain criteria in terms of her personal characteristics and choices. This is totally the wrong approach. We should all understand the root cause of women’s oppression and we should do things to improve the structure of society to benefit all women. At no point does it matter whether someone is labelled “radical feminist” or not, or whether she meets certain personal criteria. There are women all over the world fighting against things like FGM and child marriage, and for women’s rights to be educated and to live free of violence. These women are working for women’s liberation and they’ve never read any of the radical feminist theory that comes out of first world countries. They don’t need to. They already know that men are enslaving women because they are enslaved. It doesn’t matter whether they take on the label “radical feminist” or not. The actions are important, and the label is irrelevant. Same thing in first world countries—our actions matter, our labels do not. If you see women policing whether other women are “real radical feminists” or not, they’re doing identity politics and this is in fact liberal, not radical. It’s also pointless. You don’t have to get upset about what they say, because it doesn’t matter whether or not you meet other people’s criteria for an identity label that they’ve constructed.

Purity politics is something that happens in many groups, and I’m sure it happens on the right as well (whether someone is a “real Christian” or not, etc) but of course I am familiar with purity politics on the left. I myself have attempted to be as ideologically pure as possible, and so I’ve learned how this approach doesn’t work. In high school I learned about environmental destruction and cruelty to animals and the wasting of natural resources and all these things that we on the left care about. I wanted to make my footprint on the world lighter, use less resources, and harm less animals. I stopped eating meat for a few years, and I was trying not to use much electricity for a while. At one point I thought that using a washing machine to wash clothes was too much energy wasted, and I attempted to wash my clothes by hand. Boy, is that labor-intensive! But here’s the thing. If you are alive and in a first world country, you are complicit in all sorts of systems of oppression no matter what lifestyle choices you make. No matter how hard you try to be a good person, you are still oppressing somebody. You can stop eating meat, but even the way our industrial agriculture produces grains and vegetables is harmful to animals. If you eat anything at all, you’re harming animals and the environment. You can wash your clothes by hand, but they were created in sweatshops by people working for low wages, and you are still complicit in their oppression. And even if you manage to be as eco-friendly as possible in your own home, you still haven’t overthrown the system that is destroying the planet and you are surrounded by businesses that are doing damage on a way larger scale than your household is. Anytime you buy a product from a store, pay interest on your debts, and pay either rent or a mortgage, you are contributing to capitalism. The computer you use to read about how to be more politically correct was also made in a sweatshop by oppressed workers. There will always be something else you are doing wrong, and you can never be politically pure. The only way you can avoid doing any harm to any other creature or the natural environment is by killing yourself. Of course, the paradox there is that if you kill yourself to avoid doing any harm, you are harming yourself, therefore you are still doing harm. So you literally can’t not do any harm. (Double negative intended.) This means there is no way to be ideologically pure and this pursuit is not worth your energy. People who are acting holier-than-thou and being a better feminist or leftist than you are actually not accomplishing anything. They are just being self-righteous, and it’s not justified because they are personally doing things to contribute to the destruction of the planet and the oppression of humans as they speak. Anyone who’s typing on a smart phone is not politically pure because there are suicide nets outside of the factories that make smart phones because the working conditions are so bad. If someone is typing to you on her smart phone that you’re a handmaiden because you have a boyfriend, ask her if she’s succeeded in unionizing the female workers who made her smart phone yet. If she hasn’t, then she’s a handmaiden. But seriously, if people don’t think you measure up to their idea of political purity, you don’t have to get upset. You just have to do the best you can with the situation you’re in, and try and do the least destruction possible, and try to do the most good possible.

My third point up above, if you have been keeping track, was that online arguments don’t define feminism. We who access the feminist community online start to feel over time like feminism is something that happens online, and that fights among Internet users represent rifts in the movement. Not really, no. Remember that work is being done all around the world for women’s liberation, and tons of women who have never read feminist theory or cared about labelling themselves with a particular strand of feminism are doing excellent work every day. Tons of women who don’t have Internet access, and some of whom don’t even have electricity, are working for women’s liberation every day. Even if there is a big fight online, and even if some women claim to be “quitting feminism” because of problematic people, there are still millions of women who get up every day and go to work in jobs where they are making the world safer for women, and there are women from all walks of life speaking out against the predators and the barriers they are facing in their lives, and there are mothers raising feminist children, and there are schoolgirls punching out the boys who pull their bra straps, there are police arresting pimps, there are survivors of prostitution helping other women get out, and the list goes on and on forever. The fights on the Internet are almost irrelevant to the movement, really. They are a tiny blip on the radar. The movement is much, much, bigger than any online community.

Obviously, if there are people you love and support who are getting into nasty arguments, it will hurt. Of course it will hurt! But the sun will rise again every day, and the worldwide women’s liberation movement will continue, whether or not some people on the Internet are behaving in unsatisfactory ways. Deal with the hurt quickly and then move on—there’s lots of better things to do.

Spirituality

The following fictional story is based on a lot of people’s true stories:

Matilda was different from the other girls right from the start. She preferred running around and playing sports with the boys, and had no use for dolls or tea sets. As soon as she could talk she started asking for her hair to be cut short and to wear pants instead of skirts. Her parents would frown at her and say, “But you’ll look too much like a boy.” Matilda didn’t know what was wrong with that. Strangers would frown at her say “Is that a girl or a boy?” Matilda knew it wasn’t really a question, it was just a statement of disapproval. The girls at school started offering to give her a makeover, but she refused, and eventually they started to avoid her altogether. The boys at school stopped playing sports with her, and began to either sexualize her or refuse to associate with her. Then the accusations began. “Are you a lesbian, or what?” Matilda hadn’t dated anyone yet, but she was already being punished for dating the wrong people.

Soon after the accusations started coming from her peers, they started coming from her family too. “It’s wrong to be a homosexual,” they’d say. “It’s clearly laid out in the Bible,” they’d say. “It’s not natural. It’s a sin.”

Matilda was already labeled a sinner before she had ever sinned. They told her “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but they didn’t show her any love. They showed her hate. What had she done, exactly? To sin is to violate a moral law. Had Matilda violated a moral law by being different from her peers? Was it a moral duty to conform? They said “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but they already hated Matilda, not for anything she had done, but for an inner nature they suspected she had.

Eventually, the accusations were revealed to be true. Matilda realized that the warm-and-fuzzy feelings she had always felt for other girls meant something. At adolescence they grew stronger, and they grew into romantic love. Matilda loved the way other girls looked, the way they talked, the way they laughed, the way they flirted. One girl in particular caught Matilda’s attention. She fell in love, and she wanted to take care of this girl, to give her everything she wanted, to protect her from harm, to spend her days and nights with her and to always be by her side. She exploded with joy anytime she was with her beloved.

She had finally sinned.

What is this sin, exactly? Is there a moral law that women should not appreciate and care for other women—creatures who are a part of God’s creation? Is it a moral law that women should not show their appreciation, devotion, affection, adoration, and awe towards God’s beautiful work? Isn’t love a virtue? Isn’t love the ultimate good that exists on Earth? Isn’t love a beautiful gift from God, and isn’t love synonymous with God? How can the virtue of feeling goodwill toward God’s creation become a sin because of the genitals of the people who are feeling it? What kind of God would create creatures who are capable of love and then tell them not to love each other?

Matilda asked questions. They told her, “It’s the act that is a sin. Fornication is a sin, sodomy is a sin.” They told her that she could remain virtuous if she didn’t act on her desires. Matilda understood that in order to not disappoint God, who is Love, she would have to hide her Love away and make it disappear. She understood finally what they were saying. They were saying that you have to obliterate love in order to please the embodiment of Love.

Matilda realized that they were full of nonsense, and they didn’t know the first thing about the God they pretended to know.

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I think that organized religion is a bunch of nonsense, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual. I don’t generally write about spirituality on this blog, for two reasons. The things I do that give me spiritual purpose are real-life activities I engage in that could reveal my identity if I wrote about them. I also insist upon being an atheist and I worry that being spiritual would contradict that. This will be just a quick summary of what spirituality is to me, without getting too far into detail.

I have spiritual experiences, and when I say that I mean that I have things happen to me that feel existential, important, life-affirming, joyous, and hard to explain. The notable thing about my spiritual experiences is that they consist of feeling awe. They are personal feelings of wonder toward things that are beautiful, whether they are sights, sounds, tastes, or physical feelings.

Sometimes I find the word “miracle” useful to describe something that seems wondrous. I don’t believe that humans can walk on water, or turn one loaf of bread into a whole bunch of loaves of bread, or place their hands on a sick person to make them well. I believe in all the laws of the physical universe, and if something is impossible then it’s indeed impossible. But there are some things that are awe-inspiring and that appear to be impossible or inexplicable, even though they do exist. I like to call them miracles, to acknowledge the awe they make me feel.

Life on earth is a miracle. How a bunch of rocks and water gradually turned into complex beings who are aware of their existence and can manipulate the world to their advantage is awesome and inexplicable. We know it’s possible, because it happened, but we don’t understand how or why.

A lot of human accomplishments are miracles. I know that all of my readers can name plenty of awe-inspiring human accomplishments. Here’s my example. One of the things that has always provided emergency comfort when all hope is lost is Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. Consider these amazing facts. In the year 1808, a German man drew some black marks on some parchment that represented sounds that he was imagining. Over 200 years later, people who never knew Beethoven and never set foot in Germany can still interpret the black marks he made as instructions for how to produce sounds on special objects made of wood and metal. Those sounds, when produced, still sound like the scene he imaged: the countryside, a river flowing, a community of peasants dancing, and a storm. How it’s possible that images can be represented by sound is totally beyond my comprehension, but there it is.

I’m guessing that most of us feel awe at one point or another, but I think that some people are more likely to feel it than others. I think some people spend their lives looking in the wrong places for things that are wondrous. Some people think that domination, power, control, material possessions, and outward appearance are where they’ll find meaning, but I think those people aren’t finding any. If you take away their power and material things, their meaning is gone. If you really know what meaning is, then no one can take it away from you, because it dwells within you, and it can’t be bought or sold or contained.

I think it’s legitimate to talk about a life force, or a source of love, and it’s possible that that’s what some people mean when they say “God,” but this concept certainly isn’t embodied by a supernatural father figure, and it can’t be experienced through obedience to rules. I also think it’s legitimate for a community of people to come together on a regular basis to explore the meaning of their lives, to sing together, to mark the passage of the seasons, to do good things for the community, and to teach positive values to their children. I might be tempted to join such a group if they didn’t spend a lot of their time also talking about mythical characters as if they’re literally real, because that shit is insane.

I think it’s legitimate to have personal felt experiences that are life-affirming and hard to explain, and it’s legitimate to think of those experiences as coming from a source of life or a source of love. What’s not legitimate is to require the people around you to validate your personal felt experiences, or to require them to sacrifice something on behalf of your personal felt experiences, or to create laws taking away rights from entire groups of people based on your personal felt experiences. That’s why I don’t support either conventional religion or the dogma of transgenderism being enshrined into law.

Sometimes people struggle with being both homosexual and wanting to have a personal relationship with a source of love. It’s sad that this is a struggle because it doesn’t need to be. The struggle is created by the fear and ignorance of human beings, and the desire to enforce patriarchy. Only the mythical father figure in the sky hates gay people, and he’s as imaginary as Santa Claus. The real source of love only knows how to love.

As with all other culture wars, there are extremists on both sides who get a lot of attention, and the middle ground is not necessarily easy to find. To a person who needs spirituality and who is coming to terms with being lesbian or gay, it might look like the only alternative to being holy and celibate is being completely anti-God. But there is a middle ground here.

To Matilda, from the story above, and to anyone else who wants it, I offer the following spiritual lesson.

Your existence is a miracle. Your body and all its organs that work together to give you five senses, mobility, and consciousness, is a miracle. Your mind and its ability to think, feel, and love is a miracle. There is endless beauty and love around you. It’s there any time you look for it. Whatever it is that makes you feel love is a blessing. That blessing comes from the same life force that brought you here. Whenever you feel love or awe, you are connected to the source of life. You cannot connect to this source by crude mechanical means, or by following dogma, or by accumulating possessions, or by gaining power over others. You connect to life and love by allowing yourself to feel awe and adoration for other creatures and for nature and for the miracles that you encounter. You practice love by caring for yourself and the world around you. You might connect to love by enjoying your body and other bodies. The source of life gave you a body and made it feel pleasant sensations on purpose so that you would enjoy having it. This is a gift for you to make your life enjoyable. When you enjoy your life and your self and when you join together in love with another person, you create and affirm the very love the universe is made of. Your love is beautiful, and it makes the world a better place. You have a limited time to spend walking upon this earth, and you should spend all the time you can living in a place of love and appreciation, and you should not spend any of your time living in fear and hate.

In which I answer a reader question and get rather depressing

Reader Yinzadi asked me the following:

Would you consider writing a post about why you’re a statist communist, and not anarcho-communist? I’ve never met a communist/socialist IRL whom I felt comfortable asking that, and with your insightfulness I’d trust your answer as representative more than most people’s. With statist capitalists and anarcho-capitalists the difference seems to always be whether they’re utilitarian or voluntaryist, but I don’t know enough about socialism to know if that holds true across economic philosophies.

This was on my post Personal Freedom, where I talked about how, despite what capitalists claim, communism would actually give us freedom. Apparently what I wrote there makes me a “statist communist.” Interesting!

I think you overestimate me though, Yinzadi. I do consider it a compliment to be referred to as a communist, but I’m still at a beginner level with understanding what communism is. I know that attempts have been made at communism in a few countries already and generally have not succeeded as well as we’d like them to have or have ended completely. I haven’t read anything about any of these countries and I know nothing about what exactly was implemented, why it didn’t work, or how close it was to “real” communism.

I always do respond to reader requests as long as they’re sincerely asked, so I will jot down a few things here, as long as you understand that I’m not an expert on communism.

Generally speaking I have remained undecided as to whether I lean more anarchist or more authoritarian. Sometimes I lean toward one side, and at various times I’ve leaned on both of those sides. It’s really hard to know what would work because I’m limited to only knowing how it is under our current system, and I can’t possibly compare an anarchist communist system to a statist communist system since I haven’t lived them.

What I care about even more than I care about anarchy vs authority is whether or not patriarchy has been eradicated. What’s most important for women is not whether the government is big or small but whether we can live in safety without being held in domestic servitude and sexual slavery. I know from radical feminist writing (Particularly Right Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin) that there is a long history of left-wing men not caring about women’s rights, and from my observations of the so-called “Left” today, I’d say nothing has changed. (I say “so-called Left” because I don’t believe that most of the people who are considered “Left” in North America are actually on the Left. They’re generally just idiotic first-world liberals who don’t realize their politics are pro-capitalist.)

Both an anarchist system and a statist system could potentially be bad for women. As I wrote in my post Personal Freedom, when you give unlimited freedom to men, a lot of them make a choice to abuse and enslave women. If you look at the male-led extremist organizations in various parts of the world today, no matter how much they care about their own freedom, they still believe it’s acceptable to kidnap women and make them sex slaves. Anarchist men in North America (who call themselves anti-fascist but aren’t actually doing what actual anti-fascists do) similarly think that it’s acceptable to be violent toward women and that women’s purpose is to provide them with whatever they want. We can’t trust any sort of men of any political stripe who are fighting for their freedom to fight for women’s freedom, too.

Although it’s a nice idea to have a small government and everybody just get along and do what they’re supposed to do, I fear what men would do to us if there was no organized society and rules and expectations for decent behavior imposed on them. Even in our present civilization with a legal system that supposedly, on paper at least, protects women from harm, it’s still pretty much open season on women, so I certainly wouldn’t want to have less protection that we have now. Which brings me to my next point, which is that even with a state-run legal system, it’s pretty much open season on women, so a state-run system is not going to benefit us either, until we eliminate patriarchy.

There are some things to be said about statist communism, and that is that it provides women with things like an income and daycare, and therefore doesn’t make us dependent on men. Since women can’t spend their full days providing for themselves while pregnant and breastfeeding and caring for small children, we are dependent on somebody, whether a spouse, an extended family, or the state, to provide for our needs while we are producing the next generation. If women are dependent on the state, there is much less likelihood for wife-battering or marital rape because she can just leave if he’s being abusive. The sex trade also wouldn’t exist if women were guaranteed an income. The elimination of domestic violence and prostitution would go a very long way toward making women safer.

It’s an interesting question whether I’m a voluntarist or not. It does seem wrong to me for a government to impose an economic system onto a non-consenting public, so if people don’t want communism, then it becomes morally wrong to impose it. And this is where it’s going to become obvious that I’m part “doomer.”

Theoretically, I think if people understood that communism means fairness and equality, then they would be for it, and as soon as someone realized that they have more than they need while others don’t have enough, they would be willing to share, and as soon as someone in the first world realized that we are destroying the environment and exploiting other countries with our lifestyle, they would be prepared to willingly change their lifestyle, and that people would be willing to let go of their greed and work together for the greater good, even though it may not be fun. I think all these things are perfectly reasonable, and quite easy to understand, and also necessary for our very survival, but the problem is a really large number of people (maybe most people) are more concerned about their own immediate comfort, don’t think that greed is morally wrong, and don’t care about the greater good. This brings us to a philosophical question: is it morally right to impose the greater good onto an unwilling population that prefers to be greedy? I’m not going to answer that, I just wish this wasn’t the question we had to ask. I wish this wasn’t a question at all because I wish that people intrinsically wanted to do the right thing. The fact that people don’t want to do the right thing leaves me in despair and leaves me wondering why I ever bother with anything.

I believe that culture is part of what shapes our personalities, and we live in a culture that specifically promotes and rewards the vices of greed and self-centeredness. One in fact must exploit others in order to survive under capitalism, because the system is designed to run on exploitation. So we have vast numbers of people who believe that exploitation is not only acceptable but unavoidable and necessary, and, in a way, they’re right, because if they weren’t exploiting anybody they’d be earning no money, and if exploitation ended, the whole system would go down. However, if a whole generation grew up in a system that provided for everyone’s needs fairly and without exploitation, then I believe most of them would not believe in exploiting others and would find the idea of exploitation abhorrent.

The question becomes: how do we get there from here? I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does, because the problem is unfathomably large, but one thing I know is that it won’t be calm or peaceful. Since humans are too stupid to cognitively realize what needs to be done and decide to do it, and since we’re trained to value greed and self-centeredness, we’re not going to end capitalism, and it’s going to reach its natural end when there’s no more natural resources to exploit, there’s no more suitable land to grow food on, and all the humans are left to kill each over the last remaining resources. I think this process has begun already. If there are any survivors, they will be indigenous populations living off the land in remote areas.

Last year I read the Deep Green Resistance book, and it’s meant to be a call to action, and it’s not meant to promote doomerism, but what it did to me is induce depression and despair. I think I’ll always be in despair because there is no real Left and everybody is doing nothing but navel gazing and avoiding solving any real problems. North Americans keep electing conservative politicians because our primary concern is keeping all the money in the hands of the rich and not sharing.

What would my utopia look like then, if human beings could survive the fall of capitalism and if we could create a better civilization? When I imagine a utopia I don’t necessarily even think about statism versus anarchism, because what I think about is what should be produced and how, and what values humans should have. We should only produce what we need to be healthy and happy, and we should produce it in a way that provides for everyone equally and doesn’t destroy the environment. What humans realistically need to produce is just enough food to keep us full, and houses big enough to shelter us and clothing that can keep us warm, and tools to help us with the processes that we need to perform. Then we need things related to health care, transportation, culture, etc. We should value being ecological, fair and humane. We should not value pride, showing off, and “looking rich.” The concept of looking rich should not exist. We should gain happiness from the basic things that human beings derive happiness from: spending quality time with our loved ones, eating together, seeing our children grow up, creating culture, and enjoying the beauty of nature.

We should design a system that requires these positive values to make it run, and that minimizes human vice. Our system should provide for our needs without destroying the environment. Whatever system can do this is a good system. I don’t know how to do this, but I do know that the question of how to create a better system should be the foremost concern of humanity right now, not dumb shit like what the Kardashian family is up to these days. I also know that we have enough research and knowledge already, as a species, to figure out how to create such a system, and we could do it, if we weren’t so stupid and greedy.

Sorry if that was depressing!

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.

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.

Today in compulsory PIV

Well, this article is just the perfect train wreck full of opportunities for patriarchy-blaming.

As a side note, can I still use the phrase patriarchy-blaming? This is a phrase I learned from my radical feminist sensei (“femsei”?) Twisty Faster, who used to blog at I Blame the Patriarchy back in the day, and who taught me the joyful art of radical feminist blogging. For any of you newbies who weren’t a part of the radical feminist blogosphere five to ten years ago, patriarchy-blaming basically means radical feminist theorizing.

Without further ado, here’s our article:

From the New York Post : Woman Born Without Vagina Raising Money So She Can Have Sex

“The family of a woman born without a vagina has launched a crowdfunding campaign for surgery that would allow her to experience intimacy and live a more normal life.

Her boyfriend of four months, Robbie Limmer, says he doesn’t care about the lack of sex in their relationship.

Moats needs $15,000 for the surgery and the crowdfunding page set up by her sister, Amanda, has already raised $5,720 in two months.

“He doesn’t really focus on the sexual side of our relationship because we can’t do anything since I don’t have a vaginal opening,” she said. “But I am looking forward to having a sexual relationship. I’m not sure if I want to wait until marriage, but I think having that option there is a lot more comforting.

“I’m a bit nervous to have sex for the first time after surgery because I’m not sure if something is going to go wrong down there or if it’s going to hurt,” she said.

Moats says her vagina looks exactly how it should — except that instead of a vaginal opening, there’s a little dimpled skin where the hole should be.

In the video that accompanies the article, she says

“It makes me feel less of a woman because I can’t do what women are supposed to do. They’re supposed to be able to carry children and create a family and have an intimate relationship and I can’t provide that.”

She also says in the video

“It’s very hurtful, the fact that I have to pay $15,000 for the surgery right out of college when I already owe a bunch of student loans. It’s very hard on our family, and hard on me.”

Her mom says:

“They [Insurance companies] won’t cover something like this which is so necessary for a relationship.”

Kaylee Moats has Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which means that although she is a genetic female with most of the typical female anatomy, she is missing a uterus, cervix, and vagina.

While we’re on the subject of atypical sex characteristics—yes, they do happen. On rare occasions, some people are born with atypical sex organs. There is no need to deny this but there is also no need to reinterpret this fact in nonsensical ways. Just because a genetic female can be born without a uterus in rare cases, doesn’t mean that fully intact males with typical male bodies can just declare themselves to be “women” because they feel like it. That doesn’t make any goddamned sense.

Anyway, moving right along…

She believes she literally cannot have an intimate relationship without a vagina. The phrase “surgery that would allow her to experience intimacy” is shocking. Since when do you have to have a specific bodily configuration in order to experience intimacy? First of all, intimacy is about more than just sex. She is already capable of having a close personal relationship with another person, of sharing inside jokes, secrets, and private moments together, of knowing another person and allowing herself to be known on a deep level. Secondly, sex is about more than just her partner putting his penis in her vagina. She is already capable of a wide range of fulfilling sexual activity, even without a vagina. This idea that she needs surgery in order to experience intimacy is insane.

The way she defines sex is exactly how patriarchy defines it. She says, “We can’t do anything since I don’t have a vaginal opening.” For fucking serious? You can’t do ANYTHING? You can’t kiss, cuddle, fondle each other, touch either other, or have oral sex? Really? You can’t do any of that? Bullshit. She can already do almost everything there is to do. There’s only one option that’s off the table.

It’s normal, by the way, for one option to be off the table. Lots of people have limits on what they like to do or what they are capable of doing in bed, and that’s not a problem: you do what you like and what you are capable of, considering your limitations, and you enjoy those possibilities. There is no need to try and force yourself to do something that is beyond your interest or ability. What you can already do is fine.

In a patriarchy, where everything is defined in terms of men, and when women are simply objects owned by men, sex is defined as “when a man puts his penis in a thing.” I have a whole blog post on this subject if you’re interested, but basically, sex is defined as something a man does to an object, and the object can be absolutely anything, but men particularly like if their object is a woman because they like the power they have over women, and objectifying women through the sex act gives them the thrill of power and conquest along with their orgasm. Of course, this also comes with the delightful side effect of reminding women of their subordinate status, which men find important too.

When this woman says she “can’t do anything” sexually unless she gets a surgically created hole made where her vagina would normally be, it’s obvious how she is defining sex. She’s not defining it from her own perspective. She’s not defining sex as when she gets things that make her feel good and when she reaches orgasm. Nope, she’s defining sex as when her male partner puts his penis in a thing—that thing being her.

In a study available on Pub Med, it’s reported that women with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome have normal sexual function, engage in masturbation as frequently as other women, and experience arousal and orgasm as frequently as other women. The only difference is that women with MRKHS experience orgasm only through petting and oral sex, not by penetration.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s okay to just have manual and oral sex. This is not a problem and it doesn’t need to be fixed. Penetration is not necessary to have a fulfilling sex life. Now, just because I say this, doesn’t mean I’m anti-penetration. Some women really like it, which is totally fine. There is a good reason why women would like vaginal penetration, and that’s because our organ of pleasure, the clitoris, wraps around the vagina. However, if a woman born without this setup gets a surgically created hole, it’s not going to come with this option. She’s not going to get the pleasure that comes with a naturally-occurring vagina, she’s just going to get a pocket for her boyfriend to put his penis in. Getting this surgery does absolutely nothing for her pleasure.

Consider this woman’s options. She can keep her body intact and enjoy the normal sexual function of her external genitals. Or she can have surgery to create a hole for her boyfriend to put his penis in. Any surgery comes with a risk of pain or numbness in the surrounding tissue. Surgery on the genitals can cause you to lose your sexual function. She already has sexual function, but she’s raising $15,000 so that she can have a surgery that will risk taking away the sexual function that she already has.

Moats is male-identified, in the feminist sense of that term. I do not mean “identifies as a male” in terms of transgenderism. I mean that she sees things from a male perspective instead of from her own perspective.

I see things from a woman’s perspective, so I am horrified that she thinks there is anything wrong with her healthy body (she is atypical, but she is not ill!) and that she considers her boyfriend’s ability to fuck her to be more important than her sexual pleasure.

Her boyfriend generously says that he loves her as a person despite her not having a vagina and uterus, which, to be honest, is the bare minimum I would expect from any decent human being, but that still doesn’t stop him from funding her surgery with part of his paycheck.

If my partner didn’t have a vagina, and came to me saying she wanted to spend large amounts of our hard-earned money to get a surgical wound for me to stick things in, I would absolutely not contribute to that. I would tell her that I love her body the way she was born, and that I want her to skip the surgery so she can fully enjoy the body she has. I would tell her that I have no interest in putting things inside a surgical wound, and I would prefer to pleasure her and bring her to orgasm in exactly the ways that she’s already capable.

I think that men are completely capable of feeling the same way. They don’t feel this way, but they can. If they unlearn the ideology of male dominance, they can realize that a fulfilling sexual relationship is not when one person uses the other person as an object, it’s when two people who love each other both enjoy each other’s bodies as is and give each other pleasure in ways that work for them.

Because of the political climate we’re in, I have to add a disclaimer here. Just because it’s normal to be accepting of people with intersex conditions and atypical bodies, doesn’t mean that anyone should be bullied, guilt-tripped, or tricked into having a sexual relationship with a person who doesn’t fit their sexual orientation. Both lesbians and straight men can reasonably be expected to be attracted to women who are genetically female and missing a uterus, but that doesn’t mean we are interested in fully intact males.

Sadly, Moats fully buys into her own oppression. She thinks that she is less of a woman because she cannot provide a vagina for a man to fuck, nor can she provide children for him. This reveals her attitude that a woman’s purpose is to provide a man with a vagina to fuck and to provide a womb to create children. By this definition of womanhood, lesbians and spinsters (and even the average infertile straight woman!) is not a woman.

This is what “defining women by their biology” actually looks like. It means acting as though women are nothing other than vaginas and uteruses for men to use for sex and reproduction. We couldn’t have any other purpose, like, to have careers, to influence people, to fulfill our own dreams, or to do good things in the world. All those activities are for actual people, you know—men.

In the opening of the New York Post article, it says that her surgery would allow her to live a normal life. Does that mean her life is not normal now? A woman’s normal life under patriarchy is being a sex toy and baby incubator for a man. The feminist movement is working to change that. After we overthrow patriarchy, women will define ourselves on our own terms, look at the world through our own eyes, put our needs first in our decision-making, and do what we want to do in life, regardless of what men may think about it.

In case anyone is going to come along with the usual argument against anything feminists say, “Why can’t she do whatever she wants with her Free Choice and Agency and why are you judging her decisions and policing what women do with their bodies that’s not feminism!” let me just answer that right up front.

I am not saying that she should not be allowed to have the surgery. I’m saying that patriarchy creates the conditions in which women decide that being a fuck-hole is more important than being a person, and I’m saying that being a fuck-hole doesn’t benefit us, even though it might occasionally come with superficial, short-term benefits such as attention and praise. What is actually fulfilling, in the long term, is full personhood. Feminist activism should not seek to control women’s choices, it should seek to change the conditions that limit women’s role in society and give us the ability to make more fulfilling choices.

The choice that Moats deserves to be able to make is the choice to value her intact body and sexual function and view herself as a sexual agent in her own right, not as a receptacle for someone else’s use. It’s male supremacist ideology that convinces her not to make that choice. This harmful ideology has got to go.