Posts filed under Pornography

Rapists on patrol (#2)

Rapist on patrol: Officer David Alex Park

(Story via smally.)

Last month, in Irvine, California, Officer David Alex Park, stalker and rapist, was acquitted by a jury of eleven men and one woman. He was acquitted, not because he is anything other than a stalker and a rapist—which he as much as admitted in open court, and which was proven well enough anyway by phone records, license plate requests, and DNA evidence. He was acquitted because he is a cop, and the woman that he harassed and sexually extorted danced at a strip club, and so the jury concluded that she made him do it, and besides, if she strips for a living, she must have been asking for it anyway.

You might think that I am exaggerating the defense’s position for polemical effect. No, I’m not. Here’s defense attorney Jim Stokke: She got what she wanted, … She’s an overtly sexual person. And in cross-examination of Lucy, the survivor: You do the dancing to get men to do what you what them to do, … And the same thing happened out there on that highway [in Laguna Beach]. You wanted [Park] to take some sex!

Back in the real world, outside of Jim Stokke’s and Officer David Alex Park’s pornographic power-trip succubus fantasies, what actually happened is that a professional cop, while armed and on patrol, used the extensive arbitrary powers that the law grants to police in order to get personal records on several different women at the strip club, picked out the one he liked the best, followed her, waited for the first excuse to use his legally-backed coercive power against her, used the power of his badge and gun to force her to pull over, used that same power to bring her under his custody and keep her there against her will, threatened her with arrest and jail, and then forced her into sex against her will. He didn’t give a damn about what she wanted because she’s just a woman, and an overtly sexual one at that. And he could force what he wanted on her because he’s a cop—so he has the power to restrain and threaten her—and she’s a stripper—so he had every reason to believe that a jury would give him every possible (and some impossible) benefit of the doubt, while they treated her bodily integrity and her consent as worth less than nothing, and blamed her for anything that happened to her, anyway. As, in fact, they did.

As I said about a case with several male cops in San Antonio back in December:

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

— GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

In Irvine, the same thing is happening all over again—just another Bad Apple causing Yet Another Isolated Incident. Except that in Irvine, the legal system has not even gone so far as to get to the part about individual blame and personal accountability. Overt misogyny against women who dare ever to be overtly sexual, combined with overt authoritarianism in favor of any controlling macho creep with a badge and a gun and a pocketful of wet dreams, have combined to get this admitted sexual predator completely off the hook, and leave all of his old buddies back at the department free to stalk, harass, extort and rape suspect women, with every expectation of more or less complete impunity for their actions.

Christ, but there are days when I hate being proven right about the things I write about.

Further reading:

Remarks on Matt MacKenzie’s “Exploitation: A Dialectical Anarchist Perspective”

These remarks were read on 29 December 2006, at American Philosophical Association meeting in Washington, D.C. The event was the Molinari Society group meeting and the occasion for the comments was Matt MacKenzie’s (excellent) essay, Exploitation: A Dialectical Anarchist Perspective, which is now also available online.

Update 2007-01-13: Typographical errors fixed.

Update 2007-03-23: MDM has put up a copy of the original essay on his website.

… Well, I, for one, have no opinion whether Marxists should be interested in exploitation. If Matt MacKenzie is right, though, perhaps a better question would be, Should exploitation theorists be interested in Marxism? If critiques of exploitation have heretofore been reserved for the use of state socialism—and Marxism in particular—then, as MacKenzie ably shows, that is the result more by default than by anything inherently statist in the notion of exploitation. Drawing from the work of Alan Wertheimer, MacKenzie offers a neutral concept of exploitation based on the virtue of fairness, and develops a libertarian conception of exploitation that compares favorably to the more familiar Marxist and Progressive theories. Thus, through MacKenzie’s insightful analytical work, exploitation joins class, oppression, dialectics, state capitalism, and other concepts that left-libertarians have swiped from the theoretical lexicon of the statist Left, and rehabilitated for anti-statist purposes.

Not surprisingly, this dialectical strategy tends to drive both state Leftists and right-wing libertarians bonkers. The statist Left may complain that we are plundering their private property; and the anti-statist Right may complain that we are trying to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. But the fact is that left-libertarian efforts are, in terms of the history of ideas, more like expropriating the expropriators: if we today sometimes find Marxian notions useful, it is usually because those Marxian notions were themselves swiped from anti-state, pro-market theorists—especially those in the French tradition of industrialism (out of which arose both Proudhon’s mutualist anarchism, and the radicalized classical liberalism of Bastiat and Gustave de Molinari). Although twentieth century libertarians often identified themselves with the economic Right, and treated complaints of exploitation with either indifference our outright contempt, nineteenth century libertarians—Benjamin Tucker, for example—drew directly from their industrialist heritage, and wrote extensively, even obsessively, about economic exploitation (or, as Tucker most often called it, usury), which they saw as pervasive, systemic, destructive, and indeed one of the chief evils for principled libertarians to confront. Thus MacKenzie’s efforts, insofar as they are successful, merely reclaim a word for liberty that we never should have given up to the statists to begin with.

MacKenzie’s careful analysis of the forms of exploitation represents some of the most important work in the essay. He uses this taxonomic backdrop to set out and defend a claim which is far more controversial than it ought to be: that there can be economic relationships which should be condemned as exploitative even though they are both mutually consensual and mutually beneficial (relative to a no-exchange baseline). For any principled libertarian, proving that an economic relationship is consensual is enough to show that no-one has any right to suppress it by force. But if MacKenzie is right, then that is very far from being enough to prove that it should not be condemned and opposed by non-violent means. This point has some import for the applied policy debates that libertarians have often involved themselves in: consider some of the more common libertarian apologetics for third world sweatshops against the objections of Leftists and so-called Progressives; or, to take another example, for the so-called sex industry against the objections of radical feminists. Libertarian writers have all too often suggested that if piece work or sex work is agreed to voluntarily, and if it benefits the workers more than other realistically available lines of work would have, then there must be nothing objectionably exploitative about either industry. But if our conception of exploitation refers not only to respecting rights, but also to questions of fair dealing and to the background conditions that enlarge or constrain the options that are realistically available, the defense of these industries against charges of exploitation must, at the very least, become more sophisticated than they have so far largely been. (I think, in fact, that libertarians who want to defend the so-called sex industry will find their position almost completely indefensible, and those who want to defend neo-liberal development policies in the third world will find that they have an eminently sensible position in some cases and a ludicrous position in others. But let’s try to postpone those quagmires until at least the question and answer period.)

For now, in the name of diabolical advocacy, I would like to prod MacKenzie a little on the applicability of his notion of fairness in exchange, and thus the applicability of his conception of exploitation. The concern that I’d like to raise, though, is not a logical but rather an epistemological concern. While I know some libertarians who would dig in and argue that there just is no tractable notion of harm, or unfairness, beyond the violation of individual rights—and thus no form of exploitation beyond transactions forced through direct coercion—I think that that claim is simply indefensible in light of any robust theory of human virtues. Here’s an objection I find much more plausible, though: if an economic relationship is both mutually consensual, then it may be very difficult to reliably judge whether or not it is exploitative. There are many virtues that are important for the sustainability of a free society, and while I think fairness is one of the most important of those virtues, tolerance is arguably another; one of the things that libertarians would be wise to cultivate is a certain amount of deference to other people’s judgments about the arrangements that they have voluntarily entered into, and exercising this virtue may make it correspondingly difficult to pick out exploitative economic relationships independently of workers’ decisions about whether or not the arrangement is worth staying in. The example that MacKenzie gives of an exploitative labor contract doesn’t help alleviate the worry, either: if it’s true that a worker making $6.50 an hour might make $11.00 if her bargaining were done against the backdrop of a free market, there remains the question of how we would ever know that this is true. Unless socialist calculation is possible (and it’s not), the hypothetical price of a good or service in a hypothetical free market will never be something that we can quantitatively predict, and orders of magnitude or even directions of change will be, at best, difficult to reliably judge. So might it not be difficult, at best, to identify concrete cases of mutually-consensual-but-exploitative economic relationships? And if so, would that not demand a great deal of caution, if not outright abstention, from putting exploitation to use in political debates?

I should say two things about this epistemological worry. First, I’m not actually convinced by it myself. Second, if it does have any bite, it’s important to note that the uncertainty involved affects only the question of moral force, not moral weight. Exploitation would be no less bad even if we could never figure out where it does and where it does not occur. Uncertainty may be a reason to qualify your judgments about what is or is not exploitative; it is not a reason to abandon your conviction that exploitation, wherever it may occur, is seriously wrong. Still, this may be an important caveat on the theoretical fruitfulness of exploitation within a pro-market theory; and I’d be interested to hear more about how MacKenzie would deal with it.

The second important claim that MacKenzie sets out to defend is that in the political economy of state capitalism, the exploitation of labor is systemic and pervasive. He favorably cites the work of Benjamin Tucker and Kevin Carson, identifying state violence as the basis of class conflict, and government-enforced monopolies for politically-favored businesses as the root of economic exploitation. It’s important to note that, for MacKenzie as for Tucker and Carson, the exploitative economic relationship may not be itself coercive, even though the conditions that make it exploitative do involve coercion. For most of his life, Tucker pretty clearly suggested that exploitation (or usury) could only survive as long as the background of government privileges for the monopolists was sustained, and that if the privileges were once repealed, the exploitative arrangements would quickly crumble under the pressure of free competition. But while government intervention in the economy is one of the most important ways in which economic options can be restricted, it seems like there are other factors that could have the same effect. For example, if widely-shared cultural prejudices tend to constrain women to lower-wage or no-wage work — such as mothering, housekeeping, nursing, teaching, or acting as a secretary or assistant — when they would otherwise be willing and able to take on better-paying careers, then arguably the sexist cultural norms sustain a form of exploitation that has little if anything to do with government intervention, either directly or indirectly. MacKenzie suggests that he recognizes cases such as these when he says that a genuinely free market will dramatically undermine existing systems of exploitation, but will not be enough to do them in entirely. Later in the essay he offers a number of reasons why libertarians should be concerned with the forms of exploitation that are closely linked with the background of government privilege and regimentation of the economy; but I wonder whether he thinks that libertarians, qua libertarians, should also be concerned with forms of exploitation where not only the transactions but also the background conditions are non-aggressive, e.g. the result of objectionable but non-coercive cultural norms. And, if so, I’d also be interested to know whether the grounds for libertarian objections to these forms of exploitation, which might persist or even flourish even in a free society, are significantly different from the grounds for libertarian objection to exploitation that directly or indirectly depends on government-enforced privilege.

Third, in a brief but important section of the paper, MacKenzie suggests that where exploitative economic relationships are systemic, prevalent, and seriously morally wrong, it deserves organized political efforts to undermine it. Since he includes non-coercive forms of exploitation in that suggestion, it’s important for him to make it clear that he rejects the identification of politics with the employment of systematic force; thus, while it may be appropriate to enlist organized force in order to suppress coercive forms of exploitation, the sort of politics involved in undermining the non-coercive forms of exploitation need not involve any use of force at all, either from the government or from organized private efforts. Instead he endorses a conception of politics that I’ve elsewhere characterized in terms of organized efforts to address problems of social coordination through deliberate, co-operative action (rather than through the spontaneous orders that emerge from unintended consequences of private actions). MacKenzie suggests that non-coercive forms of exploitation can appropriately be met through working to develop and maintain anti-explotiative cultural norms, values, and practices, and supporting efforts to challenge and develop alternatives to exploitative institutions and social relations. I’d like to hear more about what, in particular, he has in mind here, particularly since he suggests that at least some political activism against exploitation will be necessary even in a genuinely free market. What sort of concrete institutions should we look to, join with, and build up as part of the way forward?

Finally, MacKenzie ends his essay by suggesting several ways in which a critique of exploitation—even when the exploitation is not, in itself, aggressive—might be connected with the libertarian commitment to non-aggression and the decentralization of political power. To frame the discussion he uses five forms of thick connections between libertarianism and other cultural or political projects in my remarks at this session last year. While I think MacKenzie’s right that a libertarian critique of exploitation involves each of these forms of thickness, I’d actually like to suggest that, when exploitation depends on a background of government intervention to survive, it suggests yet another form of thickness, which addresses the issue more directly but which did not make it into my earlier list of five. (Fortunately the list wasn’t intended to be exhaustive, so I’m happy to welcome one more into the family.) You might gloss the form of thickness here as something like this:

Consequence thickness: Libertarians should commit to opposing E because even though E is not in itself coercive, (1) E would be very difficult to carry out or sustain over time if not for background acts of government coercion that sustain it; and (2) there are independent reasons for regarding E as an evil.

If aggression is morally illegitimate, then libertarians are entitled not only to condemn it, but also to condemn the destructive results that flow from statist aggression—even if those results are, in some important sense, external to the actual coercion. Now, there are a lot of details and caveats that I am skipping over, but I do wonder whether something like consequence thickness, as I’ve roughly described it, might better explain the immediate concerns that folks like Tucker, Carson, and MacKenzie have about (at least some forms of) exploitation—concerns which seem to arise well before questions about instrumental supports for statism or the ultimate grounds of libertarianism even get raised.

Tucker changed his mind near the end of his life, as reflected in the pessimistic postscript to later editions of State Socialism and Anarchism. But even then, his position was merely that the wealth accumulated through so many years of government privilege would be enough to crush any attempts at free competition—government intervention was still the central issue, but the late Tucker thought the shadow of past government intervention had grown too long to be escaped in the forseeable future, even if the disruptive power of the free market were fully unleashed.

Over My Shoulder #17: Vladimir Nabokov on a book entitled Lolita (1956)

You know the rules. Here’s the quote. This is a passage, parts of which are famous, from the short essay that Vladimir Nabokov wrote on his novel Lolita the year after it was published. I read this at home, after having spent the past couple weeks reading Lolita on the bus, on my way to and from work.

At first, on the advice of a wary old friend, I was meek enough to stipulate that the book be brought out anonymously. I doubt that I shall ever regret that soon afterwards, realizing how likely a mask was to betray my own cause, I decided to sign Lolita. The four American publishers, W, X, Y, Z, who in turn were offered the typescript and had their readers glance at it, were shocked by Lolita to a degree that even my wary old friend F.P. had not expected.

While it is true that in ancient Europe, and well into the eighteenth century (obvious examples come from France), deliberate lewdness was not inconsistent with flashes of comedy, or vigorous satire, or even the verbe of a fine poet in a wanton mood, it is also true that in modern times the term pornography connotes mediocrity, commercialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action upon the patient. Old rigid rules must be followed by the pornographer in order to have his patient feel the same security of satisfaction as, for example, fans of detective stories feel—stories where, if you do not watch out, the real murderer may turn out to be, to the fan’s disgust, artistic originality (who for instance would want a detective story without a single dialogue in it?). Thus, in pornographic novels, action has to be limited to the copulation of clichés. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip but must know they exist in order not to feel cheated (a mentality stemming from the routine of true fairy tales in childhood). Moreover, the sexual scenes in the book must follow a crescendo line, with new variations, new combinations, new sexes, and a steady increase in the number of participants (in a Sade play they call the gardener in), and therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters.

Certain techniques in the beginning of Lolita (Humbert’s Journal, for example) misled some of my first readers into assuming that this was going to be a lewd book. They expected the rising succession of erotic scenes; when these stopped, the readers stopped, too, and felt bored and let down. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why not all the four firms read the typescript to the end. Whether they found it pornographic or not did not interest me. Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.

Some of the reactions were very amusing: one reader suggested that the firm might consider publication if I turned my Lolita into a twelve-year-old lad and had him seduced by Humbert, a farmer, in a barn, amidst gaunt and arid surroundings, all this set forth in short, strong, realistic sentences. (He acts crazy. We all act crazy, I guess. I guess God acts crazy. Etc.) Although everybody should know that I detest symbols and allegories (which is due partly to my old feud with Freudian voodooism and partly to my loathing of generalizations devised by literary mythists and sociologists), an otherwise intelligent reader who flipped through the first part described Lolita as Old Europe debauching young America, while another flipper saw it as Young America debauching old Europe. Publisher X, whose advisers got so bored with Humbert that they never got beyond page 188 [where Lo suggests the second road trip —R.G.], had the naïveté to write me that Part Two was too long. Publisher Y, on the other hand, regretted that there were no good people in the book. Publisher Z said if he printed Lolita, he and I would go to jail.

No writer in a free country should be expected to bother about the exact demarcation between the sensuous and the sensual; this is preposterous; I can only admire but cannot emulate the accuracy of judgment of those who pose the fair young mammals photographed in magazines where the general neckline is just low enough to provoke a past master’s chuckle and just high enough not to make a postmaster frown. I presume there exist readers who find titillating the display of mural words in those hopelessly banal and enormous novels which are typed out by the thumbs of tense mediocrities and called powerful and stark by the reviewing hack. There are gentle souls who would pronounce Lolita meaningless because it does not teach them anything. I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and, despite John Ray’s assertion, Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest is either topical trash or what some call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash coming in huge blocks of plaster that are carefully transmitted from age to age until somebody comes along with a hammer and takes a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann.

— Vladimir Nabokov (November 12, 1956), On a book entitled Lolita, from Lolita (ISBN 0-425-04680-X), pp. 284–286.

Over My Shoulder #11: Andrea Dworkin, Preface to the 1995 edition of Intercourse

You know the rules. Here’s the quote. After last week’s entry I’m running the risk of seeming as if I intend to use this gimmick as an outlet for all the Andrea Dworkin quotes that I find particularly apropos at the end of the week. I already have a running feature for that, but the fact is that other than fiction and material that I’m already transcribing for the Fair Use Repository, Dworkin’s most of what I’ve been reading for the past two weeks — in part as a result of a sometimes rather combative editing process over at WikiPedia:Andrea Dworkin, and in part because the stuff is nearly impossible to put down for long once you start reading parts of it. So rather than break the rules by picking up some item just to read it at the last minute to pick out another quote in the name of avoiding repetition, here we have some bus reading from earlier this afternoon: a passage from the Preface to the 1995 edition of Intercourse (first edition 1987).

My colleagues, of course, had been right; but their advice offended me. I have never written for a cowardly or passive or stupid reader, the precise characteristics of most reviewers—overeducated but functionally illiterate, members of a gang, a pack, who do their drive-by shootings in print and experience what they call the street at cocktail parties. I heard it onthe street, they say, meaning a penthouse closer to heaven. It is no accident that most of the books published in the last few years about the decline and fall of Anglo-European culture because of the polluting effect of women of all races and some men of color—and there are a slew of such books—have been written by white-boy journalists. Abandoning the J-school ethic of who, what, where, when, how and the discipline of Hemingway’s lean, masculine prose, they now try to answer why. That decline and fall, they say, is because talentless, uppity women infest literature; or because militant feminists are an obstacle to the prorape, prodominance art of talented living or dead men; or because the multicultural reader—likely to be female and/or not white—values Alice Walker and Toni Morrison above Aristotle and the Marquis de Sade. Hallelujah, I say.

Intercourse is a book that moves through the sexed world of dominance and submission. It moves in descending circles, not in a straight line, and as in a vortex each spiral goes down deeper. Its formal model is Dante’s Inferno; its lyrical debt is to Rimbaud; the equality it envisions is rooted in the dreams of women, silent generations, pioneer voices, lone rebels, and masses who agitated, demanded, cried out, broke laws, and even begged. The begging was a substitute for retaliatory violence: doing bodily harm back to those who use or injure you. I want women to be done with begging.

The public censure of women as if we are rabid because we speak without apology about the world in which we live is a strategy of threat that usually works. Men often react to women’s words—speaking and writing—as if they were acts of violence; sometimes men react to women’s words with violence. So we lower our voices. Women whisper. Women apologize. Women shut up. Women trivialize what we know. Women shrink. Women pull back. Most women have experienced enough dominance from men—control, violence, insult, contempt—that no threat seems empty.

Intercourse does not say, forgive me and love me. It does not say, I forgive you, I love you. For a woman writer to thrive (or, arguably, to survive) in these current hard times, forgiveness and love must be subtext. No. I say no.

Can a man read Intercourse? Can a man read a book written by a woman in which she uses language without its ever becoming decorative or pretty? Can a man read a book written by a woman in which she, the author, has a direct relationship to experience, ideas, literature, life, including fucking, without mediation—such that what she says and how she says it are not determined by boundaries men have set for her? Can a man read a woman’s work if it does not say what he already knows? Can a man let in a challenge not just to his dominance but to his cognition? And, specifically, am I saying that I know more than men about fucking? Yes, I am. Not just different: more and better, deeper and wider, the way anyone used knows the user.

Intercourse does not narrate my experience to measure it against Norman Mailer’s or D. H. Lawrence’s. The first-person is embedded in the way the book is built. I use Tolstoy, Kobo Abe, James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Flaubert not as authorities but as examples. I use them; I cut and slie into them in order to exhibit them; but the authority behind the book—behind each and every choice—is mine. In formal terms, then, Intercourse is arrogant, cold, and remorseless. You, the reader, will not be looking at me, the girl; you will be looking at them. In Intercourse I created an intellectual and imaginative environment in which you can see them. The very fact that I usurp their place—make them my characters—lessens the unexamined authority that goes not with their art but with their gender. I love the literature these men created; but I will not live my life as if they are real and I am not. Nor will I tolerate the continuing assumption that they know more about women than we know about ourselves. And I do not believe that they know more about intercourse. Habits of deference can be broken, and it is up to writers to break them. Submission can be refused; and I refuse it.

Of course, men have read and do read Intercourse. Many like it and understand it. Some few have been thrilled by it—it suggests to them a new possibility of freedom, a new sexual ethic: and they do not want to be users. Some men respond to the radicalism of Intercourse: the ideas, the prose, the structure, the questions that both underlie and intentionally subvert meaning. But if one’s sexual experience has always and without exception been based on dominance—not only overt acts but also metaphysical and ontological assumptions—how can one read this book? The end of male dominance would mean—in the understanding of such a man—the end of sex. If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires dominance in order to register as sensation. As said as I am to say it, the limits of the old Adam—and the material power he still has, especially in publishing and media—have set limits on the public discourse (by both men and women) about this book.

In general women get to say yea or nay to intercourse, which is taken to be a synonym for sex, echt sex. In this reductive brave new world, women like sex or we do not. We are loyal to sex or we are not. The range of emotions and ideas expressed by Tolstoy et al. is literally forbidden to contemporary women. Remorse, sadness, despair, alienation, obsession, fear, greed, hate—all of which men, especially male artists, express—are simple no votes for women. Compliance means yes; a simplistic rah-rah means yes; affirming the implicit right of men to get laid regardless of the consequences to women is a yes. Reacting against force or exploitation means no; affirming pornography and prostitution means yes. I like it is the standard for citizenship, and I want it pretty much exhausts the First Amendment’s meaning for women. Critical thought or deep feeling puts one into the Puritan camp, that hallucinated place of exile where women with complaints are dumped, after which we can be abandoned. Why—socially speaking—feed a woman you can’t fuck? Why fuck a woman who might ask questions let alone have a complex emotional life or a political idea? I refuse to tolerate this loyalty-oath approach to women and intercourse or women and sexuality or, more to the point, women and men. …

— Andrea Dworkin (1995), Preface to the 1995 edition of Intercourse, pp. vii-x.

This may help to shed some light, from a few different directions, on long-standing discussions on this site and elsewhere.

Tuesday Lazy Linking

Around the web in the past couple weeks. Some of the news that’s fit to link.

  • Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children takes on professional anti-feminist Caitlin Flanagan (for background reading, see the profile in Ms.) and her latest foray into the teensploitation genre — a hand-wringing and voyeuristic article about a non-existent teenage oral sex craze amongst our Troubled Suburban Youth, and touches on feminism, amnesiac nostalgia, privileged suburban angst, and Judy Blume in the process.

    Thinking back on my own privileged adolescence, I can remember girls who performed oral sex on boys on a more or less casual basis, girls who denied rumors that they did the above, girls who did it with their boyfriends and related the experience the next morning with a mix of panic and excitement, girls who didn’t think it was a big deal, girls who thought it was a big deal, girls who talked about it loudly at lunchtime and did seductive poses with every potentially phallic food product in sight (including CapriSun straws and granola bars) but had no more than a vague idea what it actually involved, girls who thought it was the grossest thing ever, EVER, oh my God, girls who had no qualms about doing it (it in italics) but thought oral sex was unnatural, girls who tried to freak out self-consciously innocent girls like me by saying, Luke Lepinski is SO CUTE. Don’t you just want to put his DICK in your MOUTH? and then laughing like maniacs at my genuine bafflement, Christian girls who plugged their ears and shrieked if you tried to talk about any kind of genital-related program activity, even in the most abstract and theoretical language, girls who had heard you could get pregnant that way (and might have a cousin who knew someone who did,) and myself. My opinions on the matter were all based on my strong and growing aversion to boys, and were not particularly well-formed, nor did I have occasion to put them into practice. I recite this autobiographical litany as a way of illustrating the complex nature of that steady decline in morals called growing up, and to suggest that gnashing one’s teeth about the unexpected depravities of our formerly delicate rosebud-like daughters may not be the best response thereto. What is the best response? I don’t know, but Caitlin Flanagan is a bit too eager to put down Planned Parenthood for its attempts to give sane and sensible advice on the matter ….

    — Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children

    … and don’t miss the response to Flanagan’s closing remarks — an employment of the old Double Standard so overt and so uncritical that it leaves no avenues of criticism open other than something stodgy like rank sexism:

    Frankly, I’d rather have a daughter who gives out a few undeserved blowjobs of her own volition than a son who thinks sex is his right and privilege as a Hot-Blooded American Male. Oops, there I go slandering men with my insane expectation that they take responsibility for their own desires! Damn insidious radical feminist influence! What won’t it disfigure with its toxic fumes of seething, sulfurous hatred?

    — Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children

    Read the whole thing

  • Sarah Goldstein at Broadsheet (2006-02-03): New hope in the fight against domestic violence gives a shout-out to a new program for rehabilitating men who batter women, called Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere. The plan? Stop focusing on anger management, and start tackling male entitlement:

    What’s exciting about this approach to combating domestic abuse is that it tackles the institutionalization of male dominance, looking at the offender’s action within a larger system of violence. Women’s eNews reports, Staffers [in Austin] say this program assumes that violence arises from a decision based on deeply-held beliefs of male dominance, not a flash of uncontrollable emotion. Whereas most anger management classes are just three or four weeks long, this program works with the offender for an entire year after his release.

    — Sarah Goldstein at Broadsheet (2006-02-03): New hope in the fight against domestic violence

    Of course, there’s no magic bullet for ending battery, and this program, like any others, has limitations to worry about (like the institutional limitations imposed on any program run by cops, or the fact that it only catches men once they’ve already tortured one or more women to the point that it reached the criminal justice system). But insofar as there are going to be court-mandated rehabilitation programs, this is certainly a step forward, and I wish them the best.

    Read the whole thing.

  • Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy (2006-02-07): To Be Hot And Nuts points out a story from this month’s Prospect that will make you want to tear your hair out and then run out in a blind rage and bury the entire psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex under a library of Women and Madness and the collected works of Thomas Szasz.

    But then tragedy strikes. The drug that works also makes her fat. This a horror the doctors find intolerable. Her beauty is destroyed. So they take her off that drug because in a patriarchy a hot girl cannot be fat. So Nia immediately goes nuts again because the new drug, though it does not make her fat, also doesn’t work. She is nuts again, but at least she’s still a babe. Whew. That was close.

    But she is so nuts that, after a month of hell, doctors reluctantly put her back on the fat drug. The crazy part is that Nia doesn’t give a crap about being fat. She’s happy as a clam to get rid of the voices. Yet the doctors assume that, because she isn’t crying herself to sleep every night over her lost beauty, she isn’t really getting well at all. Any 17-year-old in her right mind would be bulimic and wanna slice herself up with razors under these circumstances, right?

    — Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy (2006-02-07): To Be Hot And Nuts

    Selections from the first five or six comments: Oh give me a fucking break, I don’t know what to do besides shout obscenities. Good fucking god, This makes me so mad I can’t see straight. That last paragraph … is insulting in about 10 THOUSAND different ways and makes me want to slap the authors and Nia’s dr’s repeatedly about the head and face, etc. That’s just about right.

    Read the whole damn thing. But only on an empty stomach. Then write a letter to the editor.

  • Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-02): Vacuums, internalized sexism and yes, that invisibility of privilege looks at the politics of housework, as one of the arenas of in which anti-feminists love to point out how women themselves are deputized as the primary enforcers of sexist standards. Shockingly, she finds that this looks more like classic male privilege than it does some kind of self-imposed drudgery that women have ended up with by being naturally the Fairer Sex.

    You see this sort of thing a lot, where women are judged by a different standard than men, but the appointed judges are technically other women, so the whole thing can be written off as women being weird instead of women trying to adapt to a patriarchal system. That way, not only can men benefit from the thing women are supposed to do to fit into a standard, they have the added bonus of acting like they are simply above such female nonsense. In the case of housework, men can benefit from having a clean home without either working or appearing so uncool as to care if the house is clean, since the work is done by invisible female hands.

    … It’s true—make-up, shoes, exercise, dieting, the whole routine is developed by and enforced by women while being sneered at all too often by the very men the entire routine is developed to benefit. The complaint is not so much that women do all these things, of course. It’s that men might accidentally be exposed to these things; in the good old days, I suppose, women worked harder at the conspiracy to shield men from having to perceive their own privilege. (For a really great example of this, read Pink Think by Lynn Peril—she excerpts an advice book to women that suggests that women should rise before their husbands to do their make-up and preserve the illusion that they never look any different.)

    … That’s the basic argument behind choice feminism, and it’s whipped out to explain away every instance of women’s second class status, from breast implants to domestic service. And that’s the argument that EricP is resorting to when explaining away the difference between expectations on men and women for level of cleanliness. It’s easy to look at how women are expected to police ourselves for adhering to a patriachal standard and say that it’s our fault. But it’s not the cops that are the ones to look at when the laws themselves are suspect.

    — Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-02): Vacuums, internalized sexism and yes, that invisibility of privilege

    Read the whole thing. I’d also like to add a note from Andrea Dworkin that I came across the same day that I read Amanda’s post. This is from In Memory of Nicole Brown Simpson, in Life and Death (41–50):

    While race-hate is expressed through forced segregation, woman-hate is expressed through forced closeness, which makes punishment swift, easy, and sure. In private, women often empathize with one another, across race and class, because their experiences with men are so much the same. But in public, including on juries, women rarely dare.

    — Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death, pp. 49–50

    Maybe one way to gloss the essential goal of feminism is to create a platform from which that private empathy can erupt into public solidarity and action.

  • BB at Den of the Biting Beaver (2006-02-10): Friday Fun with Sitemeter offers a guided tour to the kind of Google searches that you get when you run a radical feminist anti-pornography website.

  • Roderick at Austro-Athenian Empire (2006-02-03): Tarzan’s Burden mentions Hollywood popcult’s mutilation of the character of Tarzan, and points to an interesting four-part essay by F. X. Blisard on race relations in the Tarzan novels and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work in general — fairly enlightened for Burroughs’ era, it turns out, and far superior to Hollywood’s treatment. Read the whole thing.

  • Ken Gregg (2006-02-08) at CLASSical Liberalism: It Usually Begins With… takes another look at Jules Verne, his literary accomplishments, his prescience, the way his politics have been excised from bowdlerized English translations until very recently, and what those politics were (in short, a mixed bag):

    Verne’s novels have contrary trends: support for national liberation movements such as the Irish and Polish, but also a strong pacifist streak; paternalism toward colonial peoples, but a hatred of slavery and imperialism (especially British); sympathy for utopian experiments, but resentment toward state power; affirmation of free enterprise, but assaults on big capitalism (especially American); a celebration of loyalty and community, but sympathy for militant individualism.

    — Ken Gregg (2006-02-08) at CLASSical Liberalism: It Usually Begins With…

    Read the whole thing.

  • media girl (2006-02-10): Spying on Americans is for kids! takes a look at the NSA’s ongoing attempts at cute, furry cartoon outreach to children, which is either a very funny comment on bureaucratic rationality or else a daring new form of avant-garde surrealist theater.

  • The Dominion (2006-01-16): CBC’s true colors discovers that the government-owned CBC is solicitous of the party in power in the government to the point of altering their logo to match the party color scheme. Surprised?

  • Paganarchy (2006-02-04): Serious Organised Crime? Ha Ha Ha! — a squad of clowns takes to the street to protest restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly around Parliament, and a copper stops them from entering Parliament to talk with their MPs:

    Our first port of call was to visit our MPs in the House Of Commons. Just through the security gate and whoa — the duty sergeant stopped us from going in. Alas, we were deemed not dignified enough by a copper calling himself the chief arbiter of style.

    As opposed to the grave dignity of a copper who has appointed himself the chief arbiter of style for the House of Commons and taken it upon himself to make sure the dress of visitors is up to his sartorial standards.

    Read the whole thing.

  • The North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists posts links to left-anarchist debate over the iterative Five Year Plan participatory economics.

  • Kevin Carson at the UnCapitalist Journal (2005-09-22): What Can Bosses Know? looks at mutualist anarchism, worker self-management, and the knowledge problems that afflict corporate as well as government bureaucracies. (Yeah, I know it’s from last September. But it’s good, and I just found it in the past couple weeks. Also, you may find it relevant in connection with the debate over Five Year Planning by iterated collective bargaining between the deputies of several massive federations in an appropriately participatory bureaucratic forum.)

    As Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3) of the Movement of the Libertarian Left said somewhere (I can’t find it—little help?) organizational inefficiency starts when you have one supervisor taking orders from another supervisor: that is, the point at which hierarchy replaces market contracting.

    … The central problem is that, since the costs of tracking the results of individual decisions becomes prohibitively expensive in a large organization, market incentives must be replaced by administrative ones. Milton Friedman pointed out long ago that people do a better job of spending money on themselves than on other people, and do better spending their own money than other people’s money. That’s the standard, and correct, libertarian argument for why government is so inefficient. It’s spending other people’s money on other people; and unlike a private firm not only can it not go out of business for inefficiency, it gets rewarded with more money. Well, the very same incentive problems apply to the decision-maker in a corporate hierarchy. He’s a steward of other people’s money, and the costs and benefits of any decision he makes can be determined only badly, if at all. Unlike a self-employed actor whose relations with others are mediated by the market, he is motivated by purely administrative incentives.

    — Kevin Carson at the UnCapitalist Journal (2005-09-22): What Can Bosses Know?

  • Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek (2006-02-09): We Don’t Make Anything Anymore takes on the factory protectionists over the state of industry in America. The worriers like to complain that we don’t make anything anymore. America is being hollowed out. Soon we’re going to be left doing one another’s laundry. Boy, will we be poor then. The problem is an old one: the heavy-industry hand-wringers are measuring the inputs, not the outputs. When you look at the stuff actually being produced, rather than the number of people employed or the size of the pile of resources invested in producing it, you’ll find that we’re making more stuff than ever. (I’d add that there are lots of reasons to worry about what happens to heavy-industry workers as they lose their jobs. And that Roberts’ summary and selective swipes at the unions are unwarranted. But the basic point is well-taken. Our aims should not be to prop up an elaborate industrial make-work program.)

  • David Friedman, Ideas (2006-02-09): Unschooling: The Advantage of the Real World: One point raised in comments on my recent unschooling post was that you sometimes have to do things you don’t like, a lesson we can teach our children by making them study things they are not currently interested in studying. It is an interesting point, and I think reflects a serious error. Friedman challenges would-be educators to help students expose themselves to the natural consequences of effort and fortitude, rather than imposing make-work punishments and rewards on them in order to teach them a lesson where the incentives bear no natural relation to the task at hand. Read the whole thing.

  • Tim Bray, ongoing (2006-02-10) asks, What Do GNU and Linux Mean? in a free software world where the user experience is (praise the Good) further and further removed from the technical wotsits of the kernel, where Firefox, OpenOffice, and GNU software provide an increasingly standard software environment, and where the choice between GNU/OpenSolaris and GNU/Linux is going to be a strictly technical choice with basically no impact on the end-user environment? What should you even call what’s emerging? Tim suggests some deliberate provocations: So you’ve got the combination of a Solaris or Linux kernel with a mish-mosh of GNU, Mozilla, OpenOffice and other random software, and calling it Linux or Solaris is misleading. I think Sun could legally ship something like this under the name GNU/Unix. Which would be concise, descriptive, accurate, and funny. (Because GNU stands for Gnu’s Not Unix and Solaris, after all, is.) I think maybe we should just call it GNU, and encourage ordinary users to leave the worries about what comes after the slash to people who have reasons to care about kernels.

  • August Pollak (2006-02-08): As a white guy, did you just throw up right now? and Mikhaela Reed (2006-02-09): The so-called conservative Doonesbury mention Chris Muir’s imaginary Black friend and the excellent opportunity that having one provides white cartoonists to lecture African-Americans about how they should think of themselves in early 21st century America. A Touch of Ego offers some background context on Muir and Day By Day. Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-08) calls for fixes to help Chris Muir write a funny strip. My favorite repair job is from Ampersand at Alas (2006-02-09).

  • Claire Wolfe (2006-02-13): Back from the meditation workshop reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly of her two-week long meditation retreat in silence. One of the good things about the retreat was the distance it allowed from the hot air of professional blowhards that passes for News and Views these days: The omnipresent Information Flow also became irrelevant. I worried at times about what was happening to Steve Kubby and Cory Maye, but could have cared less about the monotonous, inevitable sturm und drang that passes for Vital News. Funny, too. They call it news, but the same rot was being broadcast and podcast and web-posted when I left and when I returned. Nothing new about the news. … Time to live. Time to think deeply, rather than think in quick brain bytes between rushed emails and frequent checks of, Rational Review, Google News, and TCF. Read the whole thing.

  • Carnival is two weeks from today. In honor of the liturgical occasion, be sure to read up on the latest weblog Carnivals. In particular, the inaugural editions of the Radical Women of Color Carnival and the Big Fat Carnival are up at Reappropriate and Alas, A Blog respectively. Not to mention the eighth Carnival of the Feminists at Gendergeek. Enjoy!