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Posts tagged ‘shout out’

The Lessons of Pornography

So I wanted to point out the wondrous Elkballet again (I’m really digging that blog) on a particularly compelling post on the effects of porn. In large part because it’s all fucking true.

I watched porn regularly to masturbate for about two years beginning from when I was twelve. It took me more than six years after that point to really rid me of its effect enough to make an impact—of course, it didn’t help that I kept reinforcing the pornthink by repeatedly calling up the images and tropes when I was masturbating. I did this because, like Elkballet, masturbation wasn’t as fun or stimulating without it; it was years before I managed to masturbate to orgasm without using pornthink in some way.

When I first saw my boyfriend again, I found porn images would pop into my head during sex. I would have trouble being turned on, even orgasming without at least briefly calling up images I had seen. I would sometimes wish I could hop online and quickly look up images so things would go easier. Images would randomly pop into my head, without my meaning for them to. Without even realizing I had done it I developed a voyeuristic attitude towards sex. I wanted to watch him do things to himself, to me. I was even pressuring him into performing things, asking repeatedly despite him telling me it made him uncomfortable. I had stopped looking up porn, but my brain wouldn’t allow me to stop seeing it.

Check, check, check and check.

Looking back, one of the most bizarre and disturbing distortions that porn caused in my mental state was that I dissociated from my body during sex. I saw myself from outside—I saw myself having sex instead of actually being within my body, having sex. I became voyeuristic, too: sex developed into a series of actions. Me doing to my partner. My partner doing to me. As Catharine MacKinnon said—subject verb object.

There was none of the sense of sharing and being together that I now consider one of the best parts of sex; it was very mechanical and automated, though not in the way you’d typically think. Instead sex was segregated into roles—the top; the bottom; the sadist; the masochist; the dom and the sub. One was done to and one was doing to, except if the one usually done to was the one commanded to do. In case you can’t tell, I also became obsessed with BDSM; if you’re interested in it, it’s actually quite boring and you should stop and detox for a while. Forcing sex into a series of actions where one partner is passive/submissive and one partner is active/dominant stops you from ever getting to see how fucking awesome sex really is. It kept me from being able to see it for a fucking long time; I saw my partners as mechanical, too—like they were characters: they were just vehicles for the actions that were “hot,” as determined by porn—penetration, no doy.

Even when my partners persuaded me to stop being so intent on doing things and to simply relax, I couldn’t figure out what to do. Enjoying the sensation is alright, but it gets old fast. In porn, people don’t really, like, touch each other when they have sex—which is just beyond sterile; I can’t figure out why anyone would find it attractive anymore.

And you learn sex from porn; even if you don’t think you do, you do. Even if you think you already know about sex, the way you have sex will change if you start using porn. I had to go through a very painful growth period where I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hands if I wasn’t doing something to my partner.

Porn inhibited my ability to have sex with another person; I learned not to have sex with my partner, but to be preoccupied with porn. I’d say that porn was my sexuality for a good chunk of my life—that my sex life was haunted by the ideas of sexiness and hotness contained in porn, acting as a go-between for my partner and I, instead of merely allowing us to have sex.

Eventually I got over that. I’m still getting over it. But while I’ve recognized this for a while—recognized just how powerful pornography can be, and just how much it can absolutely cripple your ability to relate sexually to another human—there was another thing that made me decide to post this. I confided in one of my friends, as the post had caught her eye while she was visiting and she went ahead and read it, just how true it was and just how fucking hard ever having watched porn had made any kind of healthy sexuality for me. She replied—and has given permission to me to post about this—that she’s suffered from all of the same distortions in her own sexuality and mental state.

Except she’s never watched porn more than a handful of times, and for their comedic value at that. What caused that shit inside her head was the multiple rapes she endured as a child from grown men.

Rape taught her the same things that porn taught me: sex was penetration; one person was allowed to be active and the other person had to be passive; fear was inherently sexual; dominance was sexy; when having sex, people were really just things—objects using each other. She thought that large, painful penises or inserts were the only things that could be “sexy” and couldn’t stop herself from reducing the people around her into body parts—arms, legs, chest, stomach, butt.

Let me repeat that, more clearly: enduring repeated rapes as a child caused the same worldview changes as porn.

And now more succinctly: porn teaches the same things as rape.

For all the sex poxes may cry otherwise because they’re still having their sexualities warped and twisted by porn, I have to say, because I know better—porn is profoundly anti-sex, anti-sexuality, and just generally hateful shit. It’s much more fun over here.

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Gadfly Opinion of the Week

Just so I can make everyone hate me, I’m going to grab a quote from Debunking Serano, over here. The quote I am going to respond to, which will put me firmly on the third side of everything again, is this:

[…] the assumption that the trans person’s gender is not authentic because it does not correlate with the sex they were assigned at birth. In making this assumption, cissexists attempt to create an artificial hierarchy. By insisteing that the trans person’s gender is “fake,” they attempt to validate their own gender as “real” or “natural.”

I work off the idea that yes, gender is an essential part of the self, something as invisible and as flavorful as personality. It changes your experience of your own life, but does not significantly change others’ experience of you; gender, like personality, is 99% inside your own head.

So, rejecting the premise that either gender or behavior can be feasibly conflated with genitalia at all, if there is a person out there who experiences their gender as correlating to any form of genitalia, that person’s gender is fake—entirely socially constructed.

Gender—as “gendered sex” or “sexed gender”—is entirely a social reality, which is not to suggest it’s not potent; just that, like “whiteness” and “blackness,” it actually has nothing to do with any kind of innate self. If you feel like you’re a “man” or a “woman,” that would be gender socialization, not just “gender.” There is an enormous difference between feeling that your body should be different and feeling that your gender matches a different sex. That’s utterly nonsensical; sex and gender have nothing to do with each other. The two are only conflated in the context of a sexed hierarchy, where gender is how you are socialized to act out your inferiority/superiority within that hierarchy.

Let me break this down into an innate situation: sex is not gender, and vice versa. Sex has nothing to do with behavior, same with gender. Society says that sex is gender, and vice versa, and that sex has everything to do with behavior, and so does gender. I do not say that, nor does any gender abolitionist I know.

There’s such a thing as a “sex identity.” It has to do with genitalia, and what you feel yours should be. It’s not the same as a gender identity. Internal gender has nothing to do with your behavior or genitalia; socialized gender does.

To suggest otherwise is to be “cissexist,” in the only coherent definition of the word I’ve found so far.

Pathology Doesn’t Heal

Usually, when people talk about pathologizing, what they’re referring to is the emotional-abuse tactic of, “that’s crazy, you’re crazy,” to basically everything a person says. But the other day I had a discussion with Aslan about pathologizing as a defense tactic in social movements, however counterproductive. It began as a discussion about transsexuality in general while we were walking to the store, as Aslan is one of those lifelong genderfuckers you meet so rarely, and ended up on pathologizing as a pity-evoking attempt towards gaining rights.

That’s what I mean here: pathologizing not as something done to someone you want to dismiss, but as someone you want to support.

I got fed up with the gay rights tagline of no one would choose to be gay! when I was just a wee, barely pubescent little radical. My initial response was that it wasn’t true: I vaguely remember having a NM conversation on Neopets, back in the heyday where it wasn’t “family-friendly” and run by a bunch of people with a very poor opinion of anyone under 18, where I asserted that it was better to be gay because “you could understand each other more.” Mind, I was eight. However, I’d grown up all my life hearing about how men and women were so different that they basically came from different planets, and the only way for them to really get along was for one of them (generally the women) to start thinking and acting like the other. In other words, men and women, for all the talk about the glorious human species etc., were incompatible at their core.

I’m willing to wager that it wasn’t the message those assorted authors had intended me to take away.

The same influence also has some effect on the fat rights scene—sure, mostly by concern trolls, and not so much with the “fat rights scene” (it’s largely rejected by, well, everyone). The script goes pretty much the same way: “It’s so horrible to live a life that’s so fat and disgusting because of that fat and disgusting body. Haven’t they suffered enough? I mean, being fat is worse than anything!”

In a slightly different way, pathologizing children is used to “fight for their interests,” too. Look at how inferior they are! Look at how ignorant and illogical they must be to not know everything about civilization! Clearly, their brains just don’t work right, and that’s why they’re pure and innocent. And let’s not forget that many cultures assume that being a teenager is essentially an unfortunate temporary mental illness.

And to another point, it’s something that pisses me off a lot in the “pro-choice” community. Nobody ever wants an abortion; it is a horrible, bad, wrong thing that we’d absolutely do away with if we could figure out a way to stop women from whining about their rights. Because, really, come the fuck on—it goes beyond adoption, beyond financial and emotional means, beyond every ridiculous fucking excuse out there: sometimes, you just don’t want your genes to go on. Sure, 99.999% of everyone with a uterus would prefer “not getting pregnant in the first place” to having an abortion. But pathologizing abortion—and the choice to have one—is just more support for the concept that abortion is a horrible, shameful thing, no matter who you are.

The pity game isn’t something that pleases me. It’s obviously counterproductive—arguing that you should be treated equally because you aren’t really equal people, but it would hurt your feelings not to be isn’t the most brilliant tactic to take—but even further than that, it’s wrong.

Carolyn Gage points out the same thing I’ve been saying for a while: that, basically, so what if it is a choice? I’ve always admired radical feminist-lesbians for saying, straight out, that they do choose to be lesbians. It’s fucking awesome. Fuck you, I like liking girls. Gayness not as a horrible, dreadful affliction, but as a part of your life that brings you joy, companionship, and love. (Also orgasms. Can’t forget that.)

If something is inherently painful and distressing, it stands to reason that it should be fixed—erased out of existence, merely because it inevitably causes pain to the people bearing it. Not as a judgment, but as a mercy. Pathologizing works on the part of your enemies—as a means to seem “compassionate” for wanting you to be eaten by a pack of wild Sheens—and not ever for you.

Privilege at its Extreme is Individualism, Again

Oddly, while my own experience of reading blogs is that it’s liable to make me more depressed and despairing on my own (probably because of the silencing factor), combining it with writing relieves me and makes me angry and passionate instead of resentfully cynical. Maybe this is just because I am “the vegan,” so my passion for basic rights puts me at odds with most “rights activists.” It’s really rare that I read something I feel resonates within me so much:

It was the eighties. The atmosphere was ripe with immanent denunciations. Politics in the still-breathing lesbian community had begun to hollow out into a ritual called “name the racist (classist, homophobe etc).” Who would be next in line to confess her privilege? Once she confessed, she too could be admitted to the ranks of the righteous, entitled now to “call out” any others on their particular “isms” … She now had an Id-entity. Indeed the self became implicitly re-imaged a container-entity either filled or emptied of privilege-chips.

I’ve noticed this going around a lot, and I am deeply uncomfortable with this process in feminism. It’s not that I don’t realize I’m privileged in many ways; I’m also systematically oppressed in many ways, but those privileges and oppressions and their intersections are not nearly as clear-cut as people make them out to be. The way these things interact and play off each other would take fucking years to describe—and by then they’d have changed anyway—and I don’t feel comfortable, in any way, having the face value of my privileges and oppression determine how much I should be listened to.

Because that’s what the effect comes down to: your credibility is directly determined by your relative oppression and privileges. It’s a bizarre mathematical equation that I’m sure gives both the oppressed and the privileged on any given issue some self-satisfaction, but it doesn’t work.

I was born into an upper-class, not wholly white, partially foreign family. But that wealth was not shared with me: money and its privileges were seen as the exclusive benefit of our mother and any money given to children—even for social necessities like clothing, soap and food—was only done grudgingly. I’ve been shocked, again and again, at what kids from only middle-class families feel entitled to, because the privilege people assume I had I never actually received.

Most of my warped worldview comes from the suburbs, where the houses are large and spaced far enough apart so that the neighbors can’t hear the children being beaten—and even then, it’s not much of a feeling of entitlement: my upbringing solidified a sense of distrust in my own perceptions and experiences, so that I assume I am acting on an incomplete worldview. Whether that’s the product of the suburbs or the abuse I can’t say—though I’d consider the suburbs themselves a type of abuse.

But even aside from that—I’m not rich, and I haven’t been for years. I and another person (my best friend, my platonic life partner) survive off of roughly $1,000/mo for all expenses. I’ve been homeless. I’ve had to lift all my food. Right now, at this point in my life, I am so poor that I sneer at the arguments of how poor people can’t not buy junk food, because if I bought junk food I’d starve.

So which am I? Do I get to know what I’m saying or don’t I? Are my anti-capitalist beliefs less valid than a pro-capitalist homeless man, because I have shelter right now?

I’ve been told that it’s because of my privilege that I’m vegan—big fucking NOPE here alongside an explanation of animal agriculture-as-Western-colonialism and genocide/ecocide—and that I’m racist by saying that people of color shouldn’t be treated like animals because it’s wrong to treat animals like that in the first place. Because I’m white enough to pass on the street—though still not white enough to get a job thanks to Mexiphobia—even though I’ve been caged, dismissed, and compared to animals too.

When someone gets told they have privilege, it’s shorthand for: all of what you just said is invalid.

And instead of engaging ideas critically and actually picking them apart, everyone follows that idea—that if you agree with someone who’s oppressed on a subject tangential to their oppression, you’re more credible, too. It’s gone from: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you have a skewed perspective and your flippant suggestions for how to solve XYZ aren’t accurate or useful. To: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you know less than they do.

That’s where it ends. Just, “you’re privileged,” the end.

The trend that Kathy Miriam points out has been my observation, too.

One of the obstacles to critiquing individualism is that the latter, like all ideology, functions by obscuring itself and self-presents as “just the way things are.” It is the air we breathe, the element in which we swim, thus invisible. Because individualism is so naturalized as a belief system, it can disguise itself as knowledge—or invisibly form the preconditions of what is claimed as self-evident knowledge.

Because there’s never any discussion of, “Well, how do I change my privilege?” (at least, that isn’t short-circuited by I shouldn’t have to educate you!), privilege has become this self-evident, unchangeable reality. And so we shift our attention away from demanding rights and equality from the people in our community towards legislation, which has a limited chance of success and an even more limited effect on the people who still have to deal with it on the ground.

We’ve become so caught up in this idea of changing either the individual or the government that we forget that the media, capitalism, religion etc. all spew this poison into our lives. We take the media and capitalism and marriage and religion and everything else so much for granted that we forget that we can—and should—build communities for ourselves if the ones we live in will not accommodate our very real needs for safety, survival and belonging.

Instead we focus on one person at a time, and not even within our communities—we fight over the fucking internet, devolving into a big fucking fight where everyone’s screaming NO UR PRIVLEJD and, in light of all that, activism—real activism—withers and dies.

Privilege analysis is a damn good lens for social justice movements to use. But it can’t be the be-all end-all of analysis and the only tool in the cabinet, and just because you’re privileged doesn’t mean you’re not onto something.

In short, privilege makes you unworthy of listening to when you speak up in favor of a system that you benefit from or that does not directly oppress you. But having been oppressed does not mean you are smarter or a moral-o-meter that can tell the relative ethical worth of ideas, either. And while it’s nice to believe that you, personally, can tell whether or not someone’s been oppressed or privileged—e.g. that women are privileged by gender conformity norms instead of oppressed by them—no one has that super-power, sorry.

And in shorter, you can’t let discussion of privilege limit the ways you move in the world. Now, I’m going to go create some animal adoption posters. Go read Dialectical Spin now. Bye!

What Does Life Say About Those Who Die? Submission and Ventriloquism

I found an article on Gary Francione’s blog, The Abolitionist Approach, a post entitled And What About the Four Other Dogs? In it, he talks about how five dogs were scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter; four died, but one—a puppy—was found to be still alive after being given two lethal doses of euthanasia medicine. The dog’s survival was posted by a veterinary technician on a pet adoption website, and hundreds of people over North America began clamoring to adopt the dog.

He asks, as with the title, what about the other four dogs? The ones who didn’t make some kind of miraculous escape?

This story is similar to the stories about farm animals who escape from slaughterhouses and are then given homes to live out their lives. They, too, are “special.” They escaped from the institutionalized exploitation that we have established. They have cheated death.

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

This is true. I have heard exactly this kind of “argument” used against veganism, although I last encountered it several years ago, perhaps because the most obvious inaccuracies are hard to ignore: “If animals cared about not being killed, why don’t they try to escape? [Kidnapped African] slaves did, after all.”

That’s paraphrased, but I did not actually add in the part about the kidnapped Africans. She put that in on her own. There’s the obvious problem with the argument, which is that many animals have escaped and that slaughterhouses are built to prevent that from happening—a la Temple Grandin—but then there’s something else wrong that she didn’t realize. The fact that most kidnapped Africans did not try to escape, or successfully escape, was used as evidence for the idea that slavery was perfectly fine.

I. After all, if the kidnapped Africans really objected, they would be escaping, successfully, in droves. II. After all, if she really felt it was rape, she would have fought him off. III. After all, if she really didn’t want to be beaten by her husband, she would leave him. IV. After all, if he really didn’t want to be bullied, he’d fight back or go to a teacher. V. After all, if zie really felt zie was getting cheated by zeir boss, zie would have sued. VI. After all, if zie doesn’t want to be poor and starving, zie would have gotten a job. Et cetera.

This is a variation of the No True Scotsman No True Rape Victim fallacy—the idea that if someone being oppressed really thought it was unjust, they would fight back against it. And they would win. But the idea of the Iron-Willed Escape invalidates not just those who can’t imagine fighting off their abuser—it invalidates the people who do successfully manage to fight off their abuser, too. Rape victims are discredited because, given that he didn’t really manage to rape zem, he’s still Shrödinger’s Rapist and therefore, not really a rapist. The question is always, “But how do you know zie was really intending to hurt you?” because any resistance against power is always seen as fundamentally unjustified.

Thus, if zie was able to fight him off, zie couldn’t really know he was actually going to rape zem—he didn’t, so therefore he’s not a rapist! But if he does succeed in raping zem, then it wasn’t really rape because zie failed to fight him off so zie wasn’t really serious about not wanting it… so therefore he’s not a rapist!

That’s what rape culture is. That’s what victim-blaming is: placing the onus of rejecting violation on the victim instead of the violator. It is Lierre Keith‘s perfect philosophy because, no matter what, the oppressor is never to blame for oppressing. An abuser can’t be held responsible for their actions: you just let it happen. You just let him sell away your children. You just let her beat you. How were they supposed to know it wasn’t okay if you didn’t force them to stop?

“If you don’t like me hurting you, then you shouldn’t let me hurt you.”

The oppressor becomes invisible and the oppressed becomes solely responsible for their own oppression. If they don’t like it, then they should have tried harder to keep it from happening. Somehow, the abuser is never held responsible for their decision to abuse and never expected to actually treat anyone like people. The victim is portrayed in a black room, empty save for zem, shuddering as an unseen hand batters zem—something that is assumed, because of the absence of any visible perpetrator, exists entirely in zeir own mind, that zie is submitting to. A personal pathology. An individual flaw. No atrocity to see here, folks; move along.

You should perhaps question why it is easier to hold the victim responsible than the one who victimized zem.

I draw together all these examples not to show similarities between different forms of oppression, but to show how all oppression is fundamentally the same. Oppression and its justifications are all the same—they’re utterly unoriginal, just a repeating pattern of the same thoughts, the same arguments. Every carb-starved fuckneck thinks that “but plants are alive too” is a unique and compelling argument against veganism, and so does every porn-addled fuckneck think “women’s choice” is a unique and compelling argument against anti-exploitation, consideration of abuse, capitalism, coercion, reality. Then they wonder why they keep hearing the same rebuttals in response, over and over again, and conclude that those desperately trying to scrape their way out of a fucked-up, oppressive world and into a new one, those people simply have nothing else to offer.

It’s the other way around. Being aware of oneself requires an accounting of one’s bigotries, one’s life, one’s actions. It requires a vicious, snarling demand for self-inflicted honesty and ultimately, honesty requires change.

In a society that wants to view oppression as normal, as neutral, as right, it becomes much easier to blurt some self-indulgent nonsense and let yourself fall into the ensuing applause.

It’s a blog mention.

So I’d like to introduce you to a blog one of my friends is doing. Posting is scarce but still fun. Go read Coloring Outside the Lines right now and awesomeness will flow like water in the ocean.

Pile of Links, v. 1.0

I always try to build a library of resources and link-lovin’ for the generations that come thereafter. At least until we hit the critical mass point and then society will collapse, leaving humans basically stranded in a wasteland created by capitalism, carnism, and miscellaneous fuckuppery. Cheers! Also keep in mind the About page—this entire blog has a gigantic trigger-warning slapped all over it. The same follows for many of the links.

From Vegan Skeptic: Being Vegan is worse for the environment?

Via Vegan Feminist Agitator we have Another Disgruntled Alphabet for Vegans… And how!

Then there’s Feminism 101: Helpful Hints for Dudes, Part 3, where Time-Machine goes over rape jokes and why they are not acceptable.

Gwen Sharp over at Sociological Images provides a downright frightening example of whitewashing, sizewashing and basically pornwashing women: Gender, Race, and Virtual Model Options.

A guest post on Vegan Salt briefly gets at the difference between “doing all you can” and doing something: Why I’m Vegan, or, Why I’m Not Necessarily a Good Person, or, Making a Deal With the Devil: How to Get More Than a Pair of Socks in Exchange for Your Soul. (Personally, I don’t think the title is long enough.)

Unpopular Vegan Essays has up a post that isn’t easily summarized called On Ex-Vegans.

Just a blog mention this time: Raw on $10 a Day (or Less!) proves that you can have a satisfying, cheap, not-devoid-of-fat-by-any-means raw diet… with pictures!

Bob Caesa has put up a guest post entitled Monsanto: The evil corporation in your refrigerator at Vegan Princess.

Bryanna Clark Grogan has an interesting webpage I’ve been perusing about the soy scare. Does Susan Fallon really believe that you can’t even get pregnant while on a vegan diet… ? ‘Cause, uh, I think the “sleep eating” accusation is wearing a little thin now.

And before I move on to another topic, let’s also cover More Anti-Vegan Sentiment at The Veg Blog about the “vegan” parents who starved their baby to death by ignoring the little reminder at the bottom of the soymilk carton that it cannot be used as infant formula.

Media Girl is a fantastic blog I just found, and I’m reading through currently. Here’s one I really like: Cold-blooded Roe calculus. Also, have another goddamn link list to read through.

I also just found The Hand Mirror, an aussie feminist blog. Go read The minister for police and upholding rape culture.

Over at Maggie Hays’s old blog (new one here) there’s an excellent post by the name of Breaking the Chains of Patriarchy: A Short Story on Resistance to Masochism.

Feminist Students United! talks about rape culture, dismissal, and assorted fuckuppery in This is what rape culture looks like: an explanation.

This article from The Root about Rosa Parks is rather beautiful: Rosa Parks Had a Radical Side: Championing the Rights of Rape Victims. I like my heroes expansive.

And, finally in this meandering list of links, an old post from Angry for a Reason is entitled Rape and Survival.

Maybe not so much a carnival as it is a maze, but definitely go check these things out.

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