What I’m Reading, January 26, 2015

6 Reasons Why Being Called a Cis Person Is Not Oppressive, James St. James, Everyday Feminism, January 15, 2015

All sorts of arguments are being flung back and forth across the Internet about this whole usage of the term “cis gender” for—you know — cisgender people. The bulk of the resistance is from the cisgender community, which feels the usage of the term is oppressive. Or reverse transphobic. Or a war against cis people. Or something.

What the hell does “cisgender” mean, you ask? It’s pretty much the polite way of saying “not transgender.”

Now you’re all caught up — and pretty certain on which side of this argument I reside. In fact, the above statement tends to be the Readers Digest version of my whole spiel. It’s polite to say “cis” instead of “not trans.” The end. [Emphasis in original.]

Why Do You Need A Sugar Daddy? College Students Give Some Surprising Answers, Elisabeth Parker, Addicting Info, January 17, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 10, 2014

The years of Obama-bashing have helped bring racism, sexism, and all the other “-isms” of hate out of the shadows, Ken, Down with Tyranny!, December 6, 2014

Last night I indicated that I meant to come back to Ian Welsh’s post yesterday, “In Light of Eric Garner,” in which he urged us: “Understand this, if you understand nothing else: the system is working as intended.” He argued that the Staten Island prosecutor case who succeeded in getting the grand jury to bring no indictment in Garner’s death —

made the decision that the system wants: police are almost never prosecuted for assault or murder and on those rare occasions that they are, they almost always get off.

Donovan did what the legal system wanted him to do.

As for the police in question, well, they did what the legal system wants them to do, as well.”

Where are several points here I wanted to come back to.






[Emphasis, links in original.]

How to Talk to a Skeptic About Rape Culture, Rants and Rambles, March 29, 2013 Continue reading


About that Whole “Rape Prevention Nail Polish” Thing

These guys invented a nail polish that can supposedly detect date rape drugs. Some people were critical of it. I made a Storify about it.


What I’m Reading, June 4, 2014

Insomnia Cured Here [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via FlickrThe NRA’s Frankenstein monster, Mano Singham, Freethought Blogs, June 3, 2014

The Frankenstein story is a morality tale that gets played over and over again in political life. A group (a government or political party or other organization) covertly supports and encourages extremists in order to achieve their own goals, thinking that they can control their surrogates and rein them in after they have served their purpose, only to find that the group has grown beyond its control and is determined to continue on its own path and in order to do us, turns against its own creator.


Things are so bad that the extremists are spawning even more extreme groups. The recent spat between the NRA and the group known as Open Carry Texas is a case in point. The NRA has been promoting the idea that people have the right of completely unbridled ownership of guns and to carry them anywhere at any time. The OCT took them at their word and its members went into a Chili’s fast food restaurant toting large semi-automatic weapons, freaking out the regular customers and this resulted in them being asked to not bring their guns into the store again.

This episode resulted in such bad publicity that the NRA, of all groups, has issued a sharply worded admonishment to the OCT telling them to cut it out. But OCT has turned on the NRA, accusing them of betraying the rights of gun owners.

*** Continue reading


What I’m Reading, May 16, 2014

Youth (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsHow the Purity Myth Perpetuates Rape Culture, Miri, Brute Reason, May 13, 2014

The purity myth, as Jessica Valenti calls it in her book of the same name, includes several interlocking beliefs about women and sexuality that are enforced by many religions and ideologies and continue to inform many Americans’ views of sex–even those who consider themselves liberal or even progressive.

Some components of the purity myth include:

Continue reading


What I’m Reading, April 16, 2014

By Novis-M (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThe irresponsibly stupid and dangerous camouflage patterns of the U.S. military, David W. Brown, The Week, January 22, 2013

When the Marine Corps selected a digital pattern for its combat uniform in 2002, the U.S. military as a whole seemed to fracture, with each branch wandering aimlessly in a bizarre search for sartorial identity. It’s been a long, strange trip since. So let’s take a brief look at the camouflage patterns of the U.S. military, and the sorry stories of their adoptions.

If You Don’t Like “Rape Culture” Then Focus For A Minute On Sex and Status, Soraya Chemaly, Huffington Post, April 7, 2014

The idea that we live with a culture that promotes rape is anathema to people who a) don’t want to believe it because, when you start to really think about it, it’s awful and scary and defies reason; b) live in communities filled with words used to deny, promote or camouflage sexual assault or c) are people who have power and benefit, in multiple, intersecting ways, from the status quo.

“Status” is the operative word. If you don’t like the words “rape culture” or you are uncomfortable with the idea that men rape women (and that is the vast preponderance of cases) in huge numbers, here is a different way to think about this: People with higher status are entitled to rape and abuse people with lower status in society.

Fear of becoming a racial minority makes white Americans more conservative: study, Scott Kaufman, The Raw Story, April 10, 2014 (h/t LGM)

Two researchers from the Department of Psychology and Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University demonstrated that the more white Americans know about the changing demographics of the United States, the more likely they are to endorse conservative policy positions.


Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson conducted three studies in which white Americans were presented with information about the racial demographic shifts that have led the U.S. Census Bureau to project that “racial minority groups will make up a majority of the U.S. national population in 2042, effectively creating a so-called ‘majority-minority’ nation.”

The result was that, “[d]espite being self-identified political independents, respondents who were asked about the [majority-minority] racial shift reported being somewhat more conservative than did respondents” who were asked the less salient question about Hispanics being roughly equally to African-Americans.

AA and Rehab Culture Have Shockingly Low Success Rates, Dr. Lance Dodes, Zachary Dodes, AlterNet, April 2, 2014

Twelve-step programs hold a privileged place in our culture as well. The legions of “anonymous” members who comprise these groups are helped in their proselytizing mission by hit TV shows such as “Intervention,” which preaches the gospel of recovery. “Going to rehab” is likewise a common refrain in music and fi lm, where it is almost always uncritically presented as the one true hope for beating addiction. AA and rehab have even been codified into our legal system: court-mandated attendance, which began in the late 1980s, is today a staple of drug-crime policy. Every year, our state and federal governments spend over $15 billion on substance-abuse treatment for addicts, the vast majority of which are based on 12-step programs. There is only one problem: these programs almost always fail.

Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.

Photo credit: By Novis-M (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


The Feral Men and Boys of Steubenville, Ohio

road_warrior2, via dangerousuniverse.com

Look, Steubenville, even the character named “the Feral Child” managed to keep it together (via dangerousuniverse.com)

This is pretty much the only conclusion I can reasonably reach, given all the talk about how the real lesson of the Steubenville rape case is the dangers of drinking too much. I’m not going to link to some of the more ridiculous commentaries, but the line of thinking amounts to: a girl got so drunk that she couldn’t control herself, and she got raped (see the Public Shaming Blog for a collection of tweets and other social media updates: 1, 2, 3.) Missing from this analysis is the moral agency of anyone else in town. All I can think is that the men and boys in this town are so lacking in self-control that they actually register below most members of the animal kingdom, because most animals have at least some concept of consequences for their actions.

Even the people who say that the boys are at fault, but so is the girl for getting drunk miss the point so much that it is doubtful they even know the point exists. All the girl is guilty of doing is getting drunk while underage. That barely registers on the scale of criminality next to the crime of rape. If you do not understand that, maybe you should not be allowed in public near drunk people.

This is such a ridiculously defamatory notion, that men cannot control themselves around a drunk/sexy/scantily-clad/female woman, and that the onus is entirely on the woman to protect herself. It has served as cover for men for a very, very long time, though, and it may only be recently that it occurred to men that this idea actually makes us look like idiots. I assume women have known this all along, and that privilege blinded the guys from seeing it. Some guys seem determined not to get it. Some women and girls go along with it, too.

Guys, we can do better than this. Have a little damn pride in yourselves, because if you really have such a serious problem with self-control, maybe we need to be the ones covering up all the time.


Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


Via MemeGenerator

Women are all, like, mysterious and shit, you know?

At any rate, there is a lot of money to be made in perpetuating the notion that women are inscrutable, even to themselves, and it tends to sell a lot of products to people who don’t know the meaning of the word “inscrutable.”

Allow me to speak for a moment from my perspective as a guy who spent most of his life thinking that women were mysterious, practically evanescent figures of wonder, because I think this notion colors the perspectives of far too many people. I cannot in any way speak from the perspective of a woman, or even hope to represent women’s views or interests, but I can address the concerns of male idiots.

(Trigger warning for discussions of rape rhetoric from here on.)

(Also, I admit this post really only addresses gender binary male-female relations. There is a much wider array of experiences and perspectives out there.)

For men who don’t know anything about women (and can’t be bothered to learn), perhaps nothing is scarier than the spectre of the False Rape Accusation. This is a potentially life-destroying threat that any man who attempts physical intimacy with any woman must face. It is, of course, bullshit, but many, many dudes can’t see beyond the tips of their own dongs to realize that. Continue reading


Humor works best, Mr. Tosh, when it points up

There’s a reason why famous people get “roasted” once they have had a chance to develop a career. Roasting a venerable celebrity is funny, because the audience knows the person (or their persona) and it’s fun to see someone on high get taken down a few pegs in a jocular, agreed-upon-in-advance manner. If celebrities roasted some newcomer just getting their start, though, they’d just look like assholes.

Daniel Tosh, by all accounts, is quite an asshole.

I wrote a little while back that rape is not funny. I stand by that statement.

I also believe that, in comedy, nothing is definitively off limits, but it’s one person in a million that has the self-awareness and comic chops to pull off a joke about the most damaging, hurtful concepts. Daniel Tosh is with us among the 999,999 people who can’t pull it off.

To review:

– An anonymous woman writes of her experience watching Tosh at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles:

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”


After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.

– The proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.

Tosh apologizes, sort of, saying he was misquoted but not saying what he actually said.

– Other comedians defend Tosh for a variety of reasons.

– The Laugh Factory’s owner offers an account of what happened substantially at odds with the woman’s story.

– A few people make astute observations, but most people just sort of wail.

Meghan O’Keefe had some interesting observations, and she hit on how it might be possible for someone to successfully joke about rape: she mentions Sarah Silverman, of whom I’m not a particular fan, who has such jokes in some of her routines (click through to O’Keefe’s post, because I don’t want to quote them).

The difference between her jokes and what Tosh said, basically, is about who in the joke has the power. It is also about consent to being the subject of a joke. Sarah Silverman’s jokes, essentially, are about herself. Tosh’s joke was about someone else who, unlike the subject of a roast, had not consented. Sarah Silverman’s jokes portray an absurd scenario, where the audience’s only accessible reactions are shock or laughter. Tosh’s joke, with a simple shift in tone of voice, becomes a threat–to the list of possible reactions, add fear. If you accept no other reason for why rape jokes are not funny, accept that one.

Austin comic Curtis Luciani has an excellent response to the situation, explaining how these power dynamics determine the lines between funny, creepy, threatening, and downright fucking terrifying. Rape is very, very prevalent in our society, both as an actual act of violence and a cultural motif, far more so than most men realize. Luciani’s analogy is brilliant:

I ain’t buying any of that “If I can make jokes about genocide, why can’t I make jokes about rape?” Horseshit, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor’s kid in the audience were pretty fucking low.

Some extra reading for people who might have a hard time grasping the prevalence of rape in society: