Shout Out to Sinfest

Sinfest is a webcomic by the somewhat reclusive Tatsuya Ishida. The comic started out with pretty standard dudebro jokes relying on sexist stereotypes, jokes relying racist stereotypes, and sexist audience pandering. In all, the strip has been one in which sexual objectification of women is de rigeur, porn is ubiquitous, and virtually all of the male-female interaction involves the male character’s attempts to get in the female character’s pants.

The strip focused on the male characters primarily, with Monique – the only recurring female character in the beginning – being seen by a lot of the fan-base as the “you want her but you can’t have her (yet)” sexualized foil for the main male character.

Over the years, the main characters have changed somewhat. Monique started off being a proud “slut” with leanings towards social justice. She’s become a vegetarian, given up her beat poetry gig, become more active in social justice causes, and had lots of periods of self-doubt.

Now, for the most part, it’s the female characters who are more numerous and more complicated, with a wide variety of reactions to the Patriarchy.

And now, we have today’s comic.

Tats has previously had works by Simone de Beauvoir, Sappho, and bell hooks appear in the comic. Now he’s including Dworkin, and the comic forum-goers are trying to figure out if this is all some sort of ongoing joke about feminists.

And I really can’t tell if Tats planned this the whole time (make a popular strip with jokes that would be perfectly suited to 4chan’s /b/, then when the strip is getting published hit everybody with some radical feminism), or if he’s working in ideas about gender which have only come into play recently.

Either way, I’m psyched.  Tats, if you’re reading this – more prominent non-white women in the Sisterhood?

\…/ Peace.

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Men’s Acts, not Women’s Choices: “Quantum Consent”

With the ongoing “scandal” with respect to the Secret Service agents who paid (or didn’t pay, as the case may be) for women in Colombia, and the complete inability of most armchair sociologists on news comment boards to understand what is wrong with prostitution, I decided it was time to introduce a new phrase:

 

Quantum Consent

 

The concept of “rape” is almost always discussed and analyzed in terms of the victim (not from the perspective of the victim, but in terms of the victim). Whether we’re talking about criminal laws, specific instances, or post-modern feminist theory, the ultimate question is usually one of consent. Did she consent?

 

And usually that consent is framed in terms of whether she “wanted” sex, or sex with that person, or sex on those terms, or what have you. In earlier years, some feminists attempted to attack acquaintance (“date”) rape with the catchy slogan “no means no.”  Nowadays, “sex positive feminism” has given us Yes Means Yes, based on the idea that we wouldn’t have rape if only men recognized that women can like sex, too.

 

Discussions on prostitution, pornography, and BDSM have suffered from this as well.  Even in some “feminist” spheres, where people should presumably want to analyze how these predominantly male-profiting and female-utilizing fields are functioning in and affecting society, the discussion usually focuses on the women’s “agency.” If the women “want” to do it, in sex-positive circles, we will not look at the man behind the curtain. Pointing out that the majority of women in prostitution have been sexually assaulted during childhood, or have been the victims of sex trafficking, is taken as an attack on the agency of the women who do make those choices. The idea, apparently, is that prostitution, pornography, and so forth are completely kosher so long as the particular woman or women involved are “consenting.”

 

The definition of consent, according to Random House, is “to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield.” Consent is reactive, not proactive. To consent is to agree to something which has been proposed, not to make a proposal. The agreement doesn’t have to be enthusiastic or excited; consent just means there will be meaningful, voluntary compliance. So really, when we are saying that sex should be with the “consent” of both parties, it’s a pretty low bar.

 

The real problem with prostitution, pornography, BDSM, and – to be quite frank – all sexual acts involving at least one woman and at least one man, is the lack of concern men are taught to have about even the low bar of consent.

 

To take the example of prostitution, since that’s what prompted this post: everybody who has paid any attention over the last five years should be aware that sex trafficking, and prostitution of minors, is a serious problem. In the US alone, the FBI busts a sex trafficking ring every few months, and they typically make national news (albeit briefly). I suspect that most people vastly underestimate the problem (hey readers, hands up for everybody who knew that the average time between when a teenage girl becomes homeless and when she has been picked up by a pimp is measured in HOURS, not days). Still, every adult who is paying attention should know that sex trafficking in prostitution is a concern.

 

How can a prospective john tell if a woman has been coerced into prostitution?

 

He can’t ask and expect a real answer if she is being trafficked. Nor can he base it on how much she seems “into it” (women survive by being excellent actresses, even tricking ourselves if necessary). He can’t base it on what “kind” of prostituting she is doing, or the environment in which she is doing it, or how much he pays her. Sex traffickers provide “high class” call girls, women in legal brothels, and women operating out of their “own home” or “own business.”

 

A john really can’t know. He has no way to know.

 

You’ve heard of Schrodinger’s rapist? Well, this is quantum consent.

 

Her appearance of agreeableness may be legitimate. It may not be. It may be both. You have no way to tell.

 

So why are you fucking her?

 

The defense of prostitution by men is based on the idea that they should not be responsible for determining whether a female wants to have sex or not. It remains her responsibility to defend herself.

 

So if a man sexually engages with a woman, and considers her voluntary consent irrelevant, what is he doing? What act is he committing? Now, legally, the question of whether he has committed rape depends on whether the woman involved can prove she didn’t agree that he could do whatever he did, but if we were going to classify his actions, his level of knowledge or intent, what distinguishes him from a convicted rapist?

 

The idea of “quantum” consent is based on ideas in modern physics analyzing the movements and interactions of small particles. These particles are affected, to some extent, by the uncertainty principle. We might know a particle’s velocity, but not its location; or we might know location, but not velocity. You can’t ever completely determine what is going on with the particle. Its nature is in some way inherently unknowable. It is not completely quantifiable.

 

And neither is the consent of a prostitute. And neither is the consent of a woman whose image appears in pornography on your computer screen.

 

And neither is the consent of a woman who is underage, no matter how much she might “want” sex. And, for that matter, neither is the consent of somebody who is suffering from certain emotional difficulties, or who cannot effectively withhold consent for social, cultural, financial, or psychological reasons.

 

“Wait!” some more feminist-minded male readers might object. “That rules out almost all women! Almost all women are socially conditioned not to directly say no to men, or to depend on men financially/emotionally. Does this mean that almost all heterosexual sex may have a problem with quantum consent?”

 

Congratulations! You’re starting to figure it out. You can blame your forefathers and the patriarchy! It might be a bit of an inconvenience to you to not get to have sex with whatever woman you want while she painfully and laboriously tries to overcome her life-long psychological conditioning and begins to doubt every desire, fantasy, and self-identification she ever had, but I’m sure you’ll manage somehow.

 

Now, somebody out there is, at this point in the post, probably thinking of writing some oh-so-brilliant comment about how the problems with prostitution and pornography would fade away if there was no sex trafficking and women had equal opportunities to get (and retain) livable wages.

 

Except without sex trafficking, there would be no prostitution.

 

Yes, yes, I realize that it’s usually phrased the other way – that the demand for prostitution causes sex trafficking. It is a demand-driven “industry,” after all. But the reverse is also true.

 

If there was no sex trafficking, and women had equivalent financial status and power as men, then few women would engage in prostitution. Those women would be able to say no. No to clients, no to specific acts, no to locations, and no to the relatively few dollars that the typical man can spend on a few hours’ “entertainment” (since very few women who haven’t had a history of sexual abuse choose to go in to the sex trade). A woman who chose that job could at any point say, “You know,  you’re being a real dick – get out of here, and don’t come back,” without any repercussions whatsoever, and she could charge hefty fees.

 

And seriously, what would be the point of shelling out all the money to buy a prostitute if she could say no?

 

Men pay for prostitutes because they don’t want to bother finding a woman who will consent of her own desire. They use money as a stand-in for a woman’s genuine interest, or to try to cultivate faux-interest, because they don’t want to deal with the aggravation of trying to find a woman who is actually interested in consensual “sex” (or being beaten, or doing whatever other vile, idiotic thing has been entering into his head as of late). Men pay prostitutes because they want an actress, or at least a warm body, who will pretend to want him, or who won’t make demands, or who won’t be able to go to the police.

 

Men go to prostitutes because they don’t give enough of a crap about women to want to make sure there is actual, not quantum, consent. If women could not be forced into prostitution, or forced to keep their “rates” low by those who have been, or otherwise coerced financially, then prostitution would pretty much go away.

 

Now, by the end of the post, my many male subscribers – who likely have never been exposed to these concepts before, and have a vested interest in having a knee-jerk, defensive response – are probably thinking thus: EBF must be wrong, because it would be very inconvenient and uncomfortable for me if she is right. Do yourself a favor, and spend eight hours or so thinking about this post before bothering to write out a response; it usually takes about that long for people to digest something and get rid of their shit.

 

To other females: I think quantum consent helps identify why unquestioning focus on female “agency” is problematic. The issue isn’t just whether an individual woman (or women as a class) are expressing “intrinsic” “individual” desires (as opposed to culturally-imposed ones), but why men are willing to go along with it. There’s something particularly disturbing about men who are big supporters of third-wave, “post-modern,” “sex-positive” feminism. And this is it: they may echo all the right words about consent and agency, but they’re using the focus on females’ gatekeeper “responsibility” to continue their objectification and exploitation of women.

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The Public Flogging of Karen Carr

There’s recently been national coverage on a case out of Virginia, involving a Karen Carr, an unlicensed midwife who was brought up on involuntary manslaughter and child neglect charges after an infant died during a breech birth. The mother specifically sought Ms. Carr after her prior midwives would not attend the birth because of the positioning, since the mother was uncomfortable going to the hospital where she believed she would be pressured to have a C-section. The mother did not press charges – instead, Inova Alexandria Hospital, where the midwife brought the baby, contacted county prosecutors.

It’s no secret that many Ob-Gyns and hospitals push pain medication and C-sections. When I was pregnant with my first child not so long ago, and went to an orientation at the hospital for expecting parents who planned to deliver there, the head nurse told me upon hearing that I hoped for an unmedicated birth, “Listen, sweetie, either you’re going to be on drugs, or I am.” The national C-section rate is at an astronomical 32%, and when asked what a hospital could have provided in the Virginia case that the midwife could not, several medical experts replied to ABC News that a hospital could have delivered the baby via C-section (the precise thing the mother was trying to avoid by having a home birth). And of course, as anybody familiar with the work of Ina May Gaskin and her companions can tell you, there are midwifery techniques for dealing with birth complications – including breech presentations – which most ObGyns either do not know or don’t have the time/flexibility to provide in a hospital setting.

And in the case of Ms. Carr, while she was unlicensed, she wasn’t untrained (from the Washington Post article):

Carr earned certification as a midwife in 1997 through the North American Registry of Midwives. The certification — certified professional midwife, or CPM — is recognized in some states and not others. It doesn’t have minimum education requirements, but the process includes apprenticeships and exams.

The confusing part for parents, Macones said, is that there are several types of midwives and they have similar titles, so it might not be clear what level of education and training a practitioner has. CPMs learn through an apprenticeship model, while certified nurse midwives have years of academic study and clinical internships.

In Maryland and the District, there is no license for CPMs, only for nurse midwives. In Virginia, CPMs can practice if they get a license; according to state records, the state has 55 licensed CPMs.

To get a license in Virginia, however, a midwife has to agree she will not administer medications (including, say, anti-hemorrhaging medications). You almost have to wonder, what’s the point, then?

In between prosecuting the midwife and finger-pointing at the mother, is anybody looking at the actual reasons that this happened? No, of course not – this is a story which replicates myth, about an “arrogant” midwife and a “dumbass” mother, both too arrogant and caught up in lofty romantic ideals to pay attention to hard (throbbing) science. This is yet another reminder how the medical community and society as a whole responds to women’s bodies (especially when there may be a baby involved).

Women, particularly when it comes to reproduction, are seen as stubborn and emotional self-centereds who need to be managed. This crops up in people asking whether midwifery is “merely unreflective defiance”, it crops up in the repeated comments regarding Karen Carr’s “arrogance,” and in the repeated characterization of women who have home births as selfish creatures more interested in an “experience” than in the health of their infant. Women die while receiving breast implants, people struggling with cancer refuse chemotherapy, we make ourselves sick on birth control and most people shrug and say, “Hey, informed consent.”

Add a fetus and that goes out the window.

Birthing at home can be dangerous. Birthing in a hospital can be dangerous, especially if you’re having a C-section. Birthing, in general, can be dangerous. Women die regularly from childbirth all over the world, but the differences in those rates are not based on whether they’re “at home” or “in the hospital” – it’s because of their age, it’s because of their stress levels, it’s because of their health going into the pregnancy and during the pregnancy, and it’s because regardless of whether they’re at home or in the hospital in some places there aren’t enough qualified birth assistants at all. A low-risk home birth in the United States is not much more dangerous, if at all than giving birth in a US hospital (it’s certainly much safer than giving birth in a hospital in many countries), and home birth midwives are utilized successfully in other “developed” nations.

But the dismay and even vitriol towards midwives and women who’ve had home births is really about “protecting” the fetus at the expense of the mother. The mother, being an imperfect container, is seen as the biggest threat to her baby and therefore must be managed and controlled. Any significance or enjoyment the mother may get out of the birth experience is, at best, a happy side benefit – what’s really important is the product.

And that’s assuming we consider the baby all that important. There’s been a chart going around the past few years about the “tragic death toll of home births” – check out the bottom, though, to see that it only covers white women. You can go to the website for the Center of Disease Control and run the numbers yourselves (they don’t list all the death rates per 1000, but they give you the data so you can figure it out yourself). I looked at the data for 2005. Turns out the data for women in Asian/Pacific Islander and Black/African-American populations shows a lower infant death rate for births attended by certified midwives out of the hospital than the death rate for births attended by doctors inside the hospital.

Is that getting published? No, of course not. Because the concern about midwives isn’t about making sure women can make educated decisions, or about giving them the best possible care – it’s about using fear to control and manage women. Karen Carr now gets to be the scapegoat – a well-publicized case to remind the public that our bodies are terrifying, dangerous things, and the best thing for everyone is if we listen to the nice men in the white coats.

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Life, the Universe, and Everything

No more answers. I’ve gotten enough attempts to send me nasty viruses and figure out my IP address over the past few days, that I’m not answering any more questions. Everything in the posts that have people upset should be relatively self-evident, especially if you read the comments below the posts. If you haven’t figured it out, you aren’t trying hard enough, or you don’t want to figure it out.

I don’t think that radical feminism is terribly complex at all. It’s quite simple, and here it is:

“Man and wife”

Now, stop thinking. Seriously. Because those of you who didn’t get the “a man is a rape supporter if” post are probably not going to get this, either. Do you speak another language – one that has a fundamentally different place of reference than English? You need to access the part of your brain that lets you do that, that way of listening. You need to stop trying to translate into the language you’re most comfortable speaking. Just put whatever you’re carrying in your mind right down, drop it, listen. I am not circling anything.

Man is the “I”, the eye and the center through which everything else is seen. That makes an anthropologist write, “The men pushed their boats into the river and left, living the women and children behind in the empty village.” A man, and the man’s wife. The man is in two places.

To be a man, is to be. To be anything else, is to be naught. Anything not-man, we call woman. Anything not-man is empty, and has to be filled. Dandelion fluff, or clouds, or dark craziness from being empty. It has no fixed point, no place, no clear observation, because the eye is a man’s “I”.

So women have two eyes. Their own eye is clouded, covered over, because to walk through a man’s world you need to borrow man’s eye. We educate women to use man’s eyes, to speak from his “I”, to be a strong woman is to use man’s “I”.

Simple, right? Fractal it.

Race, class, heterosexism, the concept of nation-states, military hierarchies, television, map-making, the reasonable person standard, and airplane seats.

There is one “I”, one eye. The perspective may recognize conflicting values, even fight within its own nature, but that’s what it is. What are Left and Right to me? A two-headed beast snarling at itself.

The same pattern for control, for “I”, for center, repeat them selves into our selves. A person from the Cherokee nation tries to talk cosmology to an Anglo Christian, and hears, “Oh, yes, I see how that’s similar to my own beliefs on God”; he can dress in a suit and run a plantation and go to Washington, D.C., and it’s still not enough to avoid Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, because a “fair” fight is on their terms, their rules, their boundaries, their booby-and-booty traps, and that’s losing before the game started.

There you go. I’ve explained patriarchal society. You’re welcome.

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NEWS: Man Explains That He Buys Prostitutes to Give Them Sexual Agency

So, some people keep trying to get me to watch this YouTube video where they say I got “told”. Yeah…saw it. I suggest everyone else go see it, too – right now. How else are you going to get the jokes in my comic?

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Freed Pen Fridays: Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton was a poet from Massachusetts, in the United States, who wrote from the 1950s until her death in 1974. She fought depression and used poetry as an outlet. Her poems address a lot of Things Not Discussed in women’s lives during the time period, including menstruation and extra-marital affairs. A lot of focus on Anne Sexton after her death was on whether she had been sexually molested by her father, and on her behavior towards her daughters, including sexual molestation of her oldest daughter and periods where she was emotionally distant or focused on work to the exclusion of her children. Anne Sexton committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning.

She’s interesting to me in part because her life has so easily interwoven the understood consensus in the US (particularly during the time she lived) about mothers, psychological illness, sexual molestation, and gifted women. She could easily have appeared as a character in a novel. How do we create the lives we lead based on the stories we’re told?

Here are a few of her works. For what it’s worth, she allegedly had an “alternate personality” named Elizabeth, but I don’t know if that Elizabeth is the one being referenced in the first poem. Enjoy.

Elizabeth Gone

1.

You lay in the nest of your real death,
Beyond the print of my nervous fingers
Where they touched your moving head;
Your old skin puckering, your lungs’ breath
Grown baby short as you looked up last
At my face swinging over the human bed,
And somewhere you cried, let me go let me go.

You lay in the crate of your last death,
But were not you, not finally you.
They have stuffed her cheeks, I said;
This clay hand, this mask of Elizabeth
Are not true. From within the satin
And the suede of this inhuman bed,
Something cried, let me go let me go.

2.

They gave me your ash and bony shells,
Rattling like gourds in the cardboard urn,
Rattling like stones that their oven had blest.
I waited you in the cathedral of spells
And I waited you in the country of the living,
Still with the urn crooned to my breast,
When something cried, let me go let me go.

So I threw out your last bony shells
And heard me scream for the look of you,
Your apple face, the simple creche
Of your arms, the August smells
Of your skin. Then I sorted your clothes
And the loves you had left, Elizabeth,
Elizabeth, until you were gone.

Her Kind

have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Buying the Whore

You are the roast beef I have purchased
and I stuff you with my very own onion.

You are a boat I have rented by the hour
and I steer you with my rage until you run aground.

You are a glass that I have paid to shatter
and I swallow the pieces down with my spit.

You are the grate I warm my trembling hands on,
searing the flesh until it’s nice and juicy.

You stink like my Mama under your bra
and I vomit into your hand like a jackpot
its cold hard quarters.

The Child Bearers

Jean, death comes close to us all,
flapping its awful wings at us
and the gluey wings crawl up our nose.
Our children tremble in their teen-age cribs,
whirling off on a thumb or a motorcycle,
mine pushed into gnawing a stilbestrol cancer
I passed on like hemophilia,
or yours in the seventh grade, with her spleen
smacked in by the balance beam.
And we, mothers, crumpled, and flyspotted
with bringing them this far
can do nothing now but pray.

Let us put your three children
and my two children,
ages ranging from eleven to twenty-one,
and send them in a large air net up to God,
with many stamps, real air mail,
and huge signs attached:
SPECIAL HANDLING.
DO NOT STAPLE, FOLD OR MUTILATE!
And perhaps He will notice
and pass a psalm over them
for keeping safe for a whole,
for a whole God-damned life-span.

And not even a muddled angel will
peek down at us in our foxhole.
And He will not have time
to send down an eyedropper of prayer for us,
the mothering thing of us,
as we drip into the soup
and drown
in the worry festering inside us,
lest our children
go so fast
they go.

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Over 9000!

This blog has officially hit over 9000 hits today, and by the time I finish writing this post will probably have received 10,000.

I would like to specifically thank the posters of 4chan.org, the Men’s Rights reddit section, and innumerable Facebook users.

Do I get to be a meme now?

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