Learning from 2015

Ok, this is going to be a long one. In this post I’m going to go over a LOT of the different topics and ideas I had thought about over the course of 2015 and wanted to post about but could never find the time or motivation. A lot of them I feel very strongly about but the thought of having to reiterate arguments many other people are making (and have made and will continue to make) left me exasperated. This may be my only post this year, it may not, but I wanted to at last commit these ideas to digital paper, as it were, and ensure that they were put out there. I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days and the character limit there makes it very hard to sufficiently expand upon any one point during a given discussion. The platform seems to engender, in others, at least, the desire to fire out as many discrete points as possible as opposed to making one solid and defensible claim and arguing that point back and forth. Anyway.

  • Stop misgendering people. Just stop it. Don’t make excuses, don’t say anything else, just stop it.
  • Respect people’s preferred pronouns. If you are unsure what they are: ASK the person.
  • Nonbinary people are valid. They exist, they are real and their gender and identity is valid.
  • Bisexual people are bisexual. They’re not sometimes straight, sometimes gay, they are bisexual. Understand this. Accept this.
    • Sexual orientation is a spectrum and can be fluid but a bisexual person is bisexual even if they have only had relationships/relations with one gender.
  • Feminism is not about men’s rights. Feminism is about striving for women to be equal to men in all appropriate regards. Men’s issues or inequalities do not invalidate feminism.
  • Feminism will, however, positively affect men’s rights. In an ideal world, at least. When people can remove a person’s gender from an issue those inequalities should become less prevalent.
  • Genital mutilation of anyone of any gender who cannot consent where not medically necessary is a horrific abuse of bodily integrity. To be clear, this includes male circumcision of infants.
  • Male circumcision is proven to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates [Ref] but its use as a strategy to fight HIV/AIDS in epidemic regions doesn’t undo the abuse of bodily integrity.
  • If you want to fight for men’s rights and highlight inequalities faced by men, attacking people, slandering them, throwing slurs and doxxing is NOT an effective strategy.
  • If you are Pro-Life the most effective thing you can do to reduce the numbers of abortions being pursued by Irish women is to promote #BetterSexEd
    • In statistics from 1996, Netherlands and Belgium had the lowest abortion rates internationally [Ref pg.27] and this is in large part due to their comprehensive Sex Education ethos [Ref]
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it does not define at what point an embryo/fetus becomes a “child”
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it only states “the child…needs…appropriate legal protection before…birth
  • Fighting human trafficking and sex trafficking by criminalising Sex Workers and/or their customers and the rights of everyone involved is NOT a proven effective strategy.
    • Men who buy sex and thereby create the demand that fuels trafficking have stated that greater criminal penalties, having their name publicized and having a letter sent home stating that they were arrested for buying sex would deter them from buying sex.[Ref]
    • The argument here is that men create the demand for sex work which fuels trafficking. So, instead of tackling the trafficking, we are instead making something more illegal than it otherwise would be, in order to attack a different crime. I can see how anything that reduces trafficking levels could be seen as a good policy but the reality of the situation is no matter how harsh the criminal penalties are, the demand will be reduced yes, but not eliminated. The groups and individuals who make money from human trafficking and sex trafficking may make less money, but so long as there is profit to be made from whatever demand is available this human rights abuse will continue largely unabated. Without any statistics or models to show how much demand can and will be reduced by, determining how much profit is made by these groups, factoring in the costs to these people of trafficking people it is largely impossible, I believe, to determine whether this policy will actually result in reduced trafficking of people for sex or other purposes.
    • Furthermore, Sex Workers come in many different forms and not all of them are trafficked individuals. While it’s unclear what actual effects this kind of policy will have on trafficking, it is very clear just how detrimental an effect it will have on people who are Sex Workers either by choice, by economic circumstance or other reason. It will rob them of access to proper resources for health, safety, finances, shelter and, ultimately, their life and livelihood. Because the demand will not completely disappear and because these people will still need to pay their bills, feed themselves and any dependants they may have they will be forced to operate in extremely unsafe conditions where they are in fact putting themselves at risk of being trafficked for sex.
    • Please also bear in mind that the Nordic Model uses Sweden as a litmus test for the effects on trafficking however the Swedish Ministry of Justice itself, in reviewing what effect their policies had, if any, “[acknowledged] the limitations in determining the prevalence of illegal activities[Ref]. They still said they were confident that their policies made a difference but were limited in actually determining what levels of these activities were going on. That is hugely problematic and should not be ignored.
  • Toxic masculinity genuinely affects men in an adverse manner and contributes to the abuses and inequalities they suffer.
  • Rape culture exists in a society where a claim of rape or sexual assault is met with comments of “he/she deserved it”, “just trying to ruin his/her life”, “that wasn’t rape”…
  • Rape culture affects both men and women. Your denial of rape culture hurts both men and women.
  • One feminist saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of feminism complicit and culpable in that persons abuses. Likewise one MRA saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of Men’s Rights complicit and culpable in that persons abuses.
  • No matter who or what you disagree with, no matter how fiercely you hold your position, your strongest, most effective weapons are 1) Rational Discourse 2) Evidence 3) Arguing the point, not the person and resisting any and all urges to Argumentum Ad Hominem.
  • If someone is slinging shit at you in a discussion you do not win by slinging shit back. You win by successfully articulating and defending your position. Anything else is probably a waste of your time.
    • Some people with a probable MRA connection have told me that they throw shit at feminists online because some people with a probable feminism connection threw shit at them. What, are you 4 years old? If you want to further your cause in an effective manner, wasting your time trading Ad Hominems back and forth is a waste of everyone’s time and it only serves to fuel any potential backlash from others who are more than happy to waste their time throwing shit instead of furthering their own cause. It doesn’t matter who started it, be mature enough to cut it out anyway.
  • No matter what anyone else writes or says or does, make up your own mind. Articulate and defend your position. Question and reinforce your position.
  • DO NOT provide sources/data in support of a particular claim/position you are making if the sources/data do not conclusively support your claim/position.
    • For example, if you provide a graph that shows that the number of male suicides in a given date range increases while government spending in prostate cancer research goes down over the same date range while government spending on breast cancer research goes up over the same date range you CANNOT use this to prove a claim like “feminism is killing men”. The reason for this is because you are not actually doing proper science or statistical analysis. Your data could be used to support ANY number of claims because there are too many other factors involved. “Feminism” is far too vague as a factor. The graph does not provide statistics on government spending on mental health, which could be a far greater factor than “feminism”, it does not include statistics on private funding for the different research areas, it does not show statistics on female suicide rates which could show instead “feminism” is killing both men and women however this still too vague as a factor. I could go on but I won’t. This is bad science, bad statistical analysis and bad logic. Don’t do it. Correlation does not equal causation.

Incest – A Rational Look

DISCLAIMER: This is a long post, and it is a serious discussion of a serious moral topic. If you do not have the time or the demeanour to read the entire thing with at least some semblance of an open mind I highly recommend you do not read any further. Incest is a topic which can be very divisive and it seemingly turns rational people into irrational jerks rather quickly, so again, if you are not interested in the ethical implications of incest I recommend you do not read any further.

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F**k your Honda Civic, There’s a Point Being Made

The Rubberbandits are a comedy hip-hop group based in Limerick. The duo have been around for the past few years and started their artistic career primarily with prank phone calls they recorded and released on homemade CDs. They garnered quite a sizeable underground following, primarily among teenagers and when they started doing live shows with their own songs those same underground fans turned more mainstream until the ‘Bandits found themselves playing Electric Picnic, a large, annual Irish music festival. Not only that, they have also landed themselves a regular appearance on Republic of Telly, a comedy popular media show, somewhat in the vein on The Daily Show, which focuses on humourous clips from both Irish and International television media.

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Not Just Fashion Police…

…more like Fashion Nazis. A 14-year old school girl was recently threatened with expulsion for wearing a skirt 2inches shorter than the guidelines.

Follow the link and you will see a completely acceptable length of skirt for a school uniform. It’s not scandalous, it’s not baring flesh, it’s not indecent and to claim anything to the contrary is plain ridiculous.

It’s important to understand we’re talking about a school who, as mentioned in the above link, “annoyed parents by banning tight trousers as they were ‘too sexy’.” Too sexy…? For who…? Whose standards are we trying to conform to? I understand that parents may be focused on combating the blatant sexualisation of young, especially female, teenagers which seems to be a modern theme around the world, but this kind of blind adherence to what are, after all, only guidelines speaking to a much deeper, perverse motivation.

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Ours is not the skin in question…

…but that of the abuse victims.

Clearly ignorant of the facts, Damian Thompson has this to say:

Pope Benedict has had to endure the lying sneers of smug celebs and secular humanists who accuse him of covering up child rape – he did no such thing, ever

Ahem, actually, he did. He was complicit in the prevention of cases of child abuse and rape being reported to the secular authorities. He had a direct hand in moving ‘trouble’ priests to different parishes instead of addressing their clearly disturbed tendencies. His was the office to which claims of abuse came, his was the signature that went out on official Vatican documents about these issues.

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Pornography Is Not The Problem


The above link is an article entitled “Irish Prostitutes report rampant violence against them”.

While I am a staunch believer in the rights of women not to be treated like pieces of meat and objectified, and I feel deeply for the women reporting such violence and acts of sheer mindless idiots, I have to object to some points that are made in this article.

First and foremost, we have the claim from Ellen O’Malley Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre that these situations of “rampant violence” and situations such as “groups of twos and threes [egging] each other on for more aggressive and violent acts” is because:

“the increased aggression amongst the clients has to do with the universal availability of pornography… It’s the desensitization that goes on…”

The author then goes on to substantiate these claims with evidence of how this is so refrains from giving any evidence to support this. It’s a common argument among the lay person that violent sexual acts are the result of people being exposed to pornography. I can stand testament to the fact that this is total crap. I’ve seen some rather vicious sexual acts carried out in pornography, such as gagging, punching, choking etc… and NONE of these things are acts that I would be comfortable with doing even with my closest sexual partner.

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Video Games, Censorship and Free Speech

So, CNN has decided to dig up a 4-year old video game to stir up some controversy here. I’m admittedly delayed in commenting on this myself, but it takes some time to get thoughts in a coherent sequence before bombarding you with them. Anyhow. Despite the fact that they simply seem to be stirring things in the name of video games censorship, this has hit close to home for me as I’m an avid promoter of free speech and a minimal, almost non-existant level of censorship of all kinds. I’ll be moving on to the inherent morality (or lack thereof) of committing virtual crimes later on in this post, along with a slightly related issue of Iceland’s recent enactment of a ban on all strip clubs in the country, but first I’d like to deal with both the issue of censorship and what could be called “reasonable content.”

Before that though, a little information: the game RapeLay and other “rape” genre games are generally Adventure style games where you progress through the game based on dialogue-based interactions or click-based actions. Anyone familiar with the Lesuire Suit Larry games will understand the basic premise of these games. These “rape” style games however generally focus on the protagonist forcing sex upon unwilling females as part of the central gameplay. The featured game in CNN’s “exposĂ©” has the player molesting a girl waiting for the subway, and then moving to abuse a mother and daughter on the train.

So, what is censorship and why do we need it? Well, censorship is bascially someone (or some group) saying “No. We don’t like this. Get rid of it. It should be destroyed and kept from public eyes.” Now, people get very vocal about censorship when it comes to issues of free speech and protecting minors from inappropriate content, but this does not justify censorship. There is no good reason for anyone to censor anything. Governments should not keep secrets, and people should be allowed to say what they want, whenever they want, as long as they can back them up in the event of a disagreement. It should also be possible for anyone to express ANY idea they have in any form and have it be accepted as part of their right to free speech. The problem, however, comes when people use this right of theirs to create or say things that can upset some people. Nowhere is this issue more hotly debated than in the world of religion where Muslims are fiercely campaining for the right to behead (I’m sure this is their end goal) anyone who insults their religion, whether by questioning it, denying it, disbelieving or outright denouncing it. They are trying to censor any voice or thought or person who would dare try to contradict their cherished beliefs. Thankfully, in the civilised, developed world, this is far from the reality of life. Critical discourse is a part of our daily interactions. But the same kind of outrage is found in issues of sexual matters. Many, many people are convinved that pornography is disgusting and should be banned from sale. These people find these materials offensive or disgusting and so they want to censor them. But do they have the right to do this? Does anyone genuinely have the right to actively campaign for the removal of something that upsets them…? I find organised religion offensive and deeply upsetting, but do I have the right to censor it? No.

Taking a slightly different tack, many people are against pornography, or other issues, because they feel that there is a side to the issue that is grossly detrimental to the people involved, e.g. many thousands of women each year are forced into the sex trade industry or pornography industry by criminals and are horrifically abused. As such, many people feel censoring pornography would be a good measure to prevent this kind of issue from happening. Well, it’s a nice thought, but censorship does not work. Even worse though, is that in this situation, repressing these industries simply pushes them underground and forces them to work illegally increasing the numbers who are forced and abused. I spoke about this here in response to A.C. Grayling’s fantastic piece on these issues.

So, it would seem that while people are allowed to say “I find that offensive,” in reality, it’s not within their purview to actually censor that kind of material. However, while someone could, for example, publicly write a blog post or a letter about how they would go about stalking and raping a celebrity from a british pop group, and people all over the world are shocked and appalled, it’s not within anyone’s right to say that this person was not allowed to write these things. If they had been presented as an imminent threat directed at the pop singer, then the authorities could have gotten involved and his writings would be treated as threatening material, however, unless that is proven, while tasteless, disturbing and disgusting, these things should not be censored. If you allowed them to be censored, based on the fact that some people found them to be offensive and disturbing, then you would allow the censorship of all western media that features women clothed in anything less than a full burka as the whole Muslim world would cry out that they find this offensive and so we would have to, by virtue of our logical stance on censorship based on allowing censorship of the previous kind, capitulate. However, we could counter claim that our sensibilities are offended by the stifling nature of the burka and the Muslim attitude towards women and women’s rights and so we would justified in censoring any kind of Muslim material or media. This is not how to be a moral and productive society. This is why we do NOT need censorship.

If you wish to argue that censorship is required in cases of libel or slander then I need to remind you that if we invoke censorship, we, by proxy, increase the scope of libel and slander litigation by creating a reality where we can complain about our sensibilities being offended and thereby involve the courts in our complaints and this is not a good idea. Libel laws are there to protect the rights of people against comments being made that may adversely affect them. It is not right for someone to knowingly make false claims against someone or some group that adversely affect, but they have the right to make these comments if they so wish. They will however have to suffer the backlash of litigation from these comments.

I think a policy of saying “yes, you can do this, or say that, but you need to understand the consequences of doing so.” You can murder someone, but we will take 20 years of your life for that. You can slander someone, but they will sue you for it. You can rape women in video games, but you cannot do it in the real world. This kind of attitude is the healthy one.

Now, while it may disturb some people that Japanese gamers and game makers have an economic interchange based on games featuring the rape and humiliation of women as it’s focal point, you cannot censor this. It may offend you, but it is not harming anyone. No one is actually being raped. The people buying the games are contributing to their economy as is the company who profits from the pruchases and is employing people within that country. The people playing the games clearly get some sort of enjoyment out of the games, and unless these people go on to be rapists or molestors, you cannot make any claims on or against their enjoyment of such virutal activities. None of this deserves censorship.

As far as the actual content of the game (and others of its ilk) goes, a lot of the controversy surrounding this issue stems, rightly so, from the objectification of women and the normalisation of sex crimes, however I need to strongly interject here.

First of all, the unspoken subtext here is the inference that video games are damaging. One only needs to recall the furore over the Grand Theft Auto games to remember how many “concerned parents” chimed in to complain that these kind of games would clearly make their children want to go out into the streets to sell drugs and shoot people randomly like they can in the games. This kind of thing is similar to claiming that because they listened to Marilyn Manson or Rammstein that the architects of various school shootings by unstable teenagers over the last decade or so were driven to these acts by the “violent music.” Not only is this complete bollox, but it’s dangerously deceptive bollox. It’s quite a captavating idea to think “ok, yeah, if people enjoy virtual murder, they would probably want to go do the real thing” but it would be wrong to think this way. I personally enjoy the precision aiming required in certain first-person shooters that allows one to fire a bullet through a virtual enemy’s cranium in an artisticly stylish way. It requires a certain level of dexterity and good hand-eye coordination, but that in no way implies that I would enjoy propelling a bullet into a real human skull (although the Pope is dangerously close to exciting that kind of tendancy these days!). In every case of school shooting or sexual abuse you do not have a video game or piece of music compelling people to commit these acts. You have a person with a serious psychological imbalance who feels that either these actions are their only resort against a world that doesn’t care or that they are the best way that person knows to feel fulfilment, happiness and love. A lot of Catholic Priests could certainly testify to that fact.

Secondly, and this is where I will digress for a bit, I have to object to the issue of objectifying women and “normalising” sex crimes. You may (if you clicked the link above) or may not have heard about Iceland enacting a ban that will make it illegal for Strip Clubs to profit from the nudity of their employees, thereby forcing them to shut down. Many people are calling this a victory for feminism, but I call this a victory for idiocy. The next thing we are going to be doing is banning people from going nude on the beach, or from making and selling pornography, even from the comfort of your own home. I can totally accept and agree with the point that the sex trade industry as a whole has a deep, dark, seedy underbelly that causes hundreds upon thousands of women and girls per year all across the world to be subjected to humiliating and illegal sexual acts against their will and that this black side to the industry has connections all across the drug trade and people trafficking trade. I must point out however, that banning legal Strip Clubs only makes things more profitable for the illegal sex traffickers as their market has just been blown wide open, but my main point is that it should be inherently wrong for the government of any country to say that if women (or men) wish to willingly disrobe for the pleasure of others (and themselves one would hope) and to be paid for this in a respectful and safe environment, this will be considered illegal and not allowed. If I invite consenting people of-age to my house, disrobe and dance for them, and ask a charge in return, which they are willing to pay, am I doing anything illegal? No. Am I doing anything immoral? No. But if you formalise this kind of interaction in the form of a business and women happen to be the main market desire (as opposed to overweight irish men) it somehow becomes illegal and denegrating? I don’t buy it. Feminism is about protecting the rights of women in a historically patriarchical world, but closing Strip Clubs does nothing to stop the objectification of women. Not only does censorship of sexual issues not work, it has classically been shown to make things even worse.

As for how these games are objectifying women and normalising sex crimes, I don’t think that they are. Japanese culture has long been enamoured by virtual (cartoons are virtual representations too) representations of forced sexual acts upon girls and women in the culture known as Hentai, but this is not due to an objectification of women or a normalisation of sex crimes. Look at the level of rape crime in Japan compared to the rest of the world (and factor in the issues of culture and false reporting). It follows rather obviously that a society that is open to sexual fantasies of all kinds, even ones that would be illegal if carried out, are the ones where sexual crimes are going to be at their lowest. Any society that supresses the natural human desire for sexual enjoyment is one doomed to suffer from sexual predators. The parallel between the Strip Club issue and the claim of “objectifying” women is distinct, but the issue is misguided. Feminists would have us say that women in the porn industry or in the business of exotic dancing are being forced into this work and while this may certainly be true in certain circumstances, most women enter these fields willingly and enjoy their work. Stories like this are tragic, and they enrage me to the core, but it does not take away from the fact that there are also stories like this which features the almost obessive enjoyment which Sasha Grey derives from her work. And anyone who has seen any of her work knows that she does some extreme pornography. And yet she loves it. One clearly cannot be justified in saying that women stripping and dancing for others is because men (and society at large) view women as sexual objects. The people who view women as sexual objects don’t go to Strip Clubs and behave themselves. They rape their wives and girlfriends.

Playing a video game that allows you to rape women does not tell you it is okay to do so. It merely represents it as a means to an end in a reward-based system. The real world is not like this, and society tells us that rape is both illegal and immoral. (As does common sense, but that’s hardly reliable now is it?) So, where’s the problem? Do people who play violent video games think based on their experience while playing these games that that makes it ok for them to do these things in the real world? No. Not most properly functioning people anyway. If this was the case, then anyone who has been reading fiction novels from anywhere in the past 200 years has been exposed to brutal scenes of violent and gore to rival any Grand Theft Auto game. Murder and violence has long been a crucial element in story-telling, but none of this points to an increased tendency towards violent and/or criminal acts based solely on reading a few James Patterson novels about a serial killer. And so it is with video games. Those of us able to draw the distinction between fantasy and the real world are in absolutely no danger of attempting to molest or rape women as they wait for the train.

It has to be a case of saying to people “you can play this game where you rape and torture people all you want, but you have to understand that if you feel the overwhelming desire to commit these acts in the real world, you are exhibiting psychological dysfunction and will be deemed a danger to those around you and we will actively prevent you from harming people.” It’s a clichĂ©d point, but the ball really is in the concerned parents court to say “yes, Call of Duty is fun, but I will paddle you senseless if you even think for a second that it would be fun in the real world.”

We live in a world where thought is not controlled, speech is not constrained and the possiblities are endless, but we all need to be realistic about what is acceptable behaviour in the real world. Doing, thinking or saying anything that does not hurt anyone else is acceptable behaviour. Constraining what we can do, say or think is not acceptable.