Saturday, January 04, 2003

Here's an email I just sent to a blight on humanity who goes by the name of Ben Shapiro. I had only vaguely found his name familiar, but as I was procrastinating to avoid cleaning my apartment before my sublessor comes back on Tuesday, I found out who he was from Roger Ailes. Here's the original article about the German guy who wanted to pay a woman to kill him with sex. Here's Ben Shapiro's offending blog post, which I also quote in full at the end of the letter.

I am going to attempt to restrain myself from calling you, say, a sexist little prick, because I do believe in maintaining a civil discourse, but it's going to be damn hard. The post I'm responding to is quoted in full below. How does that story "point[] out the state of modern womanhood"? It offered NO instances of ANY female takers on that guy's offer. There was NO evidence in that article that Eden did "know what women want." Now, I'm not saying it's inconceivable that there would be takers (though they'd have to be pretty dumb, since their money would be contingent upon him dying), but the fact that you read a story that only discussed the tasteless solicitation of one man and found in it some kind of comment on the state of womanhood in general reflects very poorly on the clarity of your lens on womanhood. If someone offers me $1000 on the street to come back to his apartment with him, which has happened to me, is that a blemish on my integrity? Or, since you seem much more sensitive to anti-Semitism than sexism, here's an analogy: A news item anonymously describes a poor man who is desperate for a loan so he can buy a propitiously cheap supply of cocaine and sell it at great profit. No legitimate institution will give him money because he has no collateral, but the man is quoted saying that he thinks he can get the money privately from a Jew, since a Jew would have no scruples about the ultimate purpose of the money, and with his windfall from the cocaine he would be able to afford even the Jew's usurious rates. A gentile reads this article and says, "Well that man is a pig, but that's a sad comment on the state of modern Jewry. In fact, it reminds me of a joke I once heard: [insert standard-issue "Jews are out to take your money" joke]." That gentile's sentiments would be pretty repugnant, wouldn't they? Congratulations, that's you.

Further, people who make comments in the all-women-are-whores vein (and yes, that is what you implied by generalizing about "the state of modern womanhood") run the risk of being perceived according to the popular (and probably largely accurate) stereotype of people who make these comments: that they are bitter little boys (in literal age or in spirit--perhaps, in your case, both) who can't get any and feel rejected and emasculated by women. Dewy-cheeked as you look in your photo, far be it from me to speculate about your personal life; I know nothing about it. But if you are the frustrated, angry little virgin* your remarks suggest that you might be, here's some advice from someone who, while she doesn't claim to represent all women, is still by virtue of actually being one a little bit better qualified than either you or Eden to speak to "what women want": women want men who are not misogynistic assholes, who treat them with respect, and who can refrain from spinning news articles about one man's crass solicitation into slurs against womanhood as a whole. If you keep this in mind, you might improve your luck (whatever the current state of that luck might be) with the ladies.

I will post this letter in its entirety on my my blog:


Katie S-------

*For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with being a virgin, either by choice or because it just hasn't happened yet. It's when people let their sexual frustration become openly expressed contempt for another gender that I have a problem.

Taking advantage of human nature

Now here's a bright entrepreneur who knows what women want. Rolf Eden, a Berlin playboy, 72, is offering $125,000 to any woman who will kill him while having sex. Talk about politically incorrect! Check out his comment on feminists: "If they're outraged, the leader, if she's young and beautiful, she should come here and I'll change her mind very fast."

No question, this guy is a pig, but this story really points out the state of modern womanhood. It brings to mind the old joke about a man who meets a high-society woman at a social event.

"Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?" he asks the woman.
She smiles and replies, "Sure!"
"How about for $10?" he says.
She is indignant. "How could you say such a thing?"
"Well," he states, "we've already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over the price."

Friday, January 03, 2003

Look, I started a blogroll. No, it's not done. And yeah, Rittenhouse Review's on there twice (but his is the only blogroll I'm on so maybe it's a fitting homage). And no, it's not formatted the way the other lists are. But I don't want to fix any of that right now. A half hour at a time is all the attention this kind of stuff deserves. I'm going to go practice my cello.
Hmm...I always feel miserable at protests. Even if I essentially agree with the cause, I wind up feeling alienated form the group because I don't really like chanting in unison, I get worried that my presence is an endorsement of whomever winds up on the podium, I'm frustrated by the lack of intelligent voices, I'm cranky and overstimulated by all the noise and activity around me, I have social anxieties about everyone in the world being able to function well as part of a group except for me...the list goes on. I've experienced the collective high that comes from a great dance floor, but to me, a celebration of movement and physicality is much better suited to mass expression than political speech. For that matter, there's a lot more room for individual variation in dancing than at a protest; you move the way you want to and draw energy from the people around you, but at a protest you're all supposed to chant the same thing. Of course, you can have conversations with your friends and paint your own signs, but I still feel like my ability to say what I want to say is impeded by the preordained message of the protest.

Sometimes, though, they can just be silly. A friend of mine told me once about going to a Mumia protest at which these two boys, Corey and Gabe, made up chants like "Even though he's anti-gay, free Mumia anyway!" and "Yuppies for Mumia! Sponsored by Ikea!" I still laugh whenever I think about that. I guess that's an example of individuality at a protest. Maybe I just get too overwhelmed by the collective to be able to muster that kind of goofy ironic distance.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

A debate about porn:

Ampersand starts it off.

Carol Avedon [ugh, dyslexic much? Avedon Carol]responds.

Ampersand fires back.

More from Avedon Carol.

And more from Ampersand.

Some of my thoughts: I was a hard line free speech absolutist on the subject of porn until my junior year in college, when I took my first social psychology class (a subject I adored, and would like to integrate into my anticipated Clinical Psyc PhD. I couldn't do only social though, because I don't want to spend my life doing only research). Then I read about numerous studies that quite convincingly demonstrated that subjects will imitate and reenact forms of violence that are modeled for them, including violence in videos. It just wasn't that far of a leap to see how watching videos of women being hurt would model specific sexually violent behavior for men. Maybe the people who go out and commit acts of sexual violence aren't created out of whole cloth by porn, but there was just too much evidence before me to say that it didn't seem likely to me that porn would spur them on by providing the model. I'm not talking about porn that is merely "exploitative;" hell, I used to read Playboy when my father had a subscription, both for the pictures and for the articles, but porn that depicts sexually gratifying violence against women. Social psyc studies have also shown that porn increases acceptance of one of the rape myths: that women want to be raped, and (no I can't link to any of these studies, but I remember them all from my undergrad days) acceptance of rape myths is an excellent predictor of who will become a rapist. Upon being faced with this information, I had to wonder: is the free speech imperative really greater than society's need to protect itself from sexual violence, especially if the "speech" in question has no value other than as inducement to orgasm? I still don't believe that any kind of art or political speech should ever be banned, but I think that porn is fundamentally different from art or political speech in ways that are clearly demonstrable; porn exists only to be sexually arousing; it has no content; it seeks to produce nothing in the viewer except erection (penile or clitoral...) and orgasm. As soon as the line gets ambiguous and some work might be both sexually arousing and have artistic or political content, I would say hands off. Now, I understand that the "who decides" question makes the whole issue rather sticky; I certainly don't want a bunch of Christian theocrats making determinations for me about what and what isn't porn--would that mean I couldn't see Boys Don't Cry? Probably. It may be that as a practical matter ceding any kind of right to censorship to the culture warriors would be disastrous, and that in practice I'll mantain my free speech absolutism. I'm mostly speaking, well, not exactly abstractly...I'm just trying to argue that there is a difference between porn and the kind of expression that should remain absolutely unabrogated, and that rational people can discern that difference and make logical arguments to support it. I'm further arguing that it's highly possible that violent porn does contribute to violence against women, and that should that be substantiated beyond doubt, society's interest in preventing violence would be greater than any free speech rights of porn empresarios. Even if there would be no practical way ever to regulate porn without putting other kinds of speech in danger, it doesn't mean violent porn has a "right" to exist; it just manages to squeeze through the cracks of an open society, sort of like the ten guilty men who go free so that one innocent man is not unjustly punished.

I totally agreed with Avedon Carol, however, in the argument that no fantasy, no matter how kinky or violent, can truly be "offensive" without the intent to follow through on it. People's fantasy life and people's actions are two very different things, and I think just about everyone can testify to the experience of thinking all kinds of crazy shit just before you're about to orgasm that seems preposterous and totally undesirable the instant after you have. I'm a woman who has lots of sub fantasies, including rape fantasies, but, uh, memo to the world, it doesn't mean I want to be raped. I'm comfortable with having a fantasy life that includes a lot of things that I wouldn't really want to experience; my ideal partner would be willing to explore some of those fantasies with me. (I once got tied up; not my idea. Verdict: totally silly and not a turn on because I just couldn't get into the right mindset; I was all too aware that I'd had to just lie there for about ten minutes rolling my eyes while I got affixed to the bedposts with, of all things, a necktie and a bathrobe belt which I could have easily wriggled out of if I wanted to. I couldn't suspend my disbelief. On the other hand, with the same ex I once played a very simple I don't want to; you want me to role playing game. That was hot for both of us. Of course, it was pretend. I've never found any kind of sexual encounter in which I in fact wasn't willing or interested to be a turn on at all, quite the opposite.) Relatively liberal people can get pretty judgemental about what is or isn't an okay fantasy to have. During the conversation I was having with my mom about rape, when I first brought up the letter to Dan Savage and I started my sentence, "This guy was masturbating and came on her stomach," and she immediately responded, "Gross," before I even got to the part about it being nonconsensual. "That's not what's gross," I said, and then went on to explain. "I don't think there's anything particularly gross about men coming on women's stomachs when the women want them to." My mom said that she thought that all of that men masturbating on to women stuff was degrading. I ventured into my mother's "I don't want to hear about it" waters and said, "I've been in that situation; I haven't found it degrading."

On the other hand, I think Carol gets a little disingenuous when she (wait, do I know she's a woman?) starts conflating the inability to know in advance which fantasies are offensive (by virtue of their genuine hostility or contempt for a gender or the intent to carry the fantasy out (huh, it seems I'm contradicting myself because I said above the only way a fantasy could be offensive was through the intent to carry it out. Oh well, consistency is the hobgoblin...etc. etc.)) and the actual non existence of a distinction between fantasies which only exist in a playful realm of thought transgression and fantasies which are reflective of real world attitudes and actions. It's not dissimilar to the disingenuousness of people who say that the practical difficulties of drawing lines between porn and speech with content is the exact same thing as the non existence of a difference. And I think I just found a way to resolve my inconsistency. A disturbing fantasy can be offensive both if it is a precursor or indication of an intent to carry it out, and "it" is an act of violence against a nonconsenting party (I want to rape the 14 year old next door and tomorrow I'm going to), or if it is a reflection and outgrowth of real world hostility and contempt for a person or group of people (I think black women are bitches and hos, and not only do I fantasize about making them suck my dick, but I walk by them on the street and say, "You wanna suck my dick, brown sugar?" or whatever).

It might seem that there's a larger inconsistency: I'm saying that I can accept that there can be violent fantasies that are not offensive because they truly belong to a make believe realm, yet I attempted above to provide at least a theoretical justification for banning porn that illustrates those fantasies. Uh, yeah. Here's how I justify myself: fantasies in your head, no problem. Expressing those fantasies in diaries, pictures you draw or take, your own home movies, no problem. But the commercial production of those fantasies to model those behaviors to others is a problem, because while self expression poses no dangers of modeling violent behavior and placing it in an acceptable light, distributing those fantasies for consumption by others does. Call me inconsistent. If you have any big disagreements, I'd welcome a comment, hint, hint.
I liked this column about cloning. I don't have firm opinions on the matter, but I do think that when people start waving around the words "unethical" or "wrong," they ought to be able to defend those statements in some matter other than with the statement "God doesn't want us to." I'm not saying I don't experience a little shudder when I think of a duplicate me running around, but if I'm going to make that shudder law than I have to have some reason behind it besides, "ick." That's essentially what motivates anti-sodomy laws, and I certainly don't support those.

I would worry about some dystopian scenario in which certain kinds of bodies would be so enthusiastically pursued that it would endanger the genetic diversity and resistance to disease of the species.
Mother: You've lost weight.
Daughter: A) No I haven't. B) I don't want to hear about it.
Mother: I know you don't want to hear about it, but, really, you're the thinnest you were since that summer when you were exercising compulsively and taking all the diet pills.
Daughter: Uh, glad to hear it. I'm definitely no thinner than I was when I had mono.
Mother: Well, I didn't see you then.
Another Crusade:

My fellow New Yorkers,

Car alarms make New York a worse place to live. Armed with these devices, anxious car owners spread their anxiety throughout the population, rousing sleepers, disturbing readers, interrupting conversations, and sending disgusted citizens to the suburbs. And yet, despite the sound and fury, car alarms do nothing whatever to prevent car theft. Nothing.

What are we going to do about it?

The only solution, I think, is to ban audible car alarms completely. Though laws exist to regulate these alarms, they are sadly unenforceable and ineffective, and must be changed. To this end, I have decided to start an anti-car alarm advocacy group in New York City. I have no political experience, but I am completely committed to this project, and will work until the alarms are gone. I hope you will join me.

If you possibly can, please come to the first meeting next week, at 7 PM on Thursday, January 9th at my apartment (directions below). We can review the evidence, discuss strategies, find a name for the group, and anything else you'd like. A local community board member will present his proposal for banning alarms, and I have invited a professor who studies car theft to present his research. Otherwise, the floor will be open for your ideas and comments. I will provide beer and pretzels -- feel free to bring real food or more sophisticated adult beverages, as you'd like.

I hope you can come to the meeting, but either way, please spread the word! I know there are thousands of people seething over car alarms in this city, complaining to their neighbors or throwing eggs out their windows, but having no long-lasting effect. Perhaps, as a united force, we could actually improve this city. It's worth a shot.

Sincerely yours,

Aaron Friedman


Take the "A" train uptown to 190th Street. Walk out the long tunnel
and turn left. The street curves, reaching the intersection of
Broadway, Nagle, and Hillside after one block. My building is on the
North-East corner, 10 Hillside Ave #4P. I know that my apartment is
pretty far uptown, but future meetings could be in a more central
location. If you get lost, call me at 917-513-8788.

I saw my appearance on Strictly Personal. My rating:

Personality: 10
Looks: 3

I don’t mean that to be applicable to me in real life, just to my appearance on the TV show. I think I seemed like a cute, funny person, and I totally seemed myself, not some stupid and shallow reality TV monster the Frankenstein editors at the Metro Channel spliced together from elements of my self presentation. They were even mostly respectful of my instincts about what should be included; they didn’t include any of the more sexual stuff they cajoled me into saying, although I did only play my cello for them on the condition that I could have a couple of takes to get it right, and then they used my first take and showed me giggling about how I had made a mistake. But it was a terrible hair day, and I don’t think I looked good on camera. Whenever someone, male or female, utters the men-don't-care-about-hair canard, I always launch into an impassioned soliloquy about how even if men say they don't care about hair, hair affects the gestalt of a woman's appearance in ways men totally notice, and I think my opinion is well supported by my appearance on Strictly Personal. I should have had Caroline come and watch and warn me whenever my hair was getting droopy so I could go brush and fluff. I looked fine in the scene when I was trying on hats, though.