Friday, June 30, 2006


From the comments section at this Shakespeare's Sister post, wherein the variety of icky implications of the whole Rush Limbleargh being caught coming from the Dominican Republic with verboten Viagra, a commenter with the wonderful handle of One Angry Broad says this:

I'm beginning to believe that all this sexual repression makes people mean and crazy.And it's bound to come out in ways that are mean and crazy.We're all sexual beings,denying that is to deny your Self,which is never healthy.

I also get the impression that alot of these guys(and the women who love and defend them)are still suffering from someone either abusing the hell out of them or picking on them relentlessly as children.And now we all must pay for that,even if it means destroying the country to do it.

It's the old"if I can't have her,even though I hate her,no one can have her"crap applied to the entire country.It's a side effect of really nasty abuse.

Sums it up nicely, don't you think?

Oh, I'm not saying "all reactionary Republican male swine need is a good lay," mind.

Or even that the floods of "bodies are icky, yes especially female bodies, but yours is nasty too, and sex is dangerous and disgusting" messages that they were undoubtedly saturated with in their tender youths (why else would they be attempting to inflict them on everybody else?) are the sole cause of their supreme all-round fucked-uppedness.

But, damn: it sure doesn't seem to have helped much, does it?

And speaking of feeling not-so-fresh...

Thanks to Kyso at Punkass Blog for this piece from a favorite website of mine, complete with astute, sensitive analysis of the rich metaphors within.

Can you picture this “Secret Garden” with me? Do you know the name of the garden? Ladies, the garden is you! Little girls, the garden is you! Your name is inscribed on that strong door in bright, golden letters. You are “The Secret Garden!”

OMGWTF! I was the secret garden the whole time! I get it now! By GARDEN, Jennie meant VAGINA! Oooooohhhhhhh! That was pretty clever, I think. Now, I can “prune the trees to perfection” and “sweep the walks” if you know what I mean (and I know you do!) but I’m not sure I can fit a bubbling brook and climbing roses into my vagina, and it doesn’t really have a wall around it. So how can I tease men passing by if they can’t hear the brook or see a wall?

And that brings me back to our Secret Garden. Ladies, do you know what the wall is that surrounds your garden? It isn’t a prison wall. It isn’t a fortress. It isn’t an ugly wall. The wall is modesty.


So now we know. It's not douche; it's FERTILIZER.

Strange bedfellows

This is for the people who are positive that there is no real overlap between feminist anti-porn activism and the religious right crusades, okay.

Here is a roundup on some anti-Playboy activism as detailed by the website "I'm Not A Feminist, But..." Mostly it is talking about the work of a group called Sheffield Fems.

The group produced a leaflet which highlighted the fact that the Playboy bunny is a symbol of pornography, and that this symbol is used to glamorise pornography and to sexualise young girls by linking them with an industry which is based on the degradation and sexual objectification of women. The leaflet exposed Playboy’s blasé attitude to rape and abuse, pointing out that in a society with high rates of rape and domestic violence this is not the kind of attitude we should be promoting, least of all to children.

So far, so good.

The leafleting campaign was followed up with letters which were sent to the Head Offices of these three retailers. The letters detailed a number of the points set out in the leaflet and also included statistics taken from Dr Judith Reisman’s study of Playboy which revealed a huge back catalogue of sexualised images of children in the magazine. Sheffield Fems asked that, in the light of this evidence, retailers removed from sale all Playboy branded items aimed at children.

Dr. Judith Reisman
. Okay.

An admittedly biased but rather thorough examination of Miz Reisman's life and times here (damn bunch of preverts, always trying to defend themselves) at Miss Poppy Dixon's:

Beginning in the 1970s Judith Reisman made it her personal crusade to discredit Alfred Kinsey. Her career on the Captain Kangaroo show ended badly when the free-agent singer-songwriter ran headlong into modern market research and the crushing competition of "the fast-action and increasing violence of cartoons on other stations." Retreating under the cover of artistic integrity she then turned to academia, and a career in communications and media analysis. The fact that children's minds wandered during her self-described music videos had to be about something other than the quality of her performance, and she was going to find out what it was.

The move from television celebrity to academia was not an easy one for Reisman. Seemingly intimidated by her university professor husband's colleagues, she reinvented herself as a doctor of communications, expert on pornography, and token Jewish friend of the American radical religious Right. [ 2 ]

Reisman has written extensively of her opinions of Dr. Kinsey. One of her books on Kinsey is self-published (by her now defunct Institute for Media Education).The second Kinsey book, and another on pornography are published by Huntington House Books. Huntington House, along with its subsidiary Vital Issues Press, will publish almost any book on "conservative issues, politically incorrect exposés, christian apologetics, cults/occult, evangelism, family issues, anti-globalist issues" and "patriotism/survivalism" as it says in its appeal to prospective authors.
The specious online-only Journal of Human Sexuality, sponsored by Leadership U (Campus Crusade for Christ), has published her essay, Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution. The bulk of this tirade is comprised of 31 complex and leading questions, questions designed to prejudice the reader, questions like "...what if all of Kinsey's work was fraudulent, or worse?", and "...could not some American scientists teach pederasts and pedophiles techniques for sexually abusing children for 'science'?", and "Was Kinsey himself a closet homosexual, pedophile or pederast?"

The answer to these questions is "no," which is why they're posed as questions and not as statements. Though Dr. Reisman includes tables and footnotes, she offers no proof or support for the innuendo she directs at Kinsey. In fact, her "research methods" could call her own background into question...

As to those methods:

In the early 1980s "the US Justice Department had given Reisman a grant for $734,371 to study pictures in Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler." [ 3 ] Reisman used the grant to confirm her conclusion of "Kinsey's role in child sexual abuse and the link to children appearing in mainstream pornography..." [ 4 ] Dr. Reisman pored over thousands of pages of pornographic literature. She felt herself persecuted at every turn and complained of a conspiracy to derail her efforts, going so far as to blame the Kinsey Institute for her inability to get published by a legitimate publishing house. [ 5 ]

And to an extent, she was persecuted, though not for the reasons she assumed. The Reagan-appointee who had commissioned the study, Alfred Regnery (the head of a conservative publishing house), admitted he had been wrong to do so. Avedon Carol writes:
It was a scientific disaster, riddled with researcher bias and baseless assumptions. The American University (AU), where Reisman's study had been academically based, actually refused to publish it when she released it, after their independent academic auditor reported on it. Dr Robert Figlio of the University of Pennsylvania told AU that, 'The term child used in the aggregate sense in this report is so inclusive and general as to be meaningless.' Figlio told the press, 'I wondered what kind of mind would consider the love scene from Romeo and Juliet to be child porn'. (Carol, 1994, p.116) [6]
Dr Loretta Haroian, the cochair of the plenary session of Child and Adolescent Sexuality at the 1984 World Congress of Sexology, an expert on childhood sexuality, was quoted as saying of Reisman,
This is not science, it's vigilantism: paranoid, pseudoscientific hyperbole with a thinly veiled hidden agenda. This kind of thing doesn't help children at all. ... Her [Reisman's] study demonstrates gross negligence and, while she seems to have spent a lot of time collecting her data, her conclusions, based on the data, are completely unwarranted. The experts Reisman cites are, in fact, not experts at all but simply people who have chosen to adopt some misinformed, Disneyland conception of childhood that she has. These people are little more than censors hiding behind Christ and children." (Carol, 1994, p.116). [7


Well, maybe they really are out to get her, Poppy Dixon, and all the rest of them.

So let's go straight to the horse's...mouth. Here is her website.

She is a Concerned Woman, certainly. She's concerned about porn addiction, fer sher: she's also concerned about schools making our kids gay.

("If I give her the wool, will she"...o never mind).

I don't really have the time or energy to go through all her articles and references--but! say-hey! speaking of references! look who she links to!
yes! This guy! Yeah, I remember that guy! Beware of the feminists! Many are lesbians! All Porn Is Gay! And oh yeah, the Illuminati run everything; and the Zionist conspiracy, and just maybe UFO's. No, really. Good times, man.

I mean, we all know about six degrees of separation, lord knows, but...

Seriously, I'm sure the Sheffield Fems mean well, as do the Not a Feminist But folks (on edit: oh, are they the same? NAFB links to both in her profile) Just so we're all clear, though:

The letters detailed a number of the points set out in the leaflet and also included statistics taken from Dr Judith Reisman’s study of Playboy which revealed a huge back catalogue of sexualised images of children in the magazine. Sheffield Fems asked that, in the light of this evidence, retailers removed from sale all Playboy branded items aimed at children.

This is who you're rolling around in bed with. This is one of the people you're relying on for statistics and other information for your campaigns. A homophobic woman who's been heralded as a darling of the Religious Right (specifically the American Family Association; links to insane misogynistic frootbats (where she appears to have maybe gotten some of her ideas about the evils of Hugh Hefner and/or gay folk, or more likely vice versa); has had her "scientific methods" debunked by a number of sources including the Reagan appointee who first commissioned her Playboy study; and was kicked out of Captain Kangaroo.

Just so we're clear.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

And now: The Kreplach Joke

So, there's this little boy who's completely freaked out by kreplach. Fear and loathing: every time a nice bowl of soup with kreplach is put in front of him, he takes one look and shrieks,


His mother is concerned and goes to consult the rabbi/kidshrink/neighbor, who advises her: the problem is that he's scared because he doesn't know what it is. Show him exactly what goes into the kreplach, explain slowly and clearly that it's nothing to be afraid of, and he'll be fine.

So one day, mom takes her boy into the kitchen, puts him on a high stool, and, with lots of smiles and reassuring pats, begins to deconstruct the dreaded dumpling. First she rolls out a piece of dough. Holds it up.

"Just like a pancake, she sez. "You love pancakes."

"Just like a pancake," said the little boy.

Then she chops up meat and gathers it into a ball. "Just like a meatball. Mmm, meatballs! Yummy meatballs!"

"Just like a meatball," says the little boy, and smiles.

Mom then places the meat on the dough and folds the dough over. Holds it up:

"Just like a little hat."

"Just like a little hat," the kid says, comfortably.

She cooks it up: just like a dumpling. like in the Chinese restaurant? Just like a dumpling, o.k., o.k.

Mom's had a pot of chicken soup on the stove; she now pours some into a bowl and offers it to the little boy, who responds eagerly. Sure, soup; he loves soup.

Just before putting the bowl in front of her son, she drops the kreplach in the soup.

Kid takes one look at it and screams,


"Congress has not issued the executive a 'blank check.'"

Thank you, Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, and the other three SCOTUS justices who still have some vague grasp of what democracy is supposed to be about some of the time. As in this instance.

Supreme Court blocks Bush, Gitmo war trials

"Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary," Breyer wrote.

The court's ruling was a resounding loss for the Bush administration. Justices also rejected the administration's claim that the case should be thrown out on grounds that a new law stripped their authority to consider it.

"It's certainly a nail in the coffin for the idea that the president can set up these trials," said Barbara Olshansky, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents about 300 Guantanamo detainees.

A slightly random-seeming question, perhaps:

Do you, like, check out five books from the library and not finish any of them? I mean: is this normal?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Word of the day: "helot"

As found at a post at PunkAssBlog: "Oh noes! Invading Crackers!"

Not a word I'd known before. From Webster's:

"A slave in ancient Sparta; a Spartan serf; hence, a slave or serf."

Also see: bondswoman, chattel slave, clawback, debt slave, flunky, groveler, lackey, peon, puppet, servant, stool, thrall, timeserver, toady, truckler, and tufthunter...among others.

Oh, context? Go see for yourself. A hint:

Of course you think of the slave as someone who is eternally working, because the word “slave” is as much verb as it is noun, which is perfect for the oppression of helots as someone who is defined by their work is a robot, something, rather than someone, and a something is not something who’s emotional well being and personality matter, they are something that is defined, not merely by their actions, but by solely by their Job, The Immigrant picks lettuce, The Slave picks cotton, The Woman picks up after her husband and children.

This is why the “Personal Is Political” tactic, exemplarized in feminist circles by the Vagina Monologues, is so important in the class struggle as much it is in the feminist struggle (which are not seperate entities by a long shot, the hydra has many faces, and they’re all just different enough to confuse), things like the novels of Maya Angelou, or the recent Dkos post by Stay The Course (via Bellatrys) are important, every single civil rights struggle has been, first and foremost, about the reclaiming of a group’s stolen humanity from those who live off of society like bloated ticks, and the refusal of those who fight for a better society to allow another group to be dehumanized. And the key to that, is to first of all show what life, not just the job, is like for the helots of current system, and what it was like for the helots of past systems, so that people can see the common humanity of all downpressed people, and to do something about it all and then say afterwards, as a single unified group: Never Again.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sunday in the park with...

Book open in front of me; I think I've read this paragraph a good five times, and it's still not processing. There is something unfolding over at the next bench:

a schleppy-looking man, hair a grey tumbleweed, socks mismatched, knees bony and leathery, eyes wide faded faraway. He's talking to the seated old man as though he were a long-lost...well, what? The tone is both reverent and enthusiastic, but I can't make out all the words.

" always used to say the most interesting things. *Profound.* I remember, do you remember what you said to me last time we met? You said, 'life is confrontation.'" He laughs, still sounding winded. "'Life is confrontation.' I thought about that for a long time. I've been thinking about *you.* So good to see you! I remember..."

Now he's launching into something about his poor health. Something about how he used to run this route all the time and apparently that's how he knew the old man from before. Although apparently also schleppy guy was a waiter at a restaurant older guy used to frequent, downtown. Complaints about the government, the economy, the general way things are going to hell. And then back: all the amazing things the old guy used to say to him, and how much impact they had.

The old guy has barely moved a muscle, in stark contrast to schleppy guy's constant twitching and dancing and punchy gestures. i think it's a sign of where the real power is. Also i figure he's maybe quite ancient and just plain tired. Schleppy guy asks:

"Listen, could you give me some advice? I always think about whatever you say."

Now I've abandoned all pretense of reading, as, finally, the stream of schleppy verbiage ceases and the old guy speaks. Unfortunately, his voice is so soft that I can't make out whatever Yoda-like wisdom he's telling the guy. Whatever it is, it's very satisfying: shlep is nodding gravely. I crane my neck openly, and now, as older guy falls silent and shleppy goes back into a monologue of gratitude, I catch the old man's pale blue gaze. Back to the book (which i now realize i've been holding upside down), but not before it occurs to me that in fact he's as bored and bemused as i am with Schleppy.

Schleppy has clearly missed about three or four signals that the more socially adept would recognize as "time to move on, now," but eventually he finishes with whatever his agenda was and jogs off. The old man gets up and walks over to me.

"What are you reading?"

I show him; it's a biography of Jung.

"Psychology. That must be useful."

"Sometimes," I say.

He looks like he wants to sit down; I feel like I want to stand up. Either way would be a bit forward, so we do this awkward dance. He shrugs, looks off into the distance, laughs. If he had a cigarette he'd be flicking it now.

"He thinks I'm a guru."

"Maybe you are, to him."

"I don't know why he thinks so much of me, but who am I to say? I barely recognized him; he looks terrible. If I helped him, I'm glad."

Finally, I can ask:

"So what did you say to him, anyway?"

Shrug again. "I don't remember."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Small children, and the noises they emit

I am not a parent, and this observation will not come as news to those who are--hell, probably not to most who aren't.

But: damn, they sure make a lot of them, don't they?

Maybe it's a sign that I've been hitting the (family-friendly) fast-food joints too often lately, or maybe it's just that summer brings out the boisterousness in us all; but it strikes me that this phenomenon has been on the upswing lately. next seat over, next table over, next bench over: small child, going



mba. mba. mba. mba.



and sometimes just a primal, guttural screech that doesn't seem to have enough letters in the English language to represent it.

oh, I don't mind. well, not usually. i mean, no more so than your average hair-trigger New York adult (the noises we emit: FUCK YOU! NO, FUCK *YOU*, motherFUCKER!!), probably. I'm just curious. i keep thinking: why is it so hard for oh say your average acting class or group therapy session or whatnot to coax out those sounds from a lot of people? when do we unlearn?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Nice Girls/Mean Girls/What is this all about, really?

Bitch | Lab picked up this intrablog conversation that we'd been starting to have. I'm reposting my answer here, lightly edited for context, because I've been meaning to address this for a while:

As long as we’re examining hidden influences of institutionalized sexism (i have declared a personal moratorium on the word “patriarchy”)? Stuff that I think came up in the BJ Wars (what did you do in the War, mommy?) in spades: the conformist thing. That is, men are vulnerable to it, too, but with a lot of women (obviously not all, and there are other subcultural influences that can counter, but) in this culture, there is this thing that is taught where we must please the other, be nice, be a “good girl,” get along. Don’t get angry; don’t confront; don’t get the other person mad at you.

The patriarchy-blamers concentrate on the ways in which women are taught (overtly or covertly) to please a Man/Men, and that’s certainly valid; it’s there, no doubt. But it isn’t the whole story.

It’s sort of related to what we [conversation between B|L and me] were talking about viz whether it was as fun to flame women as it is men, on the whole; the observation that often, men tend to be able to get into heated debates and then come right out of it as pals, go get a beer; whereas with women, more often, it seems to be more fraught, just disagreement, any disagreement seems more fraught. I think it’s because of that early conditioning. And it’s also why when we do get into fights, it can seem uglier, more charged. Because there’s all this backed-up stuff–I mean, aggression in general, competitiveness.

That’s it, isn’t it. This is another area where the radfem thing has a blind spot. Because besides buying into a lot of the good old-fashioned sex-negative crap, it also buys to a certain degree into the notion that women are “nicer,” I think; hey, we’re not the rapists, we’re not the serial murderers, we’re not the ones who start wars, blahblah. There seems to be a lot of investment in this (yes, it’s true, but why is it true is the question; with radfem ideology there often does seem to be this unacknowledged essentialism, as B|L and others have noted).

So, a posit, if you will: it’s okay to get angry, even aggressive, but only at the approved targets. Which, by the way, as a technique for authoritarian movements, works real well: it’s the two-minute-hate thing. “Let’s you and me get angry at Him/Them.” Because it's a controlled, "safe" outlet for a fuck of a lot of tamped-down, highly charged stuff that's been festering for a while.

Ah, but disagreement in the ranks? Confrontation with an ally? Danger, danger Will Robinson: we might die.

Which contributes to the “you’re either fer us or agin’ us,” imo.

And that part isn’t limited to this kind of radfems, I note. The creepy sexual shaming, that was new for me among so-called feminists and lesbians (tell me, how was this any different from a clique of high school girls standing and giggling and pointing at that slutty girl who wears the torn fishnets and micro minis and you know what they SAY about her, psst psst giggle psst).

But, like, in the Dyke Drama group, I noticed: okay, we’re not bending over backwards to conform to the image of Cosmo and please a Man; but we *do*, many of us, seem to be bending over backwards to please and fit in in other ways. It was a leftie thing as well as a woman thing, I think, but: Either way, the message remains the same: don’t be selfish. Don’t put yourself first.

So instead of dropping everything to rush home and make dinner for the hubby and kids, it’s dropping everything to go help another collective member in an outer borough paint her apartment (when you don’t even know her that well); or joining endless task forces; or volunteering for this and that and the other until you drop. Smile, weakly: “Oh, no, that’s okay. I don’t mind.”

The word “no” comes in handy in a lot of situations, y’know; it’s too bad that (many of) the radfems only seem to be interested in applying it to dirty men with their icky sexual demands.

And then, too, as B|L and Arwen and others noted: some of us are more invested in what other women/feminists think because we care more about what other women/feminists think. Screw the men; it’s not about the men; it never was about the men. What about us? Damn, this sucks.

Finally, I will posit that for many of us (obviously not all), in fact the person who’s had the most influence on us and with whom we’ve had the most complicated emotional relationship, the most investment, the most…is not some faceless Patriarch or even the husband/boyfriend, but rather dear ol’ Mom.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

But enough about me...

...heh, not that, really. But: I do wanna find out about y'all. So consider this by way of an introduction thread, not particularly formal. But also I want to ask a specific question, 'cause I'm curious. Well, questions. Which, you don't have to answer as such, if you'd rather share something else or just say "hi.". But to get the ball rolling:

What kind of politics/worldview did your parentals/primary caregivers have? To what degree do you share that worldview/those politics? What else shaped your current worldview, and (more or less), what is that?

I'll answer myself after a few responses come in.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

holeeee shit

The lovely and talented Shirley-Phelps Roper, ladies and gentlemen. Fred Phelps' daughter, that is, he of "God Hates Fags and America and Pretty Much Everybody Except Me, I Have Springs Coming Out Of My Head and Pure Lysol Running Through My Veins" fame. Via Pam's House Blend.

It's really kind of disturbing when you realize that even though someone's saying incredibly hateful shit, you could actually not understand a single word and still know exactly what she's saying.

oh, and she's pretty young, and has eleven kids of her own, so even when Fred finally kicks it, the fine tradition of picketing funerals and screaming spittle-flecked lunacy at strangers, she will carry on.

want to know how she got that way?

get a load of this online biography of Fred. but only if you have a really strong stomach and aren't easily triggered.

You know what I really like about her? besides the screaming furious insanity? The nihilism of it all. Hey, let's viciously tear people apart and pretend it's for their own good! No, we don't actually seem to believe anyone's going to the Promised Land, maybe even not us; but that still doesn't change the importance of getting out The Truth.

the fact that The Truth looks remarkably like a puddle of toxic vomit, well, details.

So I think this particular horse is pretty well beaten. However:

I must remark on Black Amazon's take on the whole thing, which, as always, is a thing of sheer beauty. You're not fucking cute and I'm not amused.

I don't know what offends me more the bullshit pathology of sex acts, the complete divestment of responsibility while gloryfying of privileges abound, the general smug infantilism or the pseudo radical feminism or conservative pearl clutching that masks a busybody entitled cuticle gazing noblesse oblige bullshit moralizing its being wrapped up in. ALl teh while claiming universality while being perfect examples of myopia.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A posit

Fisting is the key to overthrowing the corporate hegemony. What better way to say "Up the Man!" VIVA!

also, it's FUNFUNFUN and if you don't like it, you're a loser.



AND it's also in accordance with God's Will, no shit.

Monday, June 19, 2006

And another thing

"Yet the fact that I have hit a nerve means there’s truth to what I say."

(--"puffin," although the general sentiment seems to be shared by some other people)

By which standard Ann Coulter is a prophet.

Newsflash, brain trust: it takes no particular depth of insight to stir up a kerfuffle. None. All it takes is the willingness and ability to kick the right shins at the right time. Presto! Roomful of people hopping around! Drama? Sure. Sign that you're onto a deep Universal Truth? Only if you think the Three Stooges were philosophers.

"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

--Carl Sagan

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Just another riff inspired by a comment from a thread at Pandagon

>I still stand by my earlier assertion that you should never defend something you enjoy until you’ve first gone to the trouble of picking it apart - absolutely dismantling it - yourself. But then, I actually enjoy picking things apart, so for me this activity tends to become recursive.>

You know something–

I seem to remember my mom, who is quite the blamer herself, albeit not particularly feminist (more or less liberal, academic) saying something of this sort, after coming out of a movie with her. My dad and I had enjoyed it; she hadn’t. And, with a particular…*dampening* strain to her voice, a familiar one, she said–*demanded*–well, *why* do you like it? And then words to the effect of what you said: you should be always be able to explain and analyze *why* you like something. Not what you *don’t* like, mind, so much. Well. That is: *we* should be able to defend (”defend”) something that gave us pleasure. Because it didn’t give *her* pleasure, and she needed to know why; but she put it on us, instead.

And, now that I’m thinking of it, I do wonder how much Mom issues factor into this whole brouhaha (I can speak only for myself here, of course)–but, even if it weren’t for the classic Mom-daughter friction, I am thinking: I still probably would’ve come to the conclusion, eventually–you know what, fuck off.

And I love my mom. But she is a picker. She likes to pick. Literally. Candle wax, fuzzy sweaters, literary criticism, skin. And people. Herself included. And I got a lot of picking abilities from her…picked them up, you might say…and I in my turn was thoroughly picked.

And at this point in my life, I feel I can honestly say: you know what, if there’s one thing I don’t think is my problem, it’s an undersufficiency of picking.

I’m not saying picking’s never useful.

But right now, it’s not what interests me. I don’t want to be picked apart anymore. I don't even want my pleasures to be limited to those found in picking (myself or others). I want to find out how to be whole.

(Riffing off the comments from the post below)

this was in reply to a comment by brownfemipower, and it got so long I figured it should be its own post.

I'm not trying to discount the hurt women who follow her feel, rather instead, trying to ask why is it always the bitchiest meanest mean girl out there who is the "leader"?

In other words, in terms of radical feminism's leaders, radical feminism has some very deep and consistent issues with race and sex positivism that many many women have seen through and called them out on--why on earth, then, are people still following radical feminism(that is, instead of creating something of their own)?

Because I think there's a difference between being hurt by somebody who you normally appreciate, but there's still the space to talk through the differences and create something stronger, and being hurt by somebody who is so invested in their thinking they will never ever change.


BFP: I think that's correct, yes.

The thing is--well, one thing is: it can take a while to learn to differentiate between the two. Frankly I suspect a lot of people (people who are themselves capable of dialogue rather than just monologue, I mean) never do get to that place of being able to tell who's able/willing to hold dialogue with you, (even partially), and who's not.

Because if you've already started investing emotionally in someone, most of the time? You're not going to want to see something you don't like in them, unless you absolutely have to. That goes double or triple for people who you've (consciously or not) started to see as a kind of authority figure.

And that very old. That shit is probably as damn near universal as anything's gonna be. or, well, anyone who has unfinished business with the parental figures. Which I'd argue is probably most of us, to one degree or another. It's the psych talking, yes, but: I've found a lot of truth in it.

and, too, peers matter: many of us have unfinished business with our peers from early early days. The shit, it comes up. It just does.

So, okay, but even assuming "look, there's at least a part of at least some of us that KNOWS junior high school is over, right? that KNOWS this isn't Mom, this is some person I only know through the Internets for fuckssake, I don't even know her real name..." putting that aside (along with the awareness that there's also a part of most of us to which the intellectual awareness that yesyes we're grownups now doesn't mean jack): why radfem in particular? And why mean girls in particular? And why Twisty in particular?

There're a few things going on here, I think.

First of all: I've said this elsewhere, and others have too--what appears to be a rather high percentage of the folks who ID as radfems or are attracted and lurk along the fringes, have suffered some form of sexual abuse and/or abuse at the hands of men. Not all of them, of course. But a lot. Even I think compared to the general population (a big ol' percentage of women--hell, people, period, have been abused, of course).

And by saying that, I'm not at *all* trying to suggest that having been abused somehow diminishes one's right to speak on sexual issues or anything else. (This was the one thing I didn't care for in R. Mildred's rant, which I otherwise loved; there was, I felt, a whiff of that, even though she made a disclaimer later. it's complicated, abuse).

What I am saying, actually--yeah, in fact, you know, I could see where RM's piece might be seen as confirmation of this, certainly when viewed as a standalone: there is no real successor to Dworkin for addressing rape, domestic violence, and other abuses from a *feminist* perspective, or indeed any sociopolitical perspective. That I'm aware of; that may well be my myopia; please do correct me if I'm way off on this. I mean, I know bell hooks addresses abuse, certainly. anyway, wrt Dworkin at least, there's a passion and charisma that's rare, and I can totally get why she still has a following, even posthumously...among people who can identify with pretty much everything she says, that is.

And that last bit is the key to the rest of it, of course: *if* you can relate to everything someone like Dworkin or even Twisty says, then, yeah, it feels TERRIFIC. Validation at last! It all makes sense, at last! And, too: she writes *so* well, she's so charming, so witty, so...she draws you in. She's a role model; she's a champion; she's *for us,* in a way maybe no one else has been. That's *huge.*

(All this, of course, is not limited to radfem; it happens in any number of ideologies and institutions and followings. I have some speculations as to whether it might be that much more intense here because of the ways in which women are socialized in this culture--relationships are that much more important, *maybe*--as well as the abuse factor and the whole "personal is political" business; but, some other post).

One might hope that someone who's been through that process could, intellectually or on a gut level, *get it* when something happens like the business between nubian and Twisty, few months back. Hey: you've experienced alienation and hurt at being marginalized; look over here! same thing happening with us, from you! Can you get it? can we talk? but, apparently, no, on the whole.

And *that* is partly because of the whole "we're comfortable here, whatsyerproblem anyway?" which is of course endemic to human beans even if it *is* particularly maddening and ironic to think that someone who *did* know what it was like to be uncomfortable/marginalized from *another* perspective would just. not. see it. That part's just annoying as fuck, and disappointing. And then there will always be a handful of people for whom the penny drops, at least. and that's always gratifying.

But then the other part of this particular business, as BL has been noting, is inherent in the ideology of radfem itself.

All ideologies are capable of being grabbed by black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway thinking/proponents, of course.

But in this case I think what BL's saying--correct me if I'm wrong, I think you're making a good case for this here--is that radical feminism is one of those ideologies, like fundamentalist religious doctrines of various sorts or Maoism or (gulp) fascism, that has black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway built right into the original conception.

So...yeah. Not all people who currently style themselves radical feminists are foaming zealots or even completely rigid ideologues, I'm sure. Hell, I know at least a few radfems who aren't either, whom I feel like I can keep talking to even if we disagree; I'm sure there are plenty more. But...I think what BL's saying is, if it seems like there're more zealots, apparently incapable of actual dialogue (at least beyond a certain point, outside of the self-limned circle) in radfem than you'd find in some other branch of feminism, well, that's probably because....there are. And at this point I think I'd tend to say that I agree. Whether the doctrine attracts people who were already pretty black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway or whether the people get that way from being around other radfems and reading the literature, I think is kind of a chicken-and-egg question.

One of the tenets of...

damn. cult is *such* a loaded word.

but one of the things that makes a my-way-or-the-highway sort of organization/group work, I guess, is having a strong, charismatic leader.

There are of course strong charismatic leaders that *aren't* my-way-or-the-highway, not like that; MLK, for instance. But they're pretty rare.

Robert Jay Lifton talks a lot about the dynamics of how such groups work. It's not about any particular ideology; but there are certain things you want to look for. The strong leader; the use of shaming and guilt as self/internal policing methods. "Loading the language"--certain key phrases that everyone is supposed to know what they mean; if you have to ask, you just don't get it. Scientology is particularly known for this: their stuff is packed with funny-sounding jargon. It's used as a way of delineating who's in the know and who's not, for one thing: in/out. Us/them. It's also what was called "stopthink" in 1984. If you have to ask...don't. Shame, shame. Aren't you stupid and brainwashed. Read the manual; all will become Clear.

But anyway: no, Twisty isn't a cult leader. I don't even know that I'd call her a "mean girl"--at any rate, I think most of her readers, including civil and complex and not-at-all fanatic people like Chris Clarke, see her as kind and decent and level-headed and more than capable of grasping nuance, on the whole. And for all of me she probably is, to her friends, in person, even most of the time online, really: well, genteel, certainly, and amiable. Does she say nasty, bitchy shit? Well, yes. That's part of her charm...or not. I know it was for me; for I also have a goodly amount of Mean Girl in me. There are a lot of benefits to being mean, not all of them necessarily bad or wrong (I think; I may be kidding myself here..) It can be a way of bonding. It can be a way of venting. It's a form of taking power. And power isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The thing of it is: when you couple that mean streak with the rigid ideology, then inevitably what happens is, some people are forever going to see the good side, and some people are going to feel most of the brunt of the backhand; and it will be chalked up to ideology, and/or just good fun.

So in answer to your question, bfp: the people who go off and form their own movements are the ones, by and large, who've felt the backhand.

But if someone's *so* rigid, such an ideologue, then why don't *more* people see it?

Well...I think maybe, you know, that's what we're seeing right now.

It's one thing to alienate a handful of BDSM practioners. (And hey, she's so charming and funny when she does it; and she's right-on about so other many things; do we have to agree on every little thing? No, I suppose not. Maybe. Perhaps).

The racist or at least not-getting-it wrt race--well, yes, that's a bigger demographic, and, erm, yeah, that was problematic.

But in the final analysis: well, you're white, you're relating to pretty much everything else she says, what she said didn't seem THAT bad...mmm, oh, hell, she's just so *cool,* and no one else writes like her, and...

(some people, some who maybe don't even fit the offended demographic du jour, wander away in twos and threes, quietly; but then, that's true with anyone, perhaps).

And then there's the class stuff, and the "no one can afford to have kids" stuff, and--well, she uses hyperbole, she's funny, she's. Hm. Well. Mm. Probably exaggerating to make a point. Yeah.

So but now what's happened is two things:

1) she really did have a terrible awful no-good day, and, understandably, let slip more overt nastiness, perhaps, than she's done before

2) at the same time, she took on a demographic that's considerably broader than any of the others she's dissed before. Now it's everyone who's ever given or received a blowjob and liked it.

One or the other probably would've pssed without nearly so much comment. Both together: well, it played the way it played.

And now: we'll see what happens, I guess.

I do wish her well, in spite of it all. Who the hell wouldn't?

I think ultimately mean always comes from somewhere, you know, and is perhaps covering up for something else. Maybe.

In fact...

I don't like to tell this story.

But: when I was a freshman in college, I remember, I was...well, bluntly, kind of a mess. For a whole bunch of reasons. Part of it was being in the closet, still, but it wasn't all of it. (Mom is/was quite the expert blamer herself, for one thing).

anyway one day I remember walking along the beach with one of my suitemates and her boyfriend.

I'm not sure what prompted me to say this--that is, I don't remember what was said right before it.

But what I said was, I remember this part, roughly:

"Oh, I don't care about being happy so much. I just don't want anyone *else* to be happy."

The suitemate, who was not one to hold her tongue, said something swift and reproving and disapproving . I was, I expect, cast down, chastened, ashamed of myself..and angrier than ever.

(One more reason why shaming people is a really lousy way to get a progressive movement off the ground, p.s.: even if it appears to have the effect you want, you're building up a reservoir of anger as well. it goes with the territory. no one likes to be shamed; "justly" or not).

Of course *now* I look back on my younger self and I feel the same way I'm sure the suitemate did: ew! That' That's kind of sad and fucked up, dude. Why would you feel that way??

And in retrospect, I think part of the answer, although I didn't know it at the time, had to do with watching my suitemate and her boyfriend tripping blissfully along the beach, in approved heterosexual coupledom...while meanwhile I was still possessed of the belief that I *couldn't* be gay, but *wasn't* attracted to men ("yet," I still thought, only...not)..and I believed the best I could hope for was to just have these feelings for women go away. Certainly I couldn't see myself as happy in the way they were...and I wanted to kill them. And I'm sure the suitemate picked that intention up, if not necessarily the reason why. People do, you know.

The path from there has been long and winding, and I don't think I've reached the end, if there is an end to such things.

But maybe part of the reason I react so strongly to Twisty and her judgmentalism and her (what I interpret as, perhaps incorrectly) fears of sexuality, maybe even rage, maybe even that I see the remnants of that in myself, and I remember what that was like, and I didn't like it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

And another "right on"

Bitch Lab reflects on another aspect of her own personal-to-political, winding up with:

It’s a weird feeling to have been marginalized and then accepted, all of a sudden, just because of one little thing that had changed about yourself. You went through a growth spurt and added four inches. It makes you realize how superficial the assholes are. But, you’re a kid and you want to be in the circle, so while you know you should just tell them to fuck off, you don’t.

So, I stayed there and resisted the only way I knew how: by trying to be everybody’s friend. There wasn’t anybody I wouldn’t hang out with. There wasn’t anyone I wouldn’t invite to sit at the table during lunch. I would insist on saying “hi” very vocally to everyone I knew, even while with the gang.

It was my way of saying, “Fuck you, fuckers.” (But, of course, if I’d really wanted to say “Fuck you, fuckers,” I should have just told them off, right? Once in awhile, I’d give some lip to one of the leaders, a completely nasty bitch who looked everyone up and down to inspect the quality of their clothes, always with a slightly curled lip.

This is why I had the best parties. When Bitch had a party, every fucker in that school was invited. I didn’t care if you were a stoner, a jock, groupie, artsy fartsy type, lived in a trailer park, a farmer, skeezer, geek (though geeks weren’t considered an “out group” in my school). Whatever. Everybody’s invited and if the in crowd doesn’t like it, fuck’m.

So, that’s why, when anyone gets on about someone’s looks or what kind of clothes they wear, my response is, “How fucking eleventh grade can you get?”

I don’t like the way people inadvertently hurt people. I don’t like the way people live in bubbles and don’t ever step out of it, live on the margins, and look back toward your fucking bubble and pick a frickin’ pin it. You’ll get wrapped up in yet another bubble, we all live in them. But the experience of stepping outside every so often, the experience of cultivating a kind of being in the world that helps grow your moral conscience is good for you. And it’s good for the world. It’s called maturity. But, maturity isn’t a state, it’s a process. We’re always maturing. Don’t ask questions. Live them.

It’s why, even though someone’s not hurting me, I get pissed when I know they’re hurting someone I care about. And, even when I don’t know anyone in particular, I know those people exist.

Just wanted to spotlight this

post from Arwen, even though yes it's from the same goddam Eternal Subject and it's all over the intrablogs and we've been over this general territory a kazillion squillion times. because she sums it up so well.

(from the comments at Twisty, blogging, and devil's advocacy at Pandagon)

[quotage from another poster]

>And I don’t think that “women don’t really like blow jobs” is as offensive as people think it is. Not only because of the false consciousness thing, but more importantly because, in a sexist society, can you really say that you truly like something in and of itself, without any baggage coming from what it means/symbolizes/etc? Especially something as loaded (’scuse me) as a blow job? It’s an interesting question to entertain.>

[/quotage from another poster]

I don’t know. I’m a proud feminist. And yet, in the early days of my life, exposure to radical folks saying this sort of thing made me feel ashamed of myself, or offended, or like a bad feminist or a bad woman.

( I should say, I LOVE performing oral sex. I’m oral generally. I do find it incredibly pleasurable for me, and I’ve been saddened by partners who didn’t like to receive oral sex. )

But that’s not the point. The point is:

Feminists are my in-group.

One’s in-group, however universally dismissed, is the group whose ideas hold most sway. Twisty, Amanda, Dr.B - y’all are alphas in the internet ingrouping, relative societal power aside.

Look at Trekkies - the ingroup message to wear silly costumes overrides the societal stigma that that makes you a dork.

I’m far more likely to internalize shame at my sexual kinks based on Twisty’s mild smack down than I’m going to give a rat’s ass about what Co-Ed Dickwad number #417 thinks about me sexually: in my world, and in many other young feminists’ worlds (or young women beginning to question the system), Twisty does have more power than the Pope.

Whenever the feminist blogosphere erupts, there’s the accusation and denial: policing vs. power.

It’s as if feminists generally have neglected to understand in-grouping dynamics. We’re ingrouped. Anyone reading the advanced Patriarchy Blaming at Twisty is somewhat ingrouped: they’re more likely to care about Twisty’s opinion than about Falwell’s. That doesn’t mean that any major feminist blogger has the societal power to make South Dakota be all right again - but it does mean that there’s a buttload of personal power and ability to offend in ways emotionally deeper than the outgrouped Republicans in South Dakota’s legislature.

I have been *far* more deeply hurt and offended by feminists than by the Religious Right. Why? BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT FEMINIST OPINION. I think we’ve got to start recognizing that with each other, we do have power.

I don’t want to shut Twisty down; or any radical voice. I personally think she’s full of shit on this one, and don’t think Amanda’s saved her bacon with her analysis. However, we’ve got to leave room to acknowledge that the radical voices *do* cause pain, and sometimes can even cause people to start calling themselves egalitarians or whatever instead of feminist. We have to admit that yes; Twisty is so COOL and we want to be LIKE her and if she starts mocking the stupid-Spock-ears part of our Trekkie costumes it’s going to hurt a little for people who maybe just got comfortable with their stupid-Spock-ears lovin’ ways.

Is any sexual act empowering?

If you’ve been sexually abused or repressed, and you’ve hated your sexuality and it’s been tied up with crap-not-yours, and you’ve spent a long time healing and are finally able to hear the rhythms of your own desire, you’re damn right a sexual act can be empowering. If it’s your act, and especially if you have that history, and now you’re making your own life and story and agency and desire and love and respect central to the things you choose and do and enjoy, then you have entitlement to yourself. And that is the first and most important empowerment.
It will not, however, put a woman in the Oval Office.
I don’t expect my washing machine to make me breakfast. Even though both are domestic chores.
Category error.


I especially love that last paragraph. Right on.

And I know my own buttons have been pushed for exactly the reasons Arwen says: it hurts on a personal level when someone who you've admired disdains you more than it does when someone you've already deemed an enemy does; even if in real world terms, the latter has far more power to hurt you than the former.

That said: personally? I think, maybe, you know, I'm getting over it. Sincerely. Finally.

It's Their Problem, Not Mine.

Which, if the whole endless grueling rehash has led to nothing else, maybe that alone would make it worth it.

Observations on how shit works, continued

Politically speaking, big or small p. It is worthwhile to learn to perceive individual differences between...different individuals (both in political views and personalities), even if it would appear that they are speaking as with one voice on any particular issue.

Partly because it allows for the possibility of actually having a more interesting relationship with another person, even learning something, of expanding one's world.

And partly because: the great thing about lumping a bunch of disparate people into one group, particularly when one is convinced that what unites that group is "they're all out to get me" is, it has a funny way of coming true.

From object to subject, continued

Continuing in the objectification series.

One of the, uhm, objections to sexual objectification is that it equates women with a commodity to be consumed. So this extends to media representations as well, not just overt acts of exploitation of actual women in making the (porn, what have you).

It would probably be useful to really get into the whole notion of "consumer goods" from a Marxist perspective, I expect, not to mention the objectification we all undergo in a capitalist system (I think that's it--we're all objects on this bus, essentially)--but I'm not the one to do it. I'll stick with the whole wacky notion of the "male gaze"--that is, again, men look, women are looked at.

The quintessential non-porn (per se) expression of this being, perhaps, the beer 'n' bikini ad.

But what if you're a woman who looks at other women? And wants to be looked at--by other women?

I wrote this piece for a cabaret at the Dyke Drama collective a few years ago. New Yorkers might remember the ad this was inspired by: a particularly obnoxious one that was all over the subways.


The market. Lights rise on HANNAH just putting a can of food into a small basket or cloth shopping bag. She consults a list, scans the “shelves.”

...What else, what else....I just know I’m forgetting something. I...need...

The FANTASY GIRL steps out, with beer bottle. Strikes a pose. Sultry-aggressive:

There MIGHT be something for YOU behind my LABEL.

Oh, God.

FANTASY GIRL strikes another pose.

Look, just drop it, all right? You have nothing to offer me.

FG proffers bottle, suggestively.

Least of all that.

There *might* be something for youuuu....

We have nothing to say to each other.

Might be *something*...

Oh, okay. Right then, let’s talk. I know! You tell me how attractive you find me, as a person, and how much easier, how much *simpler* things would be, if only--

Guys can just be such a pain. You know?

And then, after an evening of gazing soulfully into each others’ eyes and pouring our hearts out over a bottle of cheap Merlot, you say:

(drawing back)
Look, I *like* you. I’m really flattered. But, you know, I’m not--

Well, forget it, honey. I don’t care what you call yourself or don’t call yourself, just don’t call me until you figure it out. I’m not into--


...false advertising.

FANTASY GIRL shakes her hair out, back to sultry.

It’s not meant for me, anyway.

There *might* be something for *you*...

No, there isn’t. There is no place for me in this equation. You’re not tossing those locks for fingers like mine, and I couldn’t make my own hair do that even if I tried. Not that I *would* try.

(FG raises her eyebrows).

...I mean, it’s not like I don’t respect It’s just not me.

Might be.

Ah, no. Thanks, but no. (Defensive) Okay, so maybe when I was a kid I liked smearing that gunk all over my face. Maybe I *did* play with Barbies. That has nothing to do with you and me. And anyway, it’s not like I was given a whole lot of options. And hey! Nothing’s changed! Because, check it out!

(Back to advertising mode)
There MIGHT be SOMETHING for YOU behind my LABEL!

You’re everywhere I fucking turn!

There MIGHT be SOMETHING for YOU behind my LABEL!!!

Yeah, well, you’re never going to convince me to buy it. Your product sucks. It’s cheap and tasteless, and even if it did give me a quick buzz, I’d feel awful in the morning. It has no redeeming value whatsoever.


No! I’ve made up my mind. I’ve had it with this market. I’m holding out for a better model, and until it--she--it comes along, I’m abstaining. (Beat). Stop looking at me like that.

There might be something for you.

HANNAH tries to ignore her.

There might be. Something. For *you.*

HANNAH is weakening.

*Behind* my label.

HANNAH rolls her eyes. Turns to FG, spreads her arms in a gesture of defeat.


FG steps into HANNAH’s personal space.

Peel me.

Lights down.


To be continued, believe it or not

Friday, June 16, 2006

Some fleeting thoughts on "civil" discourse

To me:

It's not about ideology, particularly. It's not about never swearing or never getting passionate or even never personally insulting anybody.

It's about: can you, ever, in any circumstances, meet the other person halfway? A quarter of the way? A tenth of the way?

Are you capable of grasping nuance, even a little bit?

Can you, even partially, even grudgingly, ever admit, in any circumstances, that you were wrong? About anything?

Would you, once in a great while, be willing to put aside your overwhelming need to have the last word?

Can you concede, even ungraciously, that even a loathed enemy might have a point, if you can see that sie does?

Are you aware that conversations take place over time, that they're about 90% about relationships, even of the most superficial sort?

Have you ever changed your mind? About anything? Do you think it's possible you might conceivably ever change it again? About anything?

Maybe that's not anyone else's definition of civil discourse. But those are (among) the criteria I use to determine whether or not I'm going to continue bothering to talk to someone.

My mind cannot be soiled

I've got my tinfoil hat on, hip hip hip hooray.

The haunting, cryptic poetry of spam

So, I was gonna post my own creepy search strings for your edification and amusement, and also so I could go report my findings to the PO-lice. Unfortunately, most of my search strings are pretty boring. I was gonna head this one with PORN!!!11!!! just to see if I got anything interesting.

But then I checked my spam filter, and frankly, now I'm intrigued. What, if anything, is any of this from? anyone?

seen through a veil of crape. White and black smoke rose up

people are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly. Everything is ademoniacal ecstatic. Feeling him looking, she lifted her face andin other respects--a marvellous personality. But you can't trust him.'efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domainthe laughing mist of the bride went along with him undiminished.Gudrun's face. She did not want to be too definite.

In the opening of the doorway was a shower of fine foliage and flowers,

CHAPTER XXVIII. Gudrun in the Pompadour[2] alteration, modification, or addition to the etext, *EITHER*:unfolding leaves of a copper-beech were blood-red.CHARMING, so infinitely charming, in her softness and her fine,wanted to submit herself to it, did she still want to submit herself tocircumstance, that he achieved a verisimilitude of ordinaryHe did not believe that there was any such thing as accident. It allJust search by the first five letters of the filename you want,WHAT IF YOU *WANT* TO SEND MONEY EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO?

If only Birkin would form a close and abiding connection with her, she'And don't you know?' intended by the author of the work, although tildeshiny by the moleskins of the passing miners. Now the two girls wereAnd yet her soul was tortured, exposed. Even walking up the path to theSuddenly Mrs Crich came noiselessly into the room, peering about with'Really! But weren't you fearfully tempted?'It was crowded now with the family and the wedding guests. The father,

within her.made and fundraising will begin in the additional states.Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)thinking only of Birkin. He stood near her. She seemed to gravitatethings fail to materialise? NOTHING MATERIALISES! Everything withers inseemed to take pleasure in his social functions, he smiled, and waslife that had caused the accident? A man can live by accident, and dievoice that was too casual.started, turned and fled, scudding with an unthinkable swift beating ofpicture, or a marionette in a theatre, a finished creation. She lovedmore she strove to bring him to her, the more he battled her back. And [*] The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and'Tibs! Tibs!' she cried in her sudden, mocking excitement, standingwith agitation. As best man, he would be standing beside the altar. Shedisk or other etext medium, a computer virus, or computerthe thought of bearing children.'all liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, includinghad just come back from London, where she had spent several years,



I just found this search string amongst my stats:

people do not understand the meaning of nipples and what they can do to our souls

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And now for a moment of genuine fucking patriotism:

Jean reminds us all where we came from. It needs to be said, goddamit.

-snip- (go read the intro, it's good)

...There's a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Actually, in the work I do, I use those terms almost everyday. So when I talk about how much I like the Constitution, I'm not doing it as someone who thinks the 18th century was just grand. I'm doing it as someone who thinks that while the Framers dropped a lot of balls, they did set up a framework which reasonable people---if they ever get elected---can use as a frame of reference. To anybody that likes throwing around code cites and Common Law vagueries, I recommend a good, solid reading of the Federalist Papers. What you bring away from them will tell you what your real predilictions are, I think. I always read them as a classic illustration of the tension between order and freedom, society and the individual. As we've grown as a nation, our understandings of the Framers' failures has informed our remodeling of the Constitution to reflect the ends of justice that were at its core, even if it those specific ends were disappointed 220 years ago. That's the spirit of the law.

The spirit of the law is this: no matter what exigencies the current regime claims, you are innocent until you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to be safe in your person and possessions. You have the right to walk down the street, travel from state to state, buy toilet paper without proving who you are or what your business is. You have the right not to have your head busted in for saying that you have the right.

In exchange for those rights, you have duties. Well, to steal a line from Jebus, just one, really, the Most Important, as it were.

You have the duty not to piss on anybody else's rights.

I wonder about the mind that is aware of the current state of our union, and thinks that any good will come from opening up more citizens to scrutiny. I wonder about the mind that cannot see the fabulous connection between the power we are willing to cede and the freedom that we have. I wonder about the mind that cannot conceive of being next. I wonder about the mind that is so naive to believe that official contact ever stops with 'an inconvenient phone call.' I wonder about the mind that thinks that the innocent don't particularly care about being watched by the same people that have brought us such thrills and spills as Guantanamo. I'd tell that mind to read some case books, to read the rate at which innocents are convicted, sentenced, and even killed, but I know it wouldn't matter. Self-rightousness has no time for facts, no need for reality.

And Mr. Darrow have mercy on my soul, because I almost...almost want to say that self-righteousness does not deserve the protections that it is so quick to strip from others, especially when it is ready to call the thoughtful, guilty.

But I know history. And I know this:

"I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it."
(Judge Learned Hand)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A tentative theory of How Good Ideologies/Movements Go Bad, or at least Stupid

There must be a term for this phenomenon somewhere already; but here's my theory, by me:

First of all, there's at least some of it written into the original ideology. Sure, Original Texts get spun off into all sorts of wacky fanfics until you can hardly recognize the source material anymore; but still, there're usually germs there. And the more black/white thinking and calls for violence, even metaphorical violence, there are in the original, the faster and bloodier the deterioration will probably be (not always; much also depends on the most visible and charismatic proponents). Even the most benign, peaceful, All-Loving Text/ideology can get twisted to evil lunatics' purposes, of course; but, if there's a gun in the first act, it's gonna go off by the third.

Then what happens is, once the Movement gets past a certain threshold of members, the frootbats are likely to take over the orchard. The reason for this is threefold:

1) they drive all the saner people away either through bullying or sheer dint of their toxicity
2) they have the most need for attention, and thus get it, in spades, from the followers, from the opposition, and from the public audience.
3) they have deep unconscious impulses fuelling their attachment to the Movement, which makes them more zealous than the more balanced people who were in the Movement as a means to an end, not the end itself. Plus also eventually the saner people, who do not, for ethical reasons, have a constant vampiric tap on other people for to fortify their constant inexplicable stream of energy, eventually burn out.

This is of course in addition to the usual "telephone" game of relatively benign misunderstandings, the petty power dramas, the lack of organizational skills, the sheer "oops, we never thought of that."

but mostly, I feel, if the whole "thesis/antithesis/synthesis" dealio had allowed for the FROOTBAT factor, well...we'd still probably be pretty much where we are, dialectically speaking, but we'd be more ironically self-aware about it.

well, no. not that.

that needs more work.

never mind; talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Give 'em the ol' Razzle Dazzle

"long as you keep 'em way off balance
how can they spot you got no talents..."

Oh, it's a moot point by now of course; still, I thought this particular tap-dance should be preserved for posterity. He's not very good at this, is he? Still, the overhanging brow adds a certain gravitas, it must be said.

"Snow Compares Gay Marriage Ban With 'Civil Rights Legislation'"

Q You mentioned civil rights. Are you comparing this to various civil
rights measures which have come to the Congress over the years?

MR. SNOW: Not -- well, these -- it --

Q Is this a civil right?

MR. SNOW: Marriage? It actually -- what we're really talking about here is
an attempt to try to maintain the traditional meaning of an institution
that has maintained one meeting for -- meaning for a period of centuries.
And furthermore --

Q And you would equate that with civil rights?

MR. SNOW: No, I'm just saying that I think -- well, I don't know. How do
you define civil rights?

Q It's not up to me. Up to you.

MR. SNOW: Okay. Well, no, it's your question. So I -- if I --

Q (Chuckles.)

MR. SNOW: I need to get a more precise definition.

Q Can you stand there and say with a straight face that there is not a
political dimension to this?

MR. SNOW: Of course there's a political dimension to it. There's going to
be a Senate vote on it, for heaven sakes. You have -- there's naturally --
there are political dimensions on both sides.

It's -- this is an issue -- and we talked about this this morning -- that
I think is of keen interest to a lot of people. And one of the interesting
aspects is that there -- it's still -- the amendment still permits states
to consider arrangements and institutions for same-sex couples that would
not be called marriage. But the president feels strongly that marriage as
an institution has a fixed means that ought to be honored in American law.

...Q What has changed about the potential legal challenge since January of
last year that makes this riper?

MR. SNOW: Again, there -- you're going to have to ask --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. SNOW: You're going to have to ask the people who brought it up for a
vote in the Senate.

Q The Republican leadership works in concert with the White House, as you

MR. SNOW: Yeah, but I'm not aware that the White House had any particular
hand in scheduling this. But you know what? I'll check it out, because I
don't have the answer to --

...Q More than 8,000 same-sex couples have been married in Massachusetts.
What threat do they pose? And what's the president's --

MR. SNOW: They don't -- this is not in response to a threat. This is
merely a matter of trying to clarify what marriage ought to mean under the
law. As you know, the people of Massachusetts, also by referendum, defined
marriage as being between a man and a woman, and the Supreme Judicial
Court decided to throw it out. And it remains a matter of contention.

I don't think people look at this as a threat. It is trying to clarify
what is an important and contentious cultural and legal issue.

Q With this -- and let me just follow up.

MR. SNOW: Yeah.

Q With this to become a constitutional amendment, what legally then
happens to those 8,000-plus same-sex couples? Are their marriages

MR. SNOW: That would have to require keener legal expertise than mine. I
don't want to try to --

Q The president doesn't know what would happen?

MR. SNOW: No, the press secretary doesn't know. (Laughter.)

Q You mentioned the president was actually concerned about other issues
besides this one.


Q Tony, I just wanted -- on gay marriage again. You are almost portraying
the president as being a passive participant in this; that the Senate is
acting, so he's speaking out.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q In the gaggle, you suggested the media is over-hyping this issue.

MR. SNOW: Yeah.

Q Conservatives, like Tony Perkins, are saying it was the president who
brought this up a lot during the 2004 campaign. Wasn't he hyping it then?
Why is the president being so passive?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize -- I don't think it's passive.
Again, the president has made clear what his views are. But, you know,
this is one where I -- I'm trying to figure out exactly how one decides
when one is active and one is passive.

Confidential to Mr. Snow: you look at which pocket the President's keys and/or hanky is in; and then you look at the Senate's pockets.

We interrupt this series with a brief word about our sponsor

Blogger! jesus hannah christ on a pogo stick! you've got more issues than National Geographic, and you've been undergoing more aggravating technical difficulties than the NY subway system! i am trying to be faithful here (well, no; more like, i'm so far too lazy to make the transfer to another system), but, dude, you are seriously tempting me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

From object to subject; the personal is political.

All that said, the personal, she is still political, yahyup.

What's my own stake in all this? Well, I could point to a number of things.

But a lot (not all) of what brought me to where I am today was a long-going formative experience that went something like this:

YOUTHFUL ME: i...i...i...o god. i think i might be...(swallow).. you know. gay.

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Lots of girls your age go through that phase. It doesn't mean anything. Why, when I was your age...

YOUTHFUL ME: yes yes but but you see i think about girls a *lot,* and i have these...feelings--

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Those feelings are natural! for your age. Ignore them. It doesn't mean you're gay!

YOUTHFUL ME: i know but i don't feel that way about boys.

AUTHORITY FIGURE: Well, you might just be a late bloomer. Everyone develops at their own rate!

YM: then why am i feeling this way about girls?

AF: I told you. You're young, and you're confused.

YM: i'm confused?

AF: Yes.

YM: i guess i am at that. anyway i feel just awful.

AF: Do you remember those tests you took? Here, I want to show you the results. Your tree drawing shows that you have no gender identity confusion. People who are confused about their gender identity draw a split trunk. Your trunk is straight!

YM: but i thought you said i am confused.

AF: You're not that confused.

YM: oh.

AF: Anyway, you're still developing. Stop obsessing so much! You'll be fine.

YM: (bursts into tears)

AF: There, there, dear. Don't get upset. I just told you: I think you're fine. You're normal! Here, I think what you need is some affirmation from a Man.

DORKY MALE AUTHORITY FIGURE: I know just how you feel. When I was your age, all I could think about was my weight. I would eat and eat just to fill the gaping hole inside...

YM: are you saying that i'm fat?!?! (fresh tears)

DMAF: No, no, honey! I was talking about me. I know how hard is it when you're young and confused and have low self-esteem. That's all I'm saying.

YM: oh.

DAF: You know what? Have you seen the movie "The Princess Bride?" I think you should go and see it. Because you are a princess, you know.

YM:...(sniffle) um, thanks.

FEMALE AUTHORITY FIGURE: And I'll tell you what, I think you need to get out more. Do you go to church?

YM: no, we're Jewish.

AF: Do you go to...temple?

YM: no.

AF: I'm going to recommend to your parents that you start.

YM: okay. why?

AF: Because you need to be among your peers.

YM: but why do you want us to go to synagogue?

AF: Because.

YM: okay.

AF: And I'm also going to recommend that you start this modelling course at John robert Powers. I think you'll enjoy it.

YM: well, that does sound like fun. i do like clothes and makeup...

AF: Good. See you next week.

YM: but...

AF: oh, WHAT?! I mean, yes, dear?

YM: butwhatifiREALLYAM???

AF: (deep sigh) Look, I told you. I don't think you're gay. I just don't see you living that lifestyle. least wait until college before you do anything about it.

Now. Go home. Follow the advice I gave you. Try to stop obsessing so much.

YM: okay. if you really think that will help.

AF: And put on a sweater. No, not that one. The pink one.



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Objectification, continued further

So, my question has been:

Is there a useful way to frame oppression and abuse that includes, but is not limited to, sociopolitical context as we tend to think of it these days (i.e. class, race, identity politics, gender and sexuality, age and ability, governmental politics and material "issues")? In other words: what if male over female (white over black, rich over poor) isn't the "primary" oppression? O.K., they're all real, and they all intersect; maybe one doesn't have to take precedence over the others. They're all worth studying, and fighting. But what's the common denominator? Is there one? What does it all mean, dear? Why do people act like this, anyway?

Well, now we're really getting into fundamental questions about human nature: what is aggression? what is power? Why are they necessary, or are they? Volumes have been written with this sort of question as a starting point, of course. One that's given me a lot of food for thought is "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness," by Eric Fromm. I've also gotten a lot from various works by Robert Jay Lifton and Alice Miller (although I sometimes have the impression that Miller's work has undergone some reification in its own right)

For purposes of looking at this thing that's been called "objectification" though, I'm going to turn to the often-maligned field of self-help. Specifically, a book called "Controlling People," by Patricia Evans. Even though she never actually uses that word, objectification, preferring such terminology of her own as "connecting backwards." Whatever you want to call it--subtle as it is, yes, there is something wrong with this picture, for example:

A woman I'll call Betty walked into a cafe where I was having coffee with a friend. She was accompanied by her daughter, whom I'll call Suzy, about seven years old.

"What kind of ice cream do you want?" asked Betty...

"Mom, I want vanilla," said Suzy.

"Have chocolate chip," said her mother.

"No. I'll have vanilla."

"You'd like chocolate-walnut better."

"No. I want vanilla."

"You don't want vanilla. I know you prefer some kind of chocolate," said her mother.

"I want vanilla."

"You don't want vanilla."

"Yes I do."

"Well, aren't you a strange one," said her mother."

As the conversation progressed the mother's statements seemed more and more strange to me. They had an odd, backwards quality about them. Betty could only know her own likes and dislikes, not her daughter's. Betty was acting as though she knew what Suzy wanted.

Since Suzy's personal reality was negated, she was invited to ignore herself. She was actually told that what she knew from within--her preference--was wrong and that what she heard from without--her mother's conjecture--was right. She also heard that her authentic self (the one that wanted the vanilla) was not acceptable to her mother.

While Betty appeared to have had a good intention, to buy her daughter some delicious ice cream, she was in fact assaulting her daughter's psychic boundary

...even though, yes, it was a "small" assault, and yes, in this case, the child withstood it and stuck to her guns. No real harm done here...probably. But.

Evans goes on to talk about what would happen if the girl did take her mother's message to heart ("Oh, you're right, I guess I did want chocolate after all.")
What would happen is that she might temporarily get more approval from Mom (big relief) but at a price; she's disconnected from her own internal knowledge. Specifically, in this case, she'll need to disconnect from her sensory awareness--the way the ice cream tastes to her-- in order to convince herself that, oh, yeah, I do "like" chocolate better than vanilla. And she'll probably have to disconnect from her emotions somewhat; instead of feeling disappointed and angry at Mom (her real emotions) for twisting her arm, in order to maintain the relationship, she'll convince herself that she's happy and grateful.

Or, take another example of Evans': a young boy falls down and hurts himself. He starts to cry. Mom and Dad, for whatever reasons of their own, are upset by his crying. Instead of owning this, though, they say:

"You're not hurt. Stop crying."

...perhaps with a little "Boys don't cry" thrown in, just for that extra socialized layer of control. In order to maintain Mom and Dad's approval, sonny has to disconnect from the sensation of pain; from the sad emotions; from the shame at having his gender identity put on trial; and from the anger and confusion at having his needs for comfort dismissed.

Not such a big deal, though, that sort of thing, of itself. Right? Probably happens all the time, that sort of thing, right?

Well: yeah, exactly.

Evans is clear that this sort of transaction happens between adults as well as between adult and child. However, it's also pretty clear that someone who's grown up around very unconscious, controlling people is more likely to carry on the tradition him or herself as an adult, from both directions. (After all, the child has no other frame of reference, and the prospect of losing his/her caretaker's approval is much more devastating as it would be for an adult encountering this sort of behavior for the first time, as, for the child, it seems to carry the threat of actual abandonment; which means, essentially, death). There are other terms for this sort of thing, at least at the relatively mild level we've been talking about; "codependent," for example. It doesn't necessarily stop there, though.

Because, once you've learned to disconnect from your own internal compass as a matter of course, unless and until you learn to reconnect, you are open to a myriad of other abuses, subtle and gross. You also have the potential to be abusive yourself--at the least, invasive--in one way or another, and probably without ever realizing it. Because you have learned not to feel, or at least to know what you're feeling, partially or completely; because you have learned to rely on others' reactions instead of your heart and your guts and your gonads.

And if you even can't tell what you're feeling, it's very unlikely that you're going to be able to accurately judge what somebody else might be feeling. Of course, you could always just wait for them to tell you, or even ask them; but, mmmm, have you ever really learned to hear, really hear, someone else? Are you listening?

Well, can you hear your own "still, small voice?" Are you listening to yourself?

So how likely is it that you're going to be able to truly connect to someone else in the I-Thou way, if you're that disconnected from even yourself?

What tends to happen instead is, you're generally not actually relating to the other person at all, no matter how "close" you might appear; you are relating to, as Evans puts it, a Pretend Person. Another way of putting this could be to say that you are treating the other person as an extension of yourself, and/or letting him/her treat you as an extension of him/herself.*
Even when it's relatively benign, this sort of thing can be absolutely crazy-making:

"I'm cold. Put on a sweater."

or, better yet, go directly to:

"I know what your problem is. You're cold. Put on a sweater."

And then, there are the times when it's not so benign.

According to Evans, most abuse happens when a person who's very disconnected is suddenly confronted with the a glimpse of the reality of the other person as a separate individual, as opposed to the "pretend person" the controller has made up inside his/her head (and thus, an extension of him/herself). This can happen in a number of ways; the other person expresses disagreement with the controller; the other person expresses a desire that is not the same as the controller's desire; the other person acts and behaves in any way that does not fit the controller's image of the ideal pretend person; the other person fails to read the controller's mind.

In short, from any sane perspective, it could be pretty much any goddam thing at all; it doesn't much matter what the other person does, eventually it's going to go pear-shaped.

But if the other person is used to being around controllers, then chances are pretty good that s/he'll just internalize the criticism/rebuff/abuse and try to adjust...again.

And probably will promptly find herself/himself in yet another of these down-the-rabbit hole interactions:

"I know what you need."


"A sweater. Here. You're cold."

"No, not really."

"Yes, you are. You're cold. I can see you shivering. Put on a sweater before you catch pneumonia, for crissakes."

"Look, thank you, but I'm not cold. But if you're cold, you're welcome to borrow my sweater."

"I didn't say I was cold, I said YOU'RE cold. Why don't you ever listen to me?? And I don't want your goddam sweater, what do you think I am, some kind of charity case?! Stop trying to manipulate me!! Jesus!"

Or, consider the following:

"You're so selfish."

"You make me so angry."

"You should have known."

"Look what you made me do!"

...and so on, and so on, and...

Funnily enough, you can plug those into just about any gender or relational configuration and it still rings, at least to my ear. (That said, those looking for validation for their experience of male-to-female domestic abuse will find plenty of examples in Evans' book, from subtle to extreme).

Evans talks a bit about cults using this dynamic as well, (which is also a key subject for Robert Jay Lifton, by the way: how cults actually work, on any scale; including governments or religions or political organizations that have gone cultlike).

Cult is one of those loaded words. It's awful strong.

What I do think, though, in relation to politics...

Well, just maybe, in the midst of all this rigorous ideological self-interrogation and so forth, it might be worthwhile to tap down and get in touch with one's feelings every so often. Take a breath.

And maybe just consider one more question, i.e., whether there is, in fact, a difference between:

A (to B): "You're cold (as I once was). No, don't deny it. Here's what you need. Trust me; I know; I've been there. It's for your own good."


A: "I'm cold."

B: "Then I invite you to share my fire."

Back Next

Monday, June 05, 2006

Objectification, continued

While much of this particular wiki definition is in dispute (surprise), I think the opening paragraph is pretty to-the-point:

Sexual objectification is objectification of a sexual partner, that is, seeing them as a sexual object, and their sexual attributes, without due recognition or respect for their existence as a living person with emotions and feelings of their own. Typically it involves disregarding personal abilities and capabilities such as intelligence and problem solving skills, and viewing them in terms solely of attributes relevant to a role as sexual plaything, such as physical attractiveness, submissiveness and gullibility.

As such, in theory, one supposes, that definition could be applied to any gender configuration. It could be, it should be (I would argue)...but, generally speaking, it isn't. Because, many argue, and with good reason (it seems to me), in this our patriarchal (among other things) culture, the subject is male; the object is female. And so, when people talk about sexual objectification, generally they are talking about the objectification of women, for and by men. Men look (gaze); women are looked at. Men act; women are acted upon. Men penetrate; women are penetrated. Men violate; women are violated. Subject: object. Objectification, sexual.

This construct can be and often is expanded upon to encompass other "primary" forms of objectification, sociopolitically speaking. For example: whites colonize/invade; the racial "other" is colonized/invaded.

So then why the emphasis on the sexual part of the objectification, per se?

From Earlbecke of Melted Dreams:

So not all objectification is sexual. None of it is good, beneficial, or in any way desirable. I am a person, not an object. I take particular exception, however, to being made into a sexual object. My sexuality — the firing of neurons in my brain, the combination of feelings and sensations moving along my nerves, my body, my breasts, my vulva — does not exist for the pleasure of anyone but me. This is not to say that I’m selfish, that I would take pleasure from another while denying them pleasure from my body, my sex — it is to say that if I find it pleasurable to give pleasure to a particular person, that is my business. It is nothing that can be taken without my express will, my explicit consent. My body does not exist specifically for the visual or physical stimulation of others, especially those to whom I do not give permission to use me in this way.

“Don’t we all like to be objectified sometimes?”

No. I don’t. I don’t enjoy being made into a passive object to be manipulated. I don’t enjoy being made into something less-than-human. I don’t enjoy being ignored and overlooked as the individual that I am and instead made into something else against my own will.

Do I enjoy being found attractive? Yes, of course. Everyone does. But too often these two phenomona are conflated and confused...

What earlbecke is touching on here is what's been at the root of the "sex wars" as well as, arguably, much of what's at the heart of all of feminism.

"My body belongs to me."

(Your body belongs to you. Her body belongs to her. His body...)

I'm going to tweak this a bit now and suggest the following:

When people say that someone or something is "objectifying," with a negative connotation, what they generally mean is that it's invasive. That is to say: penetrating someone else's boundaries, not necessarily in a concretely identifiable physical way--more on that in just a moment--against the someone else's wishes.

(ok, I'm already seeing a potential objection to this; is "objectification" in the sense of casual dismissal of a service worker or what have you as a pair of hands, an ear, what have you, invasive per se? or is the problem more the refusal to see the person as a person, all by itself? that is, something that's a necessary prerequistite to invasion, but without necesesarily being invasive of itself? well, for now at least):

In other words, we're back to boundaries.

...boundaries have a fundamental place in life itself. Look around you, and you will see that every living creature has its own territory in which it lives and that it defends against intrusion. Boundaries are so fundamental that even criminals who thrive on violating the integrity of others have their own internal code of ethics, their own “boundaries.”

"We all have boundaries. Our original ones are our skins."

Our original boundaries are our skins.

The reason that rape is such a fundamental, hideous violation, even putting aside (as much as one can) all preconceived tropes about gender, the male, the female, the that it is an unwanted penetration of that original boundary: the skin. Into the tender unprotected parts of the Self. Into one's very being, physically.

And with that physical, unwanted invasion comes a whole host of other, more ineffable, but no less pernicious invasions. The physical wounds can at least be fairly easily identified and treated, for the most part; the tearings of the psyche, the soul, even, are much harder to quantify or even pin down. Because, unlike the physical wounds, which can be observed by an outside, "objective" eye, those wounds are, by and large, subjective. No one can really know what's going on inside of you but you.

I would argue that there is no such thing as a physical invasion/rape/violation that does not also, inevitably, bring with it an equally, if not worse, tearing of the soul (psyche, whatever term you prefer).

Ah, but. Is the reverse true? That is, if there is no physical invasion, does it therefore follow that there has been no harm done? no invasiveness?

I think (I hope) it's pretty safe to say that most if not all feminists, whichever side of the "sex wars" they fall on, would respond to this with "hell, no, of course that doesn't follow." That is: hey, just look at what earlbecke was talking about; she's talking about street harassment, for example. No one necessarily gets physically touched, there, right? But there's still a problem, isn't there?

Okay, so, but, now what? How exactly do you identify the problem, if it's not through "objectively" observable physical signs or behaviors?

You know, one of the reasons I like earlbecke's piece so much is that she puts so much emphasis on consent, as opposed to any particular act itself. She notes that

Powerlessness as a fantasy or a kink is not the same as actual powerlessness, as actual slavery and bondage

for instance. This has been one of the sticking points within the "sex wars," of course, whether BDSM, the erotic fantasy role-playing game(s), is problematic (from a feminist perspective) of itself. Another one, which isn't nearly as hot these days, was the whether penetration itself was problematic, of itself. (No, Dworkin did not actually say "All intercourse is rape;" but I think it's fair to say that it's not just her detractors who ever picked up on the idea that PIV intercourse and/or penetration is a/the problem, of itself). And even now, all over the internets, back and forth, on and on, I still see it: are high heels a tool of the patriarchy? Is it inherently feminist to wear a corset, or to create and/or publish pictures and videos of oneself and/or other consenting adults, being sexually explicit, or to deliver (or receive) an erotic spanking?

Well...according to whom?

Hence the problem.

Because, even more so (arguably) than in other sociopolitical thrashes, when it comes to that sort of shit, for the most part, we're talking about highly subjective experiences. Feelings. Desires. Internal states. "I do such-and-so because I like it" is sometimes dismissed as not sufficient to counter serious feminist critique of the historical meaning and uses of such-and-so; "because I like it," the suggestion goes, is not enough.

But if "because I like it/want it" isn't sufficient to justify one's choices for oneself, then how can you successfully argue that "because I don't like/want it" is sufficient to define rape, or any other abuse?

Because, if the real, the only question does not in fact come down to the individual's consent, to taking the woman's word for it when she says she does or does not want such and so ... then, inevitably, it becomes necessary to reify (told you we'd come back to it) certain acts, certain articles of clothing, certain positions, certain words. One could reify, for example, the act of giving a flogging, or anal penetration. Now, it's not a question of whether the person has consented to the flogging or the penetration (i.e. her desires, her internal state); now it's more concretely about the flogging or the penetration, itself.

Further, when one declares such-and-so "not feminist," (as opposed to, "I find this problematic,") one claims for oneself, if implicitly, the objective point of view; now, the participants' subjective desires give way before the objective meaning of the act, as defined by the speaker/voice of authority.

(One of the other reasons I like earlbecke's piece so much: the use of "I" statements).

And once people start getting into that territory, there's a very real danger of objectifying actual women (and others) all over again. No, probably not through forcible physical penetration. Perhaps not in any way overtly relating to sexuality at all. But there are other ways of being invasive.