Quotulatiousness

June 1, 2015

It’s time to end the US federal porn subsidy!

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Real Clear Science, Alex B. Berezow issues a clarion call to stop the US government’s (hidden) subsidy to pornography producers:

You might be asking, What federal porn subsidy? Fair question. Technically, there isn’t a federal porn subsidy. However, if we borrow some of the logic commonly used by politically driven economists, we can redefine the word subsidy to mean whatever we want.

Pornography is enjoyed by many people, but it comes with a very real social cost: it can break up families and perhaps even become an addiction, which are profound losses of productivity. Economists refer to these as negative externalities — i.e., bad side effects that affect people other than the person making the decision. One way to deal with such decisions is to tax them. This should, in theory, reduce the negative side effects, while simultaneously forcing the decisionmaker to bear the “true cost” of his actions. Clearly, if anyone should have to pay for this societal cost, it should be porn watchers, in the form of a porn tax. If they don’t pay such a tax, they are getting an indirect subsidy.

As it turns out, we don’t have a federal porn tax. Thus, we could say that the American government has issued a federal porn subsidy.

Obviously, that reasoning is absurd. Not only does it dubiously redefine the word subsidy, but it unconvincingly claims to be able to accurately place a price tag on every conceivable externality created by watching porn. Accepting that argument would require a nearly complete suspension of disbelief.

Yet, that is essentially the argument that a group of economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just made about fossil fuel subsidies. (See PDF.)

[…]

The Guardian, which penned the most influential coverage, began its article with an eye-popping statistic:

    “Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day…”

Wow. $5.3 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies? That sounds insane. But, how do they arrive at that number? The Guardian goes on to explain:

    “The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.”

Ah, okay. The subsidy isn’t a direct financial calculation, but is instead based on a bunch of externalities whose costs are nearly impossible to derive with any sense of believability. To give you an idea of just how much fudging exists in these kinds of calculations, a similar report issued in 2013 (PDF) concluded that the fossil fuel subsidy was $1.9 trillion. A discrepancy of $3.4 trillion should raise red flags in regard to methodology.

April 7, 2015

QotD: Top ten reasons not to be a rightist

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00
  1. Pornography. The complete absence of evidence that exposure to sexually-explicit material is harmful to children or anyone else doesn’t stop conservatives from advocating massive censorship.
  2. Drugs. We found out that Prohibition was a bad idea back in the 1930s — all it did was create a huge and virulent criminal class, erode respect for the law, and corrupt our politics. Some people never learn.
  3. Creationism. I don’t know who I find more revolting, the drooling morons who actally believe creationism or the intelligent panderers who know better but provide them with political cover for their religious-fundamentalist agenda in return for votes.
  4. Abortion. The conservatives’ looney-toon religious need to believe that a fertilized gamete is morally equivalent to a human being has done the other half of making a reasoned debate on abortion nigh-impossible.
  5. Racism. I haven’t forgiven the Right for segregation, Jim Crow laws, and lynching blacks. And I never will.
  6. Sexism. Way too much conservative thought still reads like an apologia for keeping women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.
  7. Anti-science. Stem cells, therapeutic cloning — it doesn’t matter how many more diabetes, cancer and AIDS patients have to die to protect the anti-abortion movement’s ideological flanks. Knowledge — who needs it? Conservatives would try suppressing astronomy if the telescope had just been invented.
  8. Family values. Conservatives are so desperate to reassert the repressive `normalcy’ they think existed in Grand-dad’s time that they pretend we can undo the effects of the automobile, television, the Pill, and the Internet.
  9. Ronald Wilson Reagan. A B-movie actor who thought ketchup was a vegetable. His grip on reality was so dangerously weak that the Alzheimer’s made no perceptible difference. Conservatives worship him.
  10. Conservatives, by and large, are villains.

Eric S. Raymond, “Top Ten Reasons I’m Neither a Liberal Nor a Conservative”, Armed and Dangerous, 2004-09-19.

April 5, 2015

1 in 20 British students have earned money through sex work

Filed under: Britain, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A rather surprising result from a new study by Swansea University:

Nearly five percent of U.K. students have engaged in some form of sex work, according to new research that contradicts conventional wisdom about the sex industry in several significant ways. For starters, more male than female students participated in sex work. And while money was one motivating factor, students also cited flexible scheduling and personal enjoyment or curiosity among their main reasons for getting involved.

The research was part of the Student Sex Work Project, a 3-year initiative led by Swansea University. Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 students from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, whittling the final data sample down to 6,673. Students answered questions about their attitudes toward sex work — broadly defined as “the exchange of sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation” — and any personal experiences with it.

Among the key findings: 4.8 percent of student respondents had done some sort of sex work, including 5 percent of male students surveyed and 3.4 percent of female students. [While the report mentions transgender student sex workers, it does not include any specific numbers.] Nearly nearly 22 percent of respondents had considered doing sex work.

Of the male students surveyed, 2.4 percent had engaged in what researchers call “direct sex work,” aka prostitution, as had 1.3 percent of female students. Three and a half percent of male respondents and 2.7 percent of females had done “indirect sex work,” which includes things such as stripping, porn acting, nude modeling, webcam or phone sex services, and nude housecleaning. A combined 1 percent of students surveyed were involved in sex work in an auxiliary manner, such as working as a receptionist or a driver for an escort company.

March 15, 2015

Is Fifty Shades of Grey anti-feminist?

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In Spiked, Stephanie Gutmann looks at what the immense popularity of the Fifty Shades franchise might say about modern women’s views of feminism:

Are you sick of Fifty Shades of Grey yet? Not completely? Okay, well maybe this can be the last word. I should be qualified to deliver the last word because (there are going to be a lot of lists here): 1) I’m female, so I can start this piece with the all-important ‘As a woman’ clause; and 2) I’ve actually slogged through most of it.

Can we please dispense with all the faux handwringing about what it means for civilisation that a very long (514 pages) piece of crap sold 100 million copies? The answer is gorilla-in-the-living-room simple. As a woman, I’m here to tell you that: 1) many women like porn — particularly if it’s jiggered for the female taste (made a little prettier with a little more plot set-up; foreplay, so to speak); 2) women will buy lots of porn if it’s packaged, and sold, correctly; and 3) in particular, what women have always longed for, at least in fantasy, is the alpha male (actually he doesn’t even have to be that alpha, just attractive) who will pursue them and then sweep them off their delicate feet. After nearly 50 years of the systematic bludgeoning of male aggressiveness in every form by feminism, women under the age of 50 have had very little contact in their actual lives with men who pursue, who grasp, who dominate. Still, many women have a vague, inchoate sense that this might be very pleasant.

[…]

Nevertheless, Fifty Shades is only the repackaging of an old-as-the-hills formula. Filthy books have always sold billions of copies — there just wasn’t much acknowledgement of this because the books were too downmarket, and the soccer moms of New York’s suburbs didn’t buy them. A company called Harlequin Romance has built a $1.5 billion empire (‘110 titles a month in 34 languages in 110 international markets on six continents’) over the past 20 years, selling so-called romance novels every bit as sexually explicit as Fifty Shades. The problem has always been that, until lately, you had to go to places like a K-Mart (kind of like a Tesco) to buy them. They also had embarrassingly florid covers featuring Dolly Parton-like babes having their blouses ripped open by Fabio-like men on the decks of sailing ships. Into this market came Fifty Shades, with a subdued cover, that you could buy discreetly online.

February 13, 2015

“Over cocktails in the woods of eastern Kentucky, they formed a partnership to mass-produce porn”

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The son of Golden Age SF author Andrew Offutt talks about his father’s other books:

My father, Andrew Jefferson Offutt V, grew up in a log cabin in Taylorsville, Ky. The house had 12-inch-thick walls with gun ports to defend against attackers: first Indians, then soldiers during the Civil War. At 12, Dad wrote a novel of the Old West. He taught himself to type with the Columbus method — find it and land on it — using one finger on his left hand and two fingers on his right. Dad typed swiftly and with great passion. In this fashion, he eventually wrote and published more than 400 books. Two were science fiction and 24 were fantasy, written under his own name; the rest were pornography, using 17 pseudonyms.

In the mid-1960s, Dad purchased several porn novels through the mail. My mother recalls him reading them with disgust — not because of the content, but because of how poorly they were written. He hurled a book across the room and told her he could do better. Mom suggested he do so. According to her, the tipping point for Dad’s full commitment to porn, five years later, was my orthodontic needs.

[…]

Dad’s writing process was simple — he’d get an idea, brainstorm a few notes, then write the first chapter. Next he’d develop an outline from one to 10 pages. He followed the outline carefully, relying on it to dictate the narrative. He composed his first drafts longhand, wearing rubber thimbles on finger and thumb. Writing with a felt-tip pen, he produced 20 to 40 pages in a sitting. Upon completion of a full draft, he transcribed the material to his typewriter, revising as he went. Most writers get more words per page as they go from longhand to a typed manuscript, but not Dad. His handwriting was small, and he used ampersands and abbreviations. His first drafts were often the same length as the final ones.

Manuscripts of science fiction and fantasy received multiple revisions, but he had to work much faster on porn. After a longhand first chapter, he typed the rest swiftly, made editorial changes and passed that draft to my mother. She retyped it for final submission. At times, Mom would be typing the beginning of the book while Dad was still writing the end.

His goal was a minimum of a book a month. To achieve that, he refined his methods further, inventing a way that enabled him to maintain a supply of raw material with a minimum of effort. He created batches in advance — phrases, sentences, descriptions and entire scenes on hundreds of pages organized in three-ring binders. Tabbed index dividers separated the sections into topics.

Eighty percent of the notebooks described sexual aspects of women. The longest section focused on their bosoms. Another binder listed descriptions of individual actions, separated by labeling tabs that included: Mouth. Tongue. Face. Legs. Kiss. The heading of Orgasm had subdivisions of Before, During and After. The thickest notebook was designed strictly for B.D.S.M. novels with a list of 150 synonyms for “pain.” Sections included Spanking, Whipping, Degradation, Predegradation, Distress, Screams, Restraints and Tortures. These were further subdivided into specific categories followed by brief descriptions of each.

Dad was like Henry Ford applying principles of assembly-line production with pre-made parts. The methodical technique proved highly efficient. Surrounded by his tabulated notebooks, he could quickly find the appropriate section and transcribe lines directly into his manuscript. Afterward, he blacked them out to prevent plagiarizing himself. Ford hired a team of workers to manufacture a Model-T in hours. Working alone, Dad could write a book in three days.

February 10, 2015

Edmund Curll, “printer, pirate, and pornographer”

Filed under: Britain, History, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown, guest-posting at Charlie’s Diary, discuss a thoroughly awful man of letters:

Like now, there were ripoff booksellers masquerading among the legitimate ones, though today’s scammers (see Writer Beware) are rarely as colorful as the rascally Edmund Curll — printer, pirate, and pornographer. He stole material with flagrant disregard for copyright. As soon as some prominent person died, he collected gossip — it didn’t matter if it was true — for a biography, and if he didn’t have enough material, he made it up. Prominent people reportedly dreaded dying because of what Curll would do to them. A faint echo of the Curll treatment occurred a couple weeks ago, when Colleen McCullough’s obit started off by noting how fat and unlovely she’d been.

Curll churned out so much X-rated stuff under various guises that the word ‘Curlicism’ became synonymous with porn. Prison, a stint in the stocks, even being blanket-tossed and beaten by the boys at Westminster school not only didn’t stop him from theft and libel, he turned them all into marketing opportunities. Even when he was convicted of libel and forced to publish an apology and a promise to stop printing, his repentant words touted his latest books.

He’s best known for the twenty-year running duel with the poet Alexander Pope, from whom he not only stole, he lampooned under his own name and with sockpuppets. It began when he first pirated Pope, prompting the poet and his publisher to meet Curll at the Swan, where they slipped a mega dose of “physic” (think ExLax) into his drink. He turned that, too, into a marketing event, once he’d recovered from the extremes of ejecta; when Pope published a couple of triumphant pamphlets, claiming Curll was dead, Curl came right back with new material demonstrating that he was very much alive and up to his usual racket.

Their history — and there are other equally crazy-ass stories — remind me of the whoops and hollers of internet feuds and FAILS now, among writers, editors, publishers (some individuals wearing all three hats).

Aside from the Curlls, most booksellers, the publishers of the eighteenth century — like the editors working at traditional publishers now — were hardworking people who made careful decisions about what to publish because they were the ones fronting the costs of printing and of copyright.

The booksellers of Grub Street were all about copyright. For most of the eighteenth century, they met yearly, over sumptuous dinners, to hold a copyright auction that was exclusive to the booksellers. Interlopers were unceremonious chucked out.

January 7, 2015

QotD: It’s all about the men

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Probably the most common stereotype of anti-sex worker feminists is that they’re all misandrists, and on the surface that certainly seems true. But a closer examination of the issue reveals a deeper motivation which more closely resembles an obsessive concern with men at the expense of women. Feminists are willing to deny models income in order to deny lads’ mags to men, and would rather see women in the porn industry unemployed rather than know that men can watch porn videos. “Sex trafficking” fetishists are willing to undermine the entire edifice of civil liberties for both sexes in order to stop men from having access to commercial sex. Anti-sex worker screeds go on and on about “ending men’s demand for sex”, or “teaching men they aren’t entitled to sex”, or “look at the awful things men say about ‘prostituted women’!” Men this, men that, men the other thing; men, men, Men, MEN, MEN! No matter how vociferously prohibitionists insist that their motive is women’s protection or “empowerment”, sex work prohibition has absolutely nothing to do with women: it’s all about the men.

Nearly every Western society has a long tradition of viewing sex as something “dirty” and “demeaning”; the idea of punishment is inextricably bound up with the concept of “correction”, so buried in the misandrist rhetoric spouted by prohibitionists is the notion that if Big Nanny just spanks men hard enough and often enough, they won’t have those dirty thoughts any more. The underlying pretext of punishing men for male sexuality, and restricting them from enjoying same, is not to hurt them but rather to “help” them by making them more like (asexual, idealized) women. To be sure, “fallen” women are to be “helped” as well wherever possible, but when it happens it’s merely a happy byproduct of the campaign to “improve” men; those women who refuse to be “saved” and to dutifully recite the feminist catechism thereafter will be thrown under the bus without the slightest hesitation.

Maggie McNeill, “All About the Men”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-05-09.

January 5, 2015

Morality in public, perversity in private?

Filed under: Media, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Washington Post, Nita Farahany looks at an interesting study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study gives away the game in the title — Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?

“In America, religiosity and conservatism are generally associated with opposition to non-traditional sexual behavior, but prominent political scandals and recent research suggest a paradoxical private attraction to sexual content on the political and religious right. We examined associations between state level religiosity/conservatism and anonymized interest in searching for sexual content online using Google Trends (which calculates within-state search volumes for search terms). Across two separate years, and controlling for demographic variables, we observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private Internet activity. Alternative explanations (e.g., that opposition to non-traditional sex in right-leaning states leads liberals to rely on private internet sexual activity) are discussed, as are limitations to inference posed by aggregate data more generally.”

The researchers found that the American states with the greatest proportion of individuals who self-identify as very religious, or consider religion to be an important part of their lives, engage in more active searches for sexual content online compared to states with fewer religious and conservative individuals. There was a direct correlation between the proportion of conservatives in a state and image-specific Internet sex searches documented in that state.

Their conclusion? More restrictive social norms drive behaviors underground. There are quite a few limitations of the study and alternative hypotheses that may drive the results, which the researchers acknowledge. But it’s still quite an interesting study.

November 27, 2014

QotD: Monster porn

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Horgan is apparently so content to view sexuality as an unfathomable chthonic mystery that he doesn’t even bother to ask a reasonably-intelligent woman who’s turned on by this sort of thing what she thinks about it. And though I’ll never read Taken by the T-Rex or Moan for Bigfoot, that’s not because I’m disgusted by the subject matter; as it turns out, I myself am a reasonably-intelligent woman who’s turned on by this sort of thing. See these illustrations? I’ve got a bunch of ‘em in my art folders. People who played Dungeons & Dragons with me could tell you about some memorable episodes. And remember my mentioning how the movie Gargoyles inspired one of my favorite make-believe scenarios as a kid? Yeah, that. The thing is, anybody who’s read some of my other columns on my own kinks and paid attention to some of the fantasy iconography I’ve featured (dig the cover of my book at upper right) could’ve guessed as much; it’s no surprise when a woman who is turned on by rape, abduction and bondage scenarios is similarly affected when the abductor is some sort of non-human entity. For the record, dinosaurs and the like do nothing for me; it has to be an intelligent monster, like a demon, an astropelagic alien (again, see my book) or a werewolf. In a spoken sequence on Bat Out of Hell, a male character asks a female, “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?” My friend Philippa used to say that her answer to that was, “Every fucking time.”

When Horgan declares that evolutionary psychology can’t explain monster porn, he indulges in the same narcissism as prohibitionists do when they declare that no woman could choose sex work: “I cannot understand this, therefore it is inexplicable.” But actually, women being turned on by monsters is no odder (vampires, anyone?) than women indulging in transactional sex; however much either or both of them might upset and horrify prudes, they both have their origins in female behavioral scripts going back to the time when the behavior of human men wasn’t much different from that of the monsters in the fantasies.

Maggie McNeill, “Beauty and the Beast”, The Honest Courtesan, 2014-04-10

August 2, 2014

“So that’s what the economists at Treasury mean by ‘priming the pump'”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:28

Kevin Williamson explains that the government is staffed by deviants under-employed workers who have to find ways to spend their time in the office creatively:

Behind closed doors, in private offices off Washington’s corridors of power, there are a lot of mouses getting double-clicked, if you know what I mean. At the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior official spent so much time watching pornography while on the federal clock that the Office of the Inspector General dispatched a special agent to look into it — and the official continued watching porn while the OIG agent was in his office. At the Federal Communications Commission — which, among other things, polices pornography — employees routinely spend the equivalent of a full workday each week watching porn. At the General Services Administration — which, like the FCC, has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, being charged with minimizing federal operating costs — employees spend up to six hours a day watching porn on the taxpayers’ dime. At Commerce, paralegals were paid upward of $4 million to do no work — any guesses how they filled their days?

It’s a lucky thing that federal employees have such good insurance plans when it comes to workplace-related troubles such as repetitive-stress injuries: One especially heroic employee at Treasury viewed more than 13,000 pieces of pornography in the space of a few weeks, surely setting some kind of gherkin-goosing record in the process. I assume he told his superiors he was busy debugging his hard drive.

If war is politics by other means, as Clausewitz insisted, then administration is a tug of war.

A very lonely tug of war.

It is not just pornography. Federal employees fill their days with online shopping, watching television, trolling dating sites in the hopes of having a relationship with someone other than themselves and the nice webcam ladies at Smut.com

But look on the bright side:

The fact that our bureaucrats spend their days working as amateur snake charmers is, counterintuitive though it may sound, the good news. Rather than fire these tireless onanists, the federal government should upgrade their broadband and invest in … whatever matériel these ladies and gentlemen need to keep up their fearless campaign of hand-to-gland combat. If their brains ever get full use of the blood supply while they’re in the office, mischief surely will ensue.

Better their hands are in their pants than on the levers of power.

June 5, 2014

A visual history of pin-up magazines

Filed under: History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Pin-Up Magazines book

A review of a new three-volume history of the girly magazine:

Taschen delivers as only Taschen can with Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines, a comprehensive three-volume boxed set chronicling seven decades in over 832 munificently illustrated pages, tipping the scales at nearly seven hardbound pounds. Although each volume is ram-packed with a bevy of sepia sweethearts, hand-tinted honeys, and Kodachrome cuties squeezed between dozens of lurid full-page vintage magazine covers, the accompanying text is so compelling that you’re apt to actually read these books too. And there’s a lot to learn about the history of pin-up magazines, more than you’d ever imagine, and this set leaves no stone unturned and no skirt unlifted. From the suggestive early illustrations of the post-Victorian era to the first bare breasts, the intriguing sources that fueled the fires of popular fetish trends, and the many ways in which publishers tried to legitimize the viewing of nude women while gingerly dancing around obscenity laws, we watch this breed of pulp morph and reinvent with fiction or humor, and later the marriage of crime and flesh. We see the influence on pin-up culture in the wake of the First World War and with the advent of World War II and the rise of patriotica. We follow the path of the bifurcated girl, to eugenics, the role of burlesque, and the legalization of pubic hair. We venture under-the-counter, witness the death of the digest and the pairing of highbrow literature and airbrushed beauties. Hanson even treats us to a peek into the lesser-known black men’s magazine genre, and the contributions made by erotic fiction and Hollywood movie studios.

February 13, 2014

Disproportional punishment

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:16

In the Washington Post, Jacob Sullum illustrates the weird disproportionality of the sentences handed out to child porn offenders versus the sentences received by actual child abusers:

The legal treatment of people caught with child pornography is so harsh that they can end up serving longer sentences than people who actually abuse children. In a 2009 analysis, federal public defender Troy Stabenow shows that a defendant with no prior criminal record and no history of abusing children would qualify for a sentence of 15 to 20 years based on a small collection of child pornography and one photo swap, while a 50-year-old man who encountered a 13-year-old girl online and lured her into a sexual relationship would get no more than four years.

Under federal law, receiving child pornography, which could mean downloading a single image, triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years — the same as the penalty for distributing it. Merely looking at a picture can qualify someone for the same charge, assuming he does so deliberately and is aware that Web browsers automatically make copies of visited sites. In practice, since the Internet nowadays is almost always the source of child pornography, this means that viewing and possession can be treated the same as trafficking.

The maximum penalty for receiving or distributing child porn is 20 years, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiff enhancements based on factors that are extremely common in these cases, such as using a computer, possessing more than 600 images (with each video clip counted as 75 images), and exchanging photos for something of value, including other photos. Federal agents reportedly found 200 child porn videos on Loskarn’s hard drive when they arrested him on December 11.

Ninety percent of federal child-porn prosecutions involve “non-production offenses” like Loskarn’s: downloading or passing along images of sexual abuse, as opposed to perpetrating or recording it. As a result of congressional edicts, the average sentence in such cases rose from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). The penalties have become so severe, the commission noted, that judges frequently find ways to dodge them, resulting in wildly inconsistent sentences for people guilty of essentially the same conduct.

November 15, 2013

Nadine Strossen is against banning “dangerous” ideas

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Brendan O’Neill talks to former ACLU president and ardent feminist Nadine Strossen about censorship and the demand to ban “rape porn”:

New York City doesn’t only have better buildings, bridges and burgers than London — it also has better feminists.

As British feminists agitate tooth-and-nail for the banning, or at least modesty-bagging, of lads’ mags, rape porn, Page 3 and pop vids, the NYC-based feminist and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen, tells me she wouldn’t support the censoring or censure or even stigmatisation of any misogynistic material, including the most warped, woman-objectifying porn.

‘As a feminist, I vehemently disagree with the idea that women are sex objects, that women should be raped, that women should be discriminated against or treated unfavourably in any way’, she tells me in her offices at the New York Law School in downtown Manhattan, where she is professor of law. ‘And yet, to paraphrase Voltaire, I would defend to the death your right to say any of those things, and to say them explicitly, and to say them using sexual language.’

But what about the claim that porn, especially the disturbing rape-fantasy stuff, gives some men a skewed impression of women, implanting in their possibly dim-witted heads the idea that women are objects existing solely to satisfy male lust?

‘Well, if the “harm” [she asks for those quote marks] of a certain form of speech is that the idea it is promoting is one of which society disapproves, then that is the exact antithesis of a justification for censoring it’, she says. So far from dodging the cri de Coeur of our censorious age — which is that speech and film and porn and all the rest of it can affect individuals’ view of the world — Strossen turns it into an argument against censorship. ‘Any expression can potentially affect people’s attitudes. That is why speech is so important to protect — precisely because it can influence ideas’, she says.

September 2, 2013

This month in moral panic watch – “rape porn”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

British PM David Cameron has decided that it’s the duty of his government to crack down on internet pornography. In particular, the British government will be attempting to stamp out violent pornography, aka “rape porn”. This may not be his best idea ever:

Lobby organisations like “End Violence Against Women” and sensationalist news rags like the Daily Mail repeatedly claim that watching violent pornography increases sexual abuse and rape by men.

However, the scientific evidence has stubbornly refused to play along with this view:

U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) found no evidence of a causal link between pornography and rape

Pornography and rape: theory and practice? Evidence from crime data in four countries where pornography is easily available” (1991) B Kutchinsky

Examined what happened to the rape statistics in four countries (USA, Denmark, West Germany and Sweden) during periods where the availability of violent pornography went from extreme scarcity to relative abundance.

Quoting the report: “The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that pornography causes rape

There’s also the problem that pornography is actually quite popular — with both male and female users — over 40% of all internet users view pornography voluntarily. In fact, large numbers of women admit to enjoying rape fantasies:

Whether the puritans or the feminists like it or not, it is a fact that many women enjoy rape fantasies as explained by this female journalist.

Erotic literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey featuring bondage, spanking, hair pulling, fisting and pinwheeling generated sales of over £10M in six months, to a predominantly female audience.

On a more scientific level, a 1988 study by Pelletier and Herold found that over half of their female respondents had fantasies of forced sex.

Nobody (quite rightly) suggests that women who expose themselves to this sort of “violent porn” literature, or who engage in sexual fantasies of rape are more likely to go out and put themselves into situations where they will be raped.

People clearly understand that there is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent, painful reality of actual rape.

The same reasoning must logically apply to men who enjoy rape fantasy and rape porn. There is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent reality of actual raping another human being.

To assert that women can enjoy rape fantasy, porn and violent BDSM literature without harm because they understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but men do not is nothing more than misandry.

August 1, 2013

Stereotypes of pornography consumers

Filed under: Britain, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:05

James Delingpole had far too much fun writing this column:

You may be aware that David Cameron — as part of a secret, Lynton Crosby-inspired operation codenamed Suck Up Shamelessly To The Embittered Authoritarian Killjoy Harpies At Mumsnet — has decreed that as from next year the default option when you sign a contract with your new internet provider will be ‘No porn in this household, thank you. I think it’s a disgrace.’

Superficially (and does this coalition ever think any other way?) I can see this makes a lot of sense. After all, what do a growing national debt, falling living standards, rising inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, out-of-control immigration, Weimar-style money-printing, a burgeoning new housing bubble, a failed health service and a collapsing infrastructure matter when you’ve got the most important problem of our times, so to speak, in hand, viz. blokes sneaking a quick one off the wrist while their missus has popped down to Waitrose to stock up on Mabel Pearman’s Burford Brown eggs, Isigny Ste Mere unsalted butter and that Duchy Originals cider on special offer at just £1.45 a bottle?

According to James, nowadays women are about as likely to go looking for pornography on the internet as men are:

But according to some of my techie friends, this isn’t the case at all. They’re the ones who have to clear up all the viruses which you accidentally invited into your computer along when you were trying to Google the weather and mistakenly typed in ‘Romanian donkey babes xxx hardcore’ instead.

Here’s what one of them has to say: ‘The very worst I came across was a shared houseful of young ladies. It took over eight hours to do just the first pass with the antivirus software. That pass removed over 58,000 pieces of malware and spyware, and just under 2,000 viruses. It took all the next day to finish cleaning their computer. I told them it was the worst case of an infected computer I had ever come across, and one asked how it had happened for it to be so bad. Easy I said. Porn sites. They all went bright red and then the hilarity ensued, as the finger pointing started.’

[…]

I realise, of course, that there are still plenty of puritans out there who feel differently. To them I quote first Thomas Sowell: ‘What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.’ And second, Pastor Niemoller: ‘First they came for the wankers…’.

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