Dinosaurs Disturbed By Sight Of Young Female Tree Shrews Laying Down Mammary Fat

When I was in my mid teens, one of my sister’s (underage) friends snuck into my bedroom and saw me jerking off. Years later, when visiting from Oxford, I was approached in the street by two girls I didn’t recognize. They asked me if I was The One Who Masturbated. Yes, PooterGeekers, I am possibly still known as The Only Wanker In The Village Of Wilnecote. After this kind of thing, and my being paid in my early twenties (when I like to think I was rather pretty) for walking in and out of a sexual diseases clinic with a middle-aged professor who looked like Elton John, and my working in an institute where many colleagues knew me by a nickname inspired by an ex’s drunken reminiscing about my genitals, what is there left for me to be embarrassed about? It’s mainly because most Brits find the whole question of sex excruciatingly difficult to deal with that telling tales from my collection of related anecdotes is so much fun.

The practical consequences of Brits’ squeamishness and irrationality about their sexuality are, however, not fun. They are bloody depressing. We live in a country where the natives have to get drunk to the point of dyspraxia to initiate sexual contact (what a helpful state to be in if you want to avoid coercion, unwanted pregnancy, and disease!), where you can be arrested for walking around with no clothes on, but where the law protects your right to ritually mutilate your infant son’s penis before he is old enough to consent. In the UK, people’s moral reasoning about sexual matters, just like their moral reasoning about foreign policy, is characterized by vast ignorance, misdirected suspicion, and sheer fucking stupidity. It has little to do with actual consequences in the world, but a great deal to do with perceptions in minds. Trust me, you don’t know the British until you’ve heard some of their Pythonesque explanations to health care workers for their pathological sexual behaviour.

It seems unfair on Harry, following his well-intentioned post about my short Playboy essay, but I want to take advantage of some of the nasty stuff offered in his support in the comments at Harry’s Place to expand and clarify my argument. Perhaps this is even more unfair when Harry is honest enough to admit himself that he has some undesirable endorsees:

“I’m in agreement with the Stalinist Zin and the Tory Peter Cuthbertson.

I must be guilty of some crime?

Posted by Harry at August 17, 2005 05:35 PM”

Trouble is, Harry wouldn’t let it lie, so I think it’s important to what I have to say next for us to wade through the sweaty stench emanating from his fan club, even though they lost the argument pretty comprehensively over there anyway without any intervention from me. (This might explain the second extended post Harry made.)

Let’s begin with “Zin” and his non-argument:

“Pushing porno brands on underage school kids is an example of the free market unrestrained by public control. It’s obviously wrong and this product should be withdrawn immediately.

Posted by Zin at August 17, 2005 12:24 PM”

Thanks, Zin, for illustrating beautifully the contention of my original second paragraph. Pencil cases with Playboy logos are self-evidently evil and any further discussion is redundant, obviously. So, if you are reading this (or you ever read any of what I wrote), you can stop here.

Now here comes Tory Boy Peter Cuthbertson, waving the old double standard like a Union flag:

“Good post, Harry, but I don’t agree with the idea that this is about girls projecting confidence that might intimidate.

Let’s drop the polite metaphors. By “sexual confidence” what the author really means is “making themselves look easy“. Why would any man find that intimidating? It’s the very antithesis of the unsubservient, self-respecting attitude.

I do agree with Jarndyce’s thinking. I try not to buy from Boots now unless I have to, since they started distributing abortifacient contraceptives to young girls over the counter, no questions asked, and I may make a point of avoiding WHSmith for the forseeable future.

Posted by Peter at August 17, 2005 01:08 PM”

Priceless. We wouldn’t want little girls to look “easy”, would we? They can dress up as fairy princesses, hoping to find a rich and handsome prince, but we can’t have our daughters looking like slags, eh?

“Bobble-hatted Boffin” has an equally healthy way of assessing female worth, but is a little more dismissive than Peter of the threat posed by bunny-branded goods: after all it’s only the ugly birds that dress up like that isn’t it?

“It’s always amusing how behaviour that in a male would be ridiculed or thought strange is regarded as ‘empowered’ in a woman or girl.
I once worked with a bloke who wore a Playboy ring. He immediately came across as a sad case who has probably never been laid.
It’s like teenage girls who walk around in T-shirts with words such as ‘sexy’ on them. You’ll notice the genuinely good-looking ones have no need for such tacky and desperate garments.

Posted by Bobble-hatted boffin at August 17, 2005 03:02 PM”

(This point is so penetrating that Bhb has submitted it twice to the discussion.)

Peter then makes a reappearance (possibly in my support) with what he fancies as a bit of “sociobiology”, but I won’t bore you with the pseudoscience. Instead you can enjoy his assertion that only well-bred girls can resist seduction by porn kings:

“Jackie’s right that bright and wealthy parents are often capable of bringing up children so well they behave responsibly even after they visit a pornographer’s house [that’s not what Jackie wrote at all, by the way]. But I just don’t think it follows from this that society should be like an obstacle course that is going to catch out as many children as possible whose parents don’t fit into this category. To paraphrase Zell Miller: we can’t all be born rich, handsome and lucky, and that’s why we need some standards which shops like WHSmith should meet.

Posted by Peter at August 17, 2005 05:27 PM”

It’s not so much the sexism this time, more the unselfconscious snobbery of it that boggles. It was randy old colonels day at Harry’s Place.

Finally though, I do have to quote someone with a woman’s name in “support” of Harry:

“Most of the people commenting here obviously don’t really give a toss about this and are reduced to commenting on the daughter of a friend, have never wondered which fourteen year old of their daughter’s acquaintance will get pregnant next, wondered if the clients of the prostitute dressed as schoolgirl standing in front of them in the corner shop queue opposite their kids’ school also fancy the pupils of the school etc etc. I love Damian’s blog but one day he will cringe at the thought of this.

Posted by mrs s at August 18, 2005 02:29 AM”

The implication here seems to be that there is some connection between girls buying Playboy-branded merchandise and teenage pregnancy and paedophilia. I’m going to mention teenage sex later, but the latter connection parallels delightfully the rapist’s “she was asking for it” argument. With so many old sexist lies being given a fresh airing that classic had to make an appearance eventually. Whodathunkit? A Left-wing website publishing chauvinist crap?

Let me make it clear: I don’t think it is something to celebrate that children are buying into a soft porn empire, but I don’t think it’s worth this media gibbering and handwringing (and two successive posts at Harry’s Place) either. It especially disturbs me that the people the original Guardian article holds up as fighting against the advance of the Playboy brand are part of a tradition that has subjugated women and twisted their sexuality in cruel and destructive ways for centuries.

I made the comparison with mainstream women’s magazines in my original post because no one seems to get het up about little girls going around in T-shirts with “Cosmopolitan” or “Elle” across the front of them, even though, as I argue, the content of the magazines they promote is far more damaging to women than the content of Playboy.

Playboy itself is not, as Harry puts it, “arriving in British schools” precisely because it is still illegal to sell it to minors. Playboy owns a brand with “adult” associations like many others coveted by children. When I was at school they used to sell sugar cigarettes in the corner shop. Thankfully they don’t any more, but I’m sure many adults now look back on that sort of thing with an indulgent nostalgia, even though, as I’ve pointed out in PooterGeek’s comments already, smoking kills people and soft porn does not.

And there is the nub of the matter. Playboy is cheesy, dated, and probably already uncool on the playground, but it is fundamentally harmless. So the best arguments that Harry and co can come up with are “the bunny means porn and porn is bad so bunnies for girls are bad” and “I don’t see why I should be forced to explain porn to my children”. These are so feeble that they have to resort to comparing the Playboy logo with the swastika, Playboy with Al-Qaeda snuff videos, and demand that Jackie D admit she wants to legalize heroin—as if that had anything to do with the price of cheese. You don’t have to be a libertarian to view this hysteria with suspicion. It’s Gitmo=Gulag all over again.

Often the real reason for such reactions is the equivalent of the “yuck factor” in questions of bioethics. People reach “moral” conclusions for aesthetic reasons. They don’t object to the Playboy logo appearing on children’s products because of any substantive damage that might follow from it, but because it makes them feel yucky.

Let me just repeat the central truth for the hard of thinking.

Soft porn does not kill people.

Masturbation does not make you go blind. (Well, not for very long.) Looking at naked cheesecake does not turn men into rapists. Paying aspiring “actresses” six-figure sums to drape their tanned flesh across dodgy 70s interiors does not oppress women. Hugh Hefner is not the anti-Christ. And Playboy is a thousand times more pro-women’s emancipation than the vast majority of the “appropriate” reading material that parents have been happy to put in front of their children over the past 30 years.

Let’s look at real harm. In my first post I wanted to make a comparison between the things we are supposed to fear children being exposed to and the things we are supposed to be comfortable with them being exposed to. It disgusts me, for example, that we still raise little girls on stories of sleeping princesses in high towers. Tosh like that has done and will continue to do far more harm to women than a bunny logo on a pencil case. I’m not saying that bunny-pencilcase-owning girls see themselves as the next Playboy Playmate™, but what kind of self-image is most likely to lead an underage girl to have unsafe sex she doesn’t want with her pushy (usually overage) boyfriend: the fairytale vision that no princess can be awakened from passivity without the kiss of a prince, that she isn’t complete without a man? Or the belief that she is an untouchable babe? Playboy models (and pole-dancers for that matter) are literally untouchable, unavailable, and make a very good living indeed without being obliged to have sex with anyone.

When media commentators expressed their outrage at Britney Spears getting to number one in the singles chart by dressing up as a soft porn schoolgirl and inviting her boyfriend to hit her one more time she was legal; she was a virgin—as were the vast majority of the girls on playgrounds across the Western world imitating her. Often the reason adult males find those kinds of “gyrations” disturbing (like at least one commenter at Harry’s Place does) isn’t because they are afraid that they might lead to the little girls wanting to have sex before they are ready, it’s because they’re afraid they’ll lead to men wanting to have sex with the girls. It’s understandable that this view is widespread since it is aligned with religious and political “thinking” that has been used to crush women and girls over the last two millennia. Come to think of it, there’s something distasteful about the idea of underage girls having functioning clitorides as well. And little boys having sensitive foreskins. I wonder what we can do about that…

It isn’t soft porn-branded merchandise that puts underage girls in abortion and GU clinics; it’s usually booze and hormones and peer pressure and older males who know exactly what kind of fluffy romantic guff we fill girls heads with and exploit it to get exactly what they want from them. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? was written forty-five years ago by a 19-year-old woman and an older man. Most girls who admit to losing their virginity under the legal age report regret. Some don’t. Often minors have sex because they are curious and horny. A large minority suffer no lasting ill effects. Scary isn’t it, boys?

Girls turn into women. Women have sex. This transition does not take place overnight. Many men want to have sex with young women. Many men find it difficult to reconcile these ancient facts. As a result, issues that combine sex and little girls shut off higher brain activity in such males and they resort to reasoning about them with a primitive ganglion somewhere in the reptilian part of their nervous systems. Luckily for me, I fancy adult females (and Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It), and I don’t have a young daughter, so it’s a hell of a lot easier for me to be relaxed about all of this stuff, but even secretly fancying little girls would be no excuse for the sort of misogynistic drivel being written to justify a gut discomfort about a rabbit on a ring binder. Grow up, people, you’re embarrassing Harry. And it could be embarrassment, for the want of anything real to worry about, that is his original problem.

58 Comments

  1. Posted 19Aug05 at 13:43 | Permalink

    Thanks a bunch for the link.

  2. Posted 19Aug05 at 13:47 | Permalink

    Very well put. I’d only add that, as a female who was not so long ago ‘young’ (I’m 28 now), it was quite funny to be told that some older men knew more than me about young girls.

  3. David G
    Posted 19Aug05 at 13:58 | Permalink

    Wot the fcuk?? U SUCK

    Harry is da best!!!!! Thats all I gotta say.

    Just admit it 2 urself u lyk his blog. I’m telling u this Harry is ONE OF A KIND- he is the one of the most sincere and down 2 earth people in the blog business.

    I think he is bloody BRILLIANT- knowing that he surived the Iraq war and within a year of being diagnosed he recoverd and released his self- titled blog, “Harry’s Place” and it went MULTI- PLATINUM in SEVERAL COUNTRIES all around the WORLD!!!!!

  4. jaybob
    Posted 19Aug05 at 14:36 | Permalink

    brilliant post. i’ve been following this debate and, for me, your bioethical ‘yuck’ factor captures the debate perfectly. whilst so much attention is focussed on the media’s sexualisation of young girls, very little is focussed on their ability to adapt to and even exploit that imagery (teen girls not all dumb, passive, broodmares shocka) and even less on the fact that those who are being made to feel most uncomfortable by imagery such as the bunny logo are often middle-aged men who feel uncomfortable with burgeoning female sexuality per se – esp, i imagine, in the case of their own daughters. if a 12 year old associates that bunny logo with a self-empowerment of sorts surely that’s more important than the more tainted associations of her porn-loving elders. and as for the implication that such a logo should make her more of a target… that comes from the same school of thought which would establish a 6pm curfew on all kids under 18 on account of the unchecked rise of filthy immigrant paedophiles.

  5. dearieme
    Posted 19Aug05 at 14:36 | Permalink

    Do you bang on at such length when you’re…? Oh, I can’t bring myself to type it.

  6. Posted 19Aug05 at 15:07 | Permalink

    Well I’m a long-time lurker on PG and Harry’s Place and I hardly think this topic is grounds to have to decide between the two. However on this occasion, I’m wholeheartedly in agreement with the Geek. I’ve noticed that opinions not only vary with gender, but also with age. I’ve just turned 24 and as such I’m not really expecting any kiddies soon – hence my thoughts are shaped from remembering my schooldays as opposed to considering the ramifications for my offspring. Many years ago, it was my GIRLFRIEND who introduced me to Playboy. She had been a fan since childhood. Growing up in the Middle East it makes it all the more surprising that she thought a magazine about scantily-clad girls was appealing, but she saw it for what it was; a fun magazine celebrating attractive girls and cool things. Is that so different to any of the women’s magazines that people have no qualms palming off to youngsters?

    I feel prompted to comment as I believe the British attitude to sex needs some serious addressing – as spelt out perfectly in paragraph 2 above.

  7. Andrew Duffin
    Posted 19Aug05 at 15:43 | Permalink

    Well said Mr. Geek.

  8. Posted 19Aug05 at 16:50 | Permalink

    Blows dust off copy of SCUM Manifesto. . .

  9. Posted 19Aug05 at 17:48 | Permalink

    You’re right. Except for a couple of trivial-ish things.

    “Playboy models….are literally untouchable, unavailable, and make a very good living indeed without being obliged to have sex with anyone”
    Except Hugh Hefner when he could manage it.

    “..Britney Spears getting to number one in the singles chart by dressing up as a soft porn schoolgirl and inviting her boyfriend to hit her one more time she was legal; she was a virgin…”

    She wasn’t “legal” in the US. It’s 18 there. And she *said* she was a virgin..
    Young women in that industry are exploited about as much as is imaginable.

  10. Posted 19Aug05 at 20:05 | Permalink

    What do you think of the argument that the bunny logo normalises pornography in our society though? I’m a feminist, by no means a radicalfeminist, and someone who enjoys sex and is happy for people to do whatever turns them on, within reason, but I’m beginning to think that there’s a problem with the sexualisation of society, and to me, not protesting the advent of soft-porn iconography in schools would be to perpetuate the notion that objectifying women is wrong.

    Having said that, I think it’s great that you acknowledge that teenage sex and pregnancy is caused not just by a lack of adequate sex education (though sex education is inadequate) or by a lack of access to sexual health services for young people (though that exists too), but also by a chronic lack of self esteem in our young women. A lack of self esteem that manifests in not feeling able to say “no, I’m not ready to have sex” or even to ask their partner to wear a condom. And it’s caused by a lack of opportunities for young women in depirved areas, so that it becomes that the only way to assert their independence and adulthood is to have a baby.

  11. Posted 19Aug05 at 21:12 | Permalink

    Okay, so I should use preview. Clearly I meant to write “okay” at the end of the first paragraph.

  12. Justus
    Posted 19Aug05 at 21:44 | Permalink

    Dave says, “[Britney Spears] wasn’t ‘legal’ in the US. It’s 18 there.”

    I realize our laws are complicated but the US operates under federalism wherein some number of laws are decided by the states and thus vary from state to state. The age of consent is one such law, as the chart at http://www.ageofconsent.com demonstrates. In the majority of states 18 is not the age of consent for male/female sex. For instance, in California it is 18 but in New York 17 and under military law 16.

  13. Posted 19Aug05 at 21:46 | Permalink

    Antonia,

    “Okay, so I should use preview.”

    If you scroll your screen down a bit below the box where you type in your comment you should see a preview magically appear in real time as you write it. If not, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

    What do you think of the argument that the bunny logo normalises pornography in our society though?

    This is a whole other argument that I can’t bring myself to write about at the moment. It’s bad enough not getting any sex without spending a Friday evening indoors writing about it at tedious length. I’ll just say that I think British attitudes to sex and British attitudes to pornography are, as far as I can see, of a piece—and both pretty destructive.

    “Having said that, I think it’s great that you acknowledge that teenage sex and pregnancy is caused not just by a lack of adequate sex education”

    I remember a Marie Stopes worker saying once that what everyone forgets when they tout their latest magical “cure” for rising teenage pregnancy is that the best form of contraception is not wanting to get pregnant.

  14. Old Peculier
    Posted 19Aug05 at 22:19 | Permalink

    You nicked my ‘Who’d a thunk it’ line from Drink Soaked Trots. Or maybe it was just coincidence!

    Still, imitation is the best form of flattery!

  15. Posted 19Aug05 at 22:22 | Permalink

    David G,

    Your comment made me laugh so much I almost choked.

  16. Posted 19Aug05 at 22:26 | Permalink

    Old Peculier,

    Oh yes. So I did. Swear it was sub-conscious. Kind of obvious to anyone who’s ever been to a local Party meeting in a smog-ridden back room of a Working Men’s Club, though.

  17. Posted 19Aug05 at 23:25 | Permalink

    It’s quite difficult actually to argue with you, because you don’t attempt to refute what I said – simply generous quotes (except, naturally, where I stick up for you) are supposed to be so shocking as to destroy my argument without anyone troubling to explain why I’m wrong. Fair enough – none of us have time to take apart every argument we disagree with, but I hope you don’t think “We wouldn’t want our daughters to dress like slags” answers anything I said. To almost any parent, the answer to your ironic question would be an unironic “No, of course not”.

    The one thing you really should be ashamed of is reflexively dismissing as pseudoscience something you are obviously unfamiliar with. You may not understand evolution, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology in any more depth than I currently understand Quantum Mechanics, but it is the act of a religious fundamentalist (which on this issue you may well be) to dismiss what you don’t understand as pseudoscience because it threatens your ideological conclusions.

    It may indeed be that I left that comment at Harry’s to perpetuate a double-standard when it comes to male and female sexuality because I’ve been recruited at a very young age into a conspiracy that spans all history and geography to establish something called a “patriarchy” that keeps women down. But can you at least entertain the possibility that the double-standard – which most certainly exists – is actually about more than cruel sexism? That however painful infidelity undoubtedly is for anybody, because a woman can be certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that any children she has are hers, and a man can never be that certain (short of DNA testing which hadn’t existed over the millions of years our sexual preferences evolved), then on average men are going to be far more wary of female promiscuity in a long-term partner than women are going to be wary of male promiscuity in a long-term partner? That men are genuinely concerned they will spend fifteen to twenty years helping to raise a son or daughter who is not in fact their own, and their sexual preferences have evolved to minimise the likelihood of this?

    Scientific studies have been done into this issue for decades, and there is a mountain of empirical evidence that men are indeed this sensitive to fears of cuckoldry. (For example, if you ask men to imagine their wives showing deep generosity to a secret lover, and then to imagine them having sex with a secret lover, they overwhelmingly find the latter much more painful. For women, the reverse is true – they find emotional infidelity much more painful in their husbands.) What evidence does radical feminist ideology have that compares, beyond the willingness of its followers to dismiss and ignore evidence they dislike?

    If you want to read into evolutionary psychology and biology, I’d be honoured to recommend to you so many wonderful books by many of the world’s best science writers – Dawkins, Ridley, Pinker etc. – that explain it beautifully and open your mind to a whole new way of looking at the world. Do yourself justice and read some of them.

    Jackie didn’t write that the rich and wealthy have an advantage in bringing up children. But presumably there was a point to the anecodote about how a really good child – who happens to go to school with Hugh Hefner’s sons – has remained one even after visiting that home. It seemed to be suggesting that because her friends had managed to bring up their daughter well, and able to resist this sort of pressure, everyone else should just do the same – the option of excellent and effective parenting is open to everybody and only lazy inadequates could possibly want help from others when they should just work harder on being a good mum or dad.

    I’m disappointed that all you took from what I said was snobbery, because I really saw it as the reverse – attributing better circumstances to something quite different than merit – saying that if someone is better off, it’s not necessarily or completely because they deserve it.

    Most of all, I thought I’d made quite a profound point that would hit home particularly among left-wingers: a very significant factor in determining how well kids are brought up is luck. We are all of us born with greatly varying intelligence. If you are brighter than the woman who cleans the toilet in your office, it’s not because you’re a better person – it’s because fortune favoured you in an accident of birth. If you become richer than her, it may be very much down to the same factor. If that wealth and intelligence helps you shield your children from the pressures of drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, teenage pregnancy and venereal disease, a very important reason is that you were lucky.

    What I take from this is that we have certain moral duties to one another. We cannot simply accept a society that works fine for parents of the wealthy and bright and leaves everyone else to go hang. We have to work on enforcing and reinforcing certain social standards that offer protection to the vulnerable. Whatever this view is, it isn’t snobbery, and I’m genuinely interested in what you find wrong with it.

  18. Old Peculier
    Posted 19Aug05 at 23:33 | Permalink

    Peter, though you’re a thoughtful commenter, right about many things and misunderstood by lefties (and it takes one to know one!) I think that some of your deterministic socio-biology stuff about women is just an excuse for double standards. As such, it is unworthy of serious consideration by genuinely progressive people. Most of the progressive thinking these days, and most of the feminism comes from the centre and the right, because the left are bogged down in multiculturalist appeasment with its worship of the primitive.

    These old fashioned sexist ideas that you come out with have no place in the modern world, any more than the jilbab does.

  19. Posted 19Aug05 at 23:39 | Permalink

    That fourth paragraph from bottom should (obviously) say “bright and wealthy” not “rich and wealthy”.

  20. Posted 19Aug05 at 23:52 | Permalink

    Peter, though you’re a thoughtful commenter, right about many things and misunderstood by lefties (and it takes one to know one!) I think that some of your deterministic socio-biology stuff about women is just an excuse for double standards. As such, it is unworthy of serious consideration by genuinely progressive people.

    I’ll repeat what I wrote a moment ago. It is the act of a religious fundamentalist to dismiss what you don’t understand as pseudoscience because it threatens your ideological conclusions. Science is no respecter of prevailing moral and political doctrines, and sometimes we will find to our horror that it confirms those things at which we would once have screamed “Blasphemy!” or “Sexism!”. But an honest and rational person dismisses something only because it is false, not because it contradicts their religion or ideology.

    To clarify my view for you, though: I don’t believe in genetic determinism, and I’ve never read of a scientist who does. But what we find attractive in our partners and so on is influenced by the genes of our ancestors, who lived on to reproduce partly because they were influenced by their genes to make wise choices, and those genes have been inherited by us. Those cavemen whose genes made them attracted to the opposite qualities did not leave descendants who survive today.

    Nor do I say anything about “women” specifically, as if they’re some sort of biological specimen and men are not. What I talked about in defence of Pootergeek’s point was sex differences. That’s not a field anyone can write about without reference to both sexes. To be very amateurish in looking at this though, and to get into your mindset a moment, if I had to answer the question “Is male or female behaviour determined more by genes?” I would guess that on average male behaviour is influenced more by genes than female behaviour.

  21. Old Peculier
    Posted 20Aug05 at 00:04 | Permalink

    “if I had to answer the question “Is male or female behaviour determined more by genes?” I would guess that on average male behaviour is influenced more by genes than female behaviour. “

    Hmm. I’m not in a position to argue about that, but my hunch says, we’ve moved on, you haven’t, get with the programme.

  22. Posted 20Aug05 at 09:33 | Permalink

    Peter,

    “The one thing you really should be ashamed of is reflexively dismissing as pseudoscience something you are obviously unfamiliar with.”

    Evolutionary biology is something I am very familiar with, but it is pseudoscientific to turn apply an “is” (and a contentious, untestable is) to a question of “ought”.

    To choose one of the authors you name (all of whom I have read), Dawkins repeatedly complains that readers miss the point of his ultimate argument in, for example, The Selfish Gene: it is precisely because we are the only species aware of the evolutionary processes that have brought us to this stage in our development and of the underlying biological bases for our urges that we are the only species that can escape them—and it is our duty to do so or we are just animals.

    Evolutionary biology might offer us some illuminating insights into animal human nature (though many scientists call them “just-so stories” because of the difficulty of testing them rigorously), but it does not and should not tell us anything about how we should live our lives. EB might explain why I feel like urinating when I hear the sound of running water, but it doesn’t tell me if it’s appropriate to piss on someone’s kitchen floor when they run a tap to do the washing up.

    “Most of all, I thought I’d made quite a profound point that would hit home particularly among left-wingers: a very significant factor in determining how well kids are brought up is luck.”

    Equally, children’s family backgrounds (except in the limit) should not be relevant to the question of their moral development. A starving Victorian street urchin might have been forced to steal a loaf of bread, but the idea that “lucky” kids are more likely to ignore the “temptations” (as you see them) of the Playboy lifestyle than “unlucky” ones parallels broken “root causes” arguments about terrorists. Bad people come from all walks. And you still haven’t addressed the central question of whether those involved in the soft porn industry are bad or not.

  23. Posted 20Aug05 at 10:02 | Permalink

    Frankly, I haven’t a clue as to the rightness or wrongness of the argument but surely Old Peculier’s “we’ve moved on, you haven’t, get with the programme” is unworthy of her. I usually read her comments with pleasure, but if all she can offer is a basic herding instinct it isn’t really good enough. Sod the herd.

  24. Ed Snack
    Posted 20Aug05 at 10:07 | Permalink

    OP, I think you want to forget about your program. Humans are not bound by innate behaviour patterns determined by their genetics or environment or both. However much of human behaviour is informed by that background. Humans can, and many do, rise entirely above that background, but equally human behaviour in general follows trends that are discernable.

    PG, you may not be able to automatically turn an “is” into an “ought”, but if your “oughts” ignore the “is” they may well be practically unattainable.

  25. nik
    Posted 20Aug05 at 11:07 | Permalink

    “This [the argument that the bunny logo normalises pornography] is a whole other argument that I can’t bring myself to write about at the moment.”

    I wish you would write about it. The whole philosophy behind Object – the pressure group that the Guardian is pushing in the article – is exactly this (www.object.org.uk).

    The whole idea that WH Smith is marketing Playboy products to kids is spurious and is just being used to push a range of agendas. Could someone who thinks WH Smith is targeting kids provide some real evidence of it? The case so far seems to be that because stationery is used by kids, and some of the Playboy range is “pink and glittery”, that the range is clearly aimed at kids and that stocking it is a terrible thing to do.

    This is nonsense. There are plenty of adults who buy stationery, some might even want to buy “pink and glittery” stationery. WH Smith isn’t doing anything wrong.

  26. Old Peculier
    Posted 20Aug05 at 11:23 | Permalink

    George, Ed – My comment was somewhat flippant and was specifically in response to what I perceived as Peter making excuses for men having sexist attitudes. Peter seemed, and perhaps I’m wrong about this, to be saying that men can’t help this as they are at the mercy of their genes, whereas women can because they’re not.

    This seems like a crock of shit to me, hence my rather bracing comment. Sorry if it has injured the sensibilities of any delicate little flowers posting here.

  27. Posted 20Aug05 at 11:35 | Permalink

    ‘Seems’ is good. It might be it, might not, but madam, I know not ‘seems’. It is years since I have been called a delicate little flower. Thank you.

  28. David G
    Posted 20Aug05 at 13:06 | Permalink

    ^^^Everything u said is sooooooo true

    … I was anticipating being the first of a flood of posters over from Harry’s Place and was keen to set the right tone, lest things degenerate into, u kno, seriousness. It felt so good I might do all blog comments in the outraged illiterate style of rabid Anastacia fans from now on. Hell, why stop there? I might as well conduct my whole life in that style. LMAO

    Wot u gotta say 2 that, bitch?

    Mmm, yeah! This is gonna be fun … over to one of those patronisingly populist “Have your say” surveys on the BBC website and try out my new persona.

  29. Posted 20Aug05 at 14:02 | Permalink

    Pootergeek, I think you’re discussing a completely different issue now. The degree to which science should inform morality is an important and interesting debate* but I don’t see where I touched on it at Harry’s or here.

    All I said on the subject of sociobiology was that you were right that it must be awful for many young girls who aren’t brimming with confidence – which few teenagers are – to go through everyday life constantly seeing magazines and imagery that just makes them feel worse about themselves. That in fact they needn’t feel this bad because men want behaviours in the women they are liable to fall in love with very different from the promiscuity glorified by these magazines and the promiscuous people the girls might grow to envy. Where is the ‘ought’ there? I was simply describing what science and common sense and experience tells us young men find attractive.

    Ditto the idea that family background and wealth shouldn’t influence childrens’ development.

    Dare I suggest that it’s not that I’m guilty of the naturalistic fallacy. It’s that you’re guilty of the moralistic fallacy – the view that ‘ought’ dictates ‘is’. You think it’s wrong that men prefer to marry women who aren’t promiscuous, and wrong that kids from good backgrounds get an advantage, so therefore you decide it must be actually untrue, then try to shoot the messenger as a “nasty undesirable” simply for pointing it out and considering how to deal with what science tells us about sexual preferences and social science tells us about childrens’ upbringing.

    * For myself, I think Ed’s answer is exactly on the nose. Science may not, on its own, determine ‘ought’, but it certainly constrains ‘ought’. Science can’t, for example, tell you whether it’s morally right to build a new bridge, but it can tell you that it’s wrong to spend millions on a new bridge that isn’t based on pretty sound engineering principles – because if you do it’s going to collapse. And just as it’s wrong to base architecture around bogus notions of engineering, it’s wrong to base social and political thinking on bogus notions of human nature, uninformed by the reality that we are evolved creatures with essential natures.

  30. Posted 20Aug05 at 15:45 | Permalink

    “All I said on the subject of sociobiology was that you were right that it must be awful for many young girls who aren’t brimming with confidence – which few teenagers are – to go through everyday life constantly seeing magazines and imagery that just makes them feel worse about themselves. That in fact they needn’t feel this bad because men want behaviours in the women they are liable to fall in love with very different from the promiscuity glorified by these magazines and the promiscuous people the girls might grow to envy.”

    So if BNP members circulated magazines showing faked pictures of blacks being murdered, you could reassure worried members of ethnic minorities by saying, “It’s okay, humans are genetically programmed to fear the new and different. Once they’re familiar with you being around they won’t attack you in real life”? [I selected that example for logical equivalence, not moral equivalence.]

    I dismissed your reference to evolutionary biology, not because I am not aware of that area of scientific theory, not becasuse I have not read any of the books written about it, not because I think men ought not to prefer to marry men who aren’t promiscuous, not because I am politically correct, and not because science “threatens my ideological conclusions”. I dismissed it because it does no useful work in this logical domain. I dismiss it because it is as useful to the discussion at hand as a vote for the Conservative Party in inner-city Cardiff is to a future Tory leader’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.

    “Science may not, on its own, determine ‘ought’, but it certainly constrains ‘ought’.”

    I don’t disagree with that. But, guess what? It’s not relevant to this question. Sex is essential to human survival. Soft porn isn’t.

    Please, please stop. I can’t stand it any more. I’m beginning to pine for the Anastacians.

  31. Old Peculier
    Posted 20Aug05 at 16:56 | Permalink

    not because I think men ought not to prefer to marry men who aren’t promiscuous…

    Snigger!

  32. Posted 20Aug05 at 16:57 | Permalink

    Well, er, that as well, obviously.

    I hope you’re not insinuating that I’m one of them lebsians.

  33. Posted 20Aug05 at 21:44 | Permalink

    I’m sorry I’m not reading every word of these comments, but let me say . . .I have no problem at all with Damian Counsell getting his rocks off (as we used to say in the 60s) reading Playboy or any other cum mag.

    I do, however, agree with Andrea Dworkin in one respect: that the issues of representation aside, one has to remember that real live women and young girls are engaged in a singularly unpleasant and exploitative industry to make those pictures. From what I have read of the porn trade, employment in it often goes hand in hand with heroin addiction and physical abuse. And that’s an issue that’s more important to me as a feminist than any of the others.

  34. Posted 20Aug05 at 22:18 | Permalink

    I also think a new Anastacia post would liven up these acres of intelectyool stuff about wank mags.

  35. Posted 20Aug05 at 22:21 | Permalink

    It’s funny you should mention music, Linda. People used to argue exactly as you (and Dworkin) have argued about jazz mags when they were condemning jazz music. The early performers were “engaged in a singularly unpleasant and exploitative industry”. Employment in it “often [went] hand in hand with heroin addiction and physical abuse”. If its detractors could travel forward in time to the present day, what would they make of this? There is in Balliol College library a wonderful book from (I think) the 50s about the psychopathology of jazz musicians. Its author earnestly investigates what it is that brings people to such depravity. Even today I’m sure there are consenting adults who play some Herbie Hancock in the privacy of their own homes and feel dirty about it afterwards.

    People used to offer similar arguments against women being allowed to work as musicians, as “respectable” actresses, soldiers, and come to think of it, scientists. Marie Curie didn’t exactly come to a happy end. She didn’t die because she was a scientist; she died because she was exposed to ionizing radiation. Hard core pornstars (male and female) die because they have lots of unprotected sex with lots of other people, not because they appear in porn films. (And no, I am not going to write an extensive post defending hardcore.)

    It is irrational to condemn a particular industry simply because it has a history of negative associations, when that history is one of societal disapproval, prohibition, and poor regulation. As I said before (and don’t particularly don’t want to go into at length) our attitudes to sex and pornography are profoundly broken and women suffer materially as a result. To conclude that sex is wrong or pornography is wrong is to make a serious logical and practical error. There might well be some other reason why porn is intrinsically wrong, but I’ve yet to hear one from anybody. Is morphine is wrong because heroin is associated with gun crime?

  36. Posted 20Aug05 at 23:43 | Permalink

    Sorry but that’s nonsense Damian – there is no comparison. Abuse – violence and explotation are absolutely central to the porn ‘industry’ – talk to some of the people who have been involved in it.

    The notion that women (or anyone for that matter) are empowered by porn is absolute bull.

    One can argue about the whole censorship debate which is a bit pointless in the age of the internet but progressive people should have no doubts about what is involved in the production of pornography.

  37. Posted 21Aug05 at 09:51 | Permalink

    “Sorry but that’s nonsense Damian – there is no comparison. Abuse – violence and explotation are absolutely central to the porn ‘industry’ – talk to some of the people who have been involved in it.”

    You can stamp your foot as hard as you like but, it won’t turn an angry assertion into an argument, Harry. Not good enough. My comparison is robust in every respect. Give me a qualitative difference between the perception of performers in the two forms and I’ll take you seriously.

    “The notion that women (or anyone for that matter) are empowered by porn is absolute bull.”

    And this is the thirteenth time that you and your friends at Gendergeek have accused me of saying that “pornography empowers women”. I have never used the word (like “gender”, it’s terrible pseudofeminist/management jargon), let alone in that formulation.

    It’s bad enough being attacked repeatedly for something I never said; it’s even worse being thought of as the sort of person who writes English like a leery, leather-jacketed sociology lecture with a comb-across or, worse, Gavin from Human Resources.

    (In fact, if you do a search at PooterGeek, you’ll find that “empower” only appears here in two linguistic take-offs. I think you lot have invented a new sub-class of logical fallacy: “the straw self-parody”.)

  38. constablesavage
    Posted 21Aug05 at 12:10 | Permalink

    I have a teenage daughter and by the time they are that age you have either raised a kid who is independent minded enough to form their own views or you haven’t. And, correspondingly, you either couldn’t care less about Playboy pencil-cases, or they are far and away the least of your worries.

    If these things are popular isn’t that probably because they are a teacher wind-up at schools that are non-uniform but have a dress code? Buying them allows the kids to have an object that speaks of sexulaity and hence looks cool to peers, but doesn’t infringe the school dress code (at least not yet)

    And Peter, if male behaviour differs from female behaviour because of the parties respective genes then both male and female behaviour are being genetically influenced to exactly the ame extent. To speak of either sex as being more prone to genetic influence because of the genes that divide them is a contradiction in terms.

  39. Old Peculier
    Posted 21Aug05 at 12:38 | Permalink

    ConstableSavage – amazingly you’re quite right:-)

    It all depends on the circumstances. The iffy pencil case might be a small safety valve of rebellion, which, if indulged, enables the girl to feel grown up and sexy even though she isn’t, but without any dangerous consequences. Or it may be one step on the slippery slope. Only the parents will know, not W H Smiths and certainly not the government.

    Some of the stuff she’ll have been reading in her teenage magazines is far more pernicious.

  40. Posted 21Aug05 at 12:49 | Permalink

    One can argue about the whole censorship debate which is a bit pointless in the age of the internet but progressive people should have no doubts about what is involved in the production of pornography.

    And as with most self-described progressives, other than an outright ban or government regulation, they have not the first clue how to address the real problems and so take the battle-ground to trivial areas like kids’ pencil cases. I guess it gives them the feeling they are, well, progressive.

  41. Posted 21Aug05 at 12:51 | Permalink

    Abuse – violence and explotation are absolutely central to the porn ‘industry’ – talk to some of the people who have been involved in it. The notion that women (or anyone for that matter) are empowered by porn is absolute bull.

    As with most things, it depends on the individual porn and the circumstances of its creation. Russ Meyer’s leading ladies, on the whole, tended to regard him with genuine affection – not too surprisingly, given that Meyer’s female protagonists were invariably smart, sassy, supremely self-confident and several leagues ahead of their male counterparts, sexually, intellectually and emotionally.

    When I booked and promoted a Meyer retrospective in London a decade or so ago, I was amused, but not especially surprised, to see that his films attracted just as many leather-clad lesbians as they did elderly raincoat-wearers, and I bet the first group got rather more out of them too.

    Granted, Meyer is something of an exception (pretty sui generis, in fact), though his films are much closer to the Playboy universe and Damian’s description (“cheesy, dated, and probably already uncool on the playground, but fundamentally harmless”) than the more extreme examples cited above – which is why he’s absolutely right that they shouldn’t be lumped together and treated as though there was no difference whatsoever.

    Put it like this: I would have severe misgivings about my daughter adopting someone like Jenna Jameson as a role model – but I’d have no objection at all to her championing Varla, the no-nonsense protagonist of Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, provided she doesn’t actually kill anyone.

  42. Matthew
    Posted 21Aug05 at 16:45 | Permalink

    I don’t think WH Smiths should sell them but It is right to note the direct reference to porn empowering woman was by Harry…

    “there is a debate about whether porn itself is empowering or explotative (I’d say it rather depends) ”

    not PG’s, and the “depends” has moved to ‘absolute bull’ rather quickly, though it should also be noted it was in response to PG’s statement that Playboy (or perhaps the Playboy logo) allows women to “celebrate the power they have over men”, which is arguably the same thing as empowering, perhaps.

  43. Posted 22Aug05 at 12:28 | Permalink

    This debate never occurs about men in the porn industry. Because men are allowed to enjoy sex.

    A journalist friend of mine once interviewed a female porn star who told him that she couldn’t understand why so-called feminists claimed to be fighting for her rights while demanding that she be made redundant. Her car, her house, her independence: all thanks to porn.

    Sure, some women in the porn industry are exploited. So are some people in the television-manufacturing industry, and the oil-drilling industry. To extrapolate from some abuse to a blanket assertion that all porn is exploitative is plain wrong. There are plenty of women in the industry who started out as performers and have moved up the ladder to become directors, producers, and, eventually, the heads of their own corporate empires. There are plenty who never even bothered performing, but who started out as bosses. Try telling one of them that, regardless of their thoughts on the matter, they really are being exploited.

    I’d like to say that, funny though David G’s comment was, for sheer comedy genius, nothing can beat Peter simply assuming that a professional biologist doesn’t understand biology.

  44. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:05 | Permalink

    And this is the thirteenth time that you and your friends at Gendergeek have accused me of saying that “pornography empowers women”.

    Actually, I never said that you said that at all. I was talking about stripping when I used the word ‘empowerment’, and I didn’t ascribe the use of that word to you specifically in any case.

    I would repeat your patronising nonsense about ‘close and complete’ readings, but I generally think that pointless bickering about semantics is the death knell of any discussion, so unless you have anything of substance to add…

  45. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:23 | Permalink

    If I’m not making them and Playboy isn’t making them then claims of “empowerment” have exactly no relevance to a discussion of either the morality of selling Playboy-branded goods to children or my comment upon the Guardian article about the same. It’s a textbook example of “a straw man”—an accusation which could reasonably have been levelled at my original citing of Cosmo had I not written my second post.

    “so unless you have anything of substance to add…”

    Well, perhaps that this is a slighty more clear-cut example of patronising nonsense and an inability to read plain English:

    “The PooterGeeks of the world must be made aware that female sexuality comes in many flavours beyond the insipid vanilla promulgated by Cosmo and Playboy.”

    Though understandable, I suppose, given that I never miss a chance to tell the lesbian and bisexual regulars here that what they need is a real man.

  46. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:34 | Permalink

    I must have missed the section of your post where you talked about your daughter reading Diva magazine. The fact that the first two journals that popped into your head when you thought of female sexuality were Playboy and Cosmo is kind of the point, no?

  47. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:52 | Permalink

    As you’ve broken Internet Rule #69 and changed your comment to include other material:

    If I’m not saying it and Playboy isn’t saying it then it has exactly no relevance to a discussion of either the morality of selling Playboy-branded goods to children or my comment upon the Guardian article about the same.

    So you and Playboy are, like, the authority on the morality of selling Playboy-branded goods to children AND the entire Guardian? Or just some of the articles? Maybe just G2? You do know, right, that the internet is just full of people posting other people’s opinions on those two topics? Perhaps you can take out some kind of injunction.

    It’s a textbook example of “a straw man”—an accusation which could reasonably have been levelled at my original citing of Cosmo had I not written my second post.

    The. Universe. Doesn’t. Revolve. Around. You.

    The paragraph about stripping and empowerment was taken from comments made on my blog and elsewhere. I think that the only straw man is the one getting kicked about in this ridiculous conversation.

  48. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:51 | Permalink

    Er, no, because little girls don’t go around carrying Diva-branded merchandise. Though I could equally well have opted for Elle or Vogue say, Cosmo was my preference precisely because it is considered “vanilla” and mainstream—not because I have any pre-conceived ideas about what female sexuality is about. I chose it because what people are getting upset about is the idea that Playboy could also become mainstream.

    Similarly Playboy didn’t “pop into my head”—it’s a given, you might think, in a discussion of Playboy-branded merchandise.

  49. Posted 22Aug05 at 17:56 | Permalink

    Similarly Playboy didn’t “pop into my head”—it’s a given, you might think, in a discussion of Playboy-branded merchandise.

    That is a very good point. :-)

  50. Posted 22Aug05 at 18:20 | Permalink

    “As you’ve broken Internet Rule #69 and changed your comment to include other material.”

    Sorry about that. Unfortunately, because of the way I have set up my WordPress installation, I can’t preview my comments as “PooterGeek” the way they will appear as easily as my readers so, paradoxically, I’m the only one who has to post what he says first before he can edit it properly (or my comments end up in the spam filter).

    “So you and Playboy are, like, the authority on the morality of selling Playboy-branded goods to children AND the entire Guardian?”

    I’m not, like, the authority on anything. That’s my whole point. I’m not the one who wants WHSmith to stop selling pencil-cases.

    “The. Universe. Doesn’t. Revolve. Around. You.”

    I was pretty much convinced of this until I read the conclusion of your post that I quoted earlier, where I am cited me as model for a “world” archetype that needs its awareness of women’s sexuality raised. Thanks for clearing my misconception up.

    It is true, though, that my ‘Blog was christened after “Charles Pooter“, a self-obsessed, pompous, unimaginative, bourgeois prude; whereas yours speaks for over half of humankind.

  51. Posted 22Aug05 at 21:48 | Permalink

    I’m not the one who wants WHSmith to stop selling pencil-cases.

    I would like WHSmith to stop selling Playboy pencil cases, yes. But I’m not an authority on pencil cases. Or WHSmith. Or porn. Or much of anything.

    where I am cited me as model for a “world” archetype that needs its awareness of women’s sexuality raised

    You are an example of intelligent, articulate, liberal (in the libs v. neo-cons sense), Labourite man. Like many other men writing from a similar position, you deride the idea that a culture laced with pornography is harmful to women. I think that isn’t unrepresentative, in that a general antipathy towards women’s issues is prevalent in so many of the leftie/lib blogs written by men.

    You will no doubt be aware, for example, of the stoush at Kos and elsewhere around whether pro-choice women should shut their yaps to avoid harming the Dems’ cause.

    It becomes really clear when things like that happen that the left sees gender equality (and probably other types of equality) as a bolt-on to the main project, and a side-issue to the key campaigns. That sucks.

    whereas yours speaks for over half of humankind

    What I write speaks for me. No one else. And I hope that it speaks about all of humankind, because I sure as shit don’t live on planet separatist.

  52. Posted 22Aug05 at 22:35 | Permalink

    I’m not going to get back into the Playboy thing again, but (at the risk of putting myself at the centre of the Universe) I’d like to clarify a couple of things about me.

    Equality of the sexes is absolutely central to my politics. Anyone who knows me knows that if there is something that gets me ranting over dinner it’s fair treatment of men and women—especially in the developing world where sex discrimination is an appalling blight.

    I don’t have much problem with being described as both liberal and a neo-con. For me there is no contradiction. “Neo-con” has a reasonably well established definition which should not be yielded to people who use the word as shorthand for “anyone to my Right who I don’t agree with”.

    From a (surprisingly) undisputed page at Wikipedia defining neo-conservatism:

    “But domestic policy does not define neoconservatism; it is a movement founded on, and perpetuated by an aggressive approach to foreign policy, free trade, opposition to communism during the Cold War, support for beleaguered liberal democracies such as Israel and Taiwan and opposition to Middle Eastern and other states that are perceived to support terrorism.

    Thus, their foremost target was the traditional pragmatic approach to foreign policy often associated with Richard Nixon, i.e., pragmatic accomodation with dictators, peace through negotiations, diplomacy, and arms control, détente and containment (rather than rollback) of the Soviet Union, and the beginning of the process that would lead to bilateral ties between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the U.S.”

    Put very crudely: I want the World to be a better place and I want my taxes to be spent arresting or (more likely) killing people who are killing others to make the World a worse place—wherever they are.

  53. Posted 22Aug05 at 23:06 | Permalink

    Noted.

  54. Posted 23Aug05 at 12:32 | Permalink

    Team PooterGeek: World Police.

  55. Posted 23Aug05 at 21:15 | Permalink

    Ph*ck Yeah!

  56. Posted 24Aug05 at 02:54 | Permalink

    I returned here just see how the thread had ended. I’m impressed to see that it’s still going on.

    Pooter, you can say “stop, please”, if you like, but it’s important to remember why it started – you referred to one of the most basic principles of modern Darwinism – that men seek promiscuity in short-term partners and fidelity in long-term partners – as pseudoscience. If you don’t still uphold that claim, it’s a very good thing, but it isn’t my duty to leave with my tail between my legs.

    This, SquanderTwo, is why it was perfectly reasonable to suggest Pooter needs to read up on some of these issues. If he is a professional biologist, that makes some of the statements he makes here somewhat less forgivable – but it certainly doesn’t guarantee expertise in every area of a very broad field, or bow down before his superior credentials. Stephen Jay Gould was surely the world’s most famous paleontologist, but neo-Darwinists from William Hamilton to Richard Dawkins to Geoffrey Miller found his ideological opposition to extending our knowledge of evolution to human behaviour lamentable. He became a derisory figure in the field because of this.

    Pooter, you have a problem. You don’t deny modern Darwinism, and you accept that what ‘is’ must contrain what ‘ought to be’. Yet you go on complaining at length about how irrational attitudes to sex are – as well as taking stabs at the Catholic Church, the Jewish faith, and what can only be described as the ‘patriarchy’ as somehow the cause of these attitudes. These are not compatible positions.

    A left-liberal Darwinist can certainly say: “Yes, it’s in some ways monumentally depressing that we have at our core the makings of certain attitudes toward sex that in a parallel universe I’d prefer to dispense with. However, we must accept that given the human nature we have, and given the ultimate underlying inclination produced in us towards having our genes preserve and reproduce themselves, sexual attitudes that have formed in response to this nature are rational ways of ensuring this objective. An attempt to remake sexual attitudes along lines that ignores such biological realities as …

    (i) fathers are going to consider it very important that their children are their own
    (ii) women will be inclined to act in a way that reassures men of that, and
    (iii) men are going to choose partners on that basis

    … is doomed to cause misery – and to failure.”

    What they cannot say, if they take their science more seriously than their ideological preferences, is that “people’s moral reasoning about sexual matters, just like their moral reasoning about foreign policy, is characterized by vast ignorance, misdirected suspicion, and sheer fucking stupidity”, that it is disgusting “that we still raise little girls on stories of sleeping princesses in high towers” as if this “kind of fluffy romantic guff we fill girls heads with” is purely a cultural artifact, and complain that “this view is widespread since it is aligned with religious and political ‘thinking’ that has been used to crush women and girls over the last two millennia” and so on and on.

    You can, if you like, take a radical feminist view that all our sexual attitudes prior to 1963 were a religious male conspiracy that have left all sorts of cultural demons that exist today and continue to blight the lives of young girls who would otherwise be as sex-hungry and uninterested in romance as young boys. Or you can accept what modern biology tells us about sexual attitudes, and why they exist – and that they would exist, did exist and will go on existing without any effort from repressed Rabbis or patriarchal Priests. But what you cannot do is be a scientist by day, but switch off the science when it starts to interfere with your ideology. Science is above politics, but politics certainly isn’t above science. Where the scientific facts lead, sane political discourse must follow.

    Peter, if male behaviour differs from female behaviour because of the parties respective genes then both male and female behaviour are being genetically influenced to exactly the ame extent. To speak of either sex as being more prone to genetic influence because of the genes that divide them is a contradiction in terms.

    Yes, that’s exactly the point I was trying to make to Old Peculiar – and you’ve put it better than I did. She seemed to believe that in describing how biology shaped the different attitudes men and women have towards sex, I was making some sort of genetic deterministic argument about women, rather than an argument about genetic influences and sex differences. My final line was just a throwaway comment to the effect that although obviously sex differences by definition is about men as much as women, if I really had to stop looking entirely at the science and just “go with my gut” based on what I know so far, I would guess that men are less capable than women of ignoring the inclinations towards certain behaviours that their genes create. Obviously if that is the case, and if the difference comes back to genetics, then that simply means women’s genes exert less pressure than men’s – most obviously in the case of a desire for promiscuity. But it still, as you say, comes down to women having x gene and men having y gene. (I really shouldn’t have tried to answer a point whose premise I couldn’t accept. :) )

  57. Posted 24Aug05 at 11:37 | Permalink

    An aside:

    > You will no doubt be aware, for example, of the stoush at Kos and elsewhere around whether pro-choice women should shut their yaps to avoid harming the Dems’ cause.

    It becomes really clear when things like that happen that the left sees gender equality (and probably other types of equality) as a bolt-on to the main project, and a side-issue to the key campaigns.

    The reason that pro-choice arguments are losing the Dems votes is that the American feminist lobby (unlike, as far as I can see, every other feminist lobby in the world) insist that partial-birth abortion continue to be legal, and most people, male or female, once they find out what partial-birth abortion is, are against it. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender equality, and never can have until the day when we find out how to make men pregnant. There are arguments in favour of the legality of partial-birth abortion, but none of those arguments have a damn thing to do with gender equality.

  58. td
    Posted 01Sep05 at 20:25 | Permalink

    I stumbled across this blog late. I’ve read postings with interest.

    I just have one real question. It requires some background. I grew up as a Westerner in East Africa and South Africa. Leave aside the politics of Western exploitation, colour, poverty etc .. its important, but not in the context of this post …

    I saw young Africans, uneducated, ignorant of western theories of sexual equality, human rights etc etc, grow up alongside me with an attitude about sex and sexuality which makes most of the thoughts posted here look like they have been written by people who have never seen a naked body.

    I think the real question is not whether we should protect our children from being exploited by WH Smith or the sex-industry, but whether the way we protect our children has gone totally the wrong way. Indeed, has the way we protect our ADULTS gone totally the wrong way?

    Where do we get off acting like we can make decisions for others who can think for themselves? Yes, adolescents lack the experience to make clear decisions. But that doesn’t mean that we, and more specifically those who are responsible for each adolescent’s safety have the right to make those decisions FOR them, but that we should provide them with the information to allow them to make the right decision, and only step in when it is clear that they have reached a decision that will harm them, either physically, emotionally or socially.

    I now work with a lawyer who acts for children in care cases. I have seen too many instances where knee-jerk reactions by so-called professionals have actually resulted in damaging the children to a much greater extent than should have been possible, and I regret to say than on at least one occassion a child would have been better off left with her abusive parents than taken under the ‘protection’ of the Social Services.

    This isn’t me having a go at the Social Services, but an example of how being well-meaning and protective is ALWAYS from the viewpoint of the person taking that action. And each and every one of us has our own viewpoint.

    Why can we not let those we are responsible for develop their own viewpoint, on an individual basis, with clear guidance and complete, honest information, and without imposing our own attitudes on them? And perhaps equally important, why can we not then accept whatever viewpoint they reach as as equally valid as our own?

    Yes, there are predators out there who will take advantage of innocence. And we value the innocence of our children .. but it is our DUTY to actually destroy that innocence by providing our children with the right information, at the right time, to allow them to recognise the predators of this world and defend themselves against those predators.

    Too many times have I seen the comment that ‘they shouldn’t be told that sort of thing yet, they are too young’. Well, if being told something that protects a young person from greater harm, at the expense of their innocence, then isn’t it time we spoke up?

    We make great speeches about educating children about the realities of life, then pussyfoot around the subject.

    Youngsters nowdays know sex is fun .. and so did we at a similar age too, if most of us are honest with ourselves. Why can society not accept that? No, I don’t advocate we allow kids to experiment, or lower the age of consent, thats another subject. But nowdays we go to such lengths to ‘protect’ our children, excuse them, theorise about how each tidbit of knowledge will affect them, and we fail to simple accept that each growing adult IS capable of learning, thinking and naking decisions, and rather than imposing our viewpoint on them, they need the information that we have now aquired. If that information guides them to making a decision that is similar to one we would make, all the better for society, but we must accept that an adolescent who is fully informed may make a decision we disagree with, and be willing to accept it providing that accepting that decision doesn’t result in that person being hurt.

    Our pride, our attitudes and our morals and ethics shouldn’t prevent us from accepting that decision.

    So the question is … whats so flipping complicated? Care about our future, educate the children, guide them, pick them up when they fall over, love them, but most of all respect them for being individuals with a need to be informed and allowed the right to make up their own minds. Respect is a word that is often abused, but in too many instances nowdays, respect is totally lacking.

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] Abdul Hamid, the vice-chairman of the Lancashire Board of Mosques, said that if Miss Mendly took part she would immediately cast herself out of the “circle of Islam”. He said: “It is simply not right for her to take part in this competition as a Muslim, because by entering she forsakes her faith. She has said she won’t wear a bikini, only a swimsuit, but what difference does that make? She will still be exposing her flesh in a beauty contest.” Besides Dilay Topuzoglu and Sonia Hassanien, other non-Muslim finalists with suspiciously foreign-sounding names and swarthy skin include Peace Blessing Oybio and Emily Okelo. Once again the global reach of cheesy 70s retro threatens the purity of virgin ladies in this country, whatever their origins. […]

  2. […] [Having provided this link about animal behaviour and evolution I am now bracing myself for a breathtakingly confused Cuthbertson post accusing me of elevating “my radical politics” over “what science tells us about human goals and social realities” by failing to point out that it is “one of the most basic principles of modern Darwinism” that people who regularly wear black tie are right about everything. He will misspell my name and the comments will be provided by barking loons.] […]

  3. […] Further to my two articles about Playboy last year, here and here, those of you who have the requisite plug-in installed might want to watch this smart and very short film by Laurie Anderson. [Provided they let you stream small video files it’s safe for work.] […]

  4. […] It’s not just over matters of public politics that Lefties these days ally themselves with fundamentalist religious reactionaries; it’s over personal and sexual matters, like this uncharacteristically Victorian piece by wardytron over at Harry’s Place recently. (It was another couple of illiberal essays by Harry himself that provoked me to write the follow-up to my original Playboy bunny article.) As Jackie Danicki put it when linking to wardy’s piece: “Oh, I do like this: A self-described leftist (one I’ve met and liked, as it happens) going on about how ‘we’ should make it difficult to get hold of ‘pornography’. In what bizarre universe is this guy ‘liberal’ while someone like me – who is strongly pro-gay marriage, pro-easy availability of pornography, against the stupid drug war, and stridently anti-authoritarian – is often described as ‘conservative’? If he’s a liberal, I’m a Prada handbag.” […]

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