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[content warning: discussion of rape, abuse, and human rights atrocities; satirical misandry on my part; actual misandry on Mr. Wright’s part; slurs]

Part two of my post disagreeing with John C Wright’s On The Sexual Nature of Man. Part one available here.

4.4 Men Are Jerks

Speaking as a man, and on behalf of the spear side of the race, let me tell any ladies reading these words that men are jerks. Perhaps the males you know are finer beings than what I describe here: if so, you need read no further. Nothing in my cynical world view will persuade you. None of the dangers I deem it prudent to protect against seem like threats to you. So be it.

I can only base my judgments on the evidence presented to me by my experience. If you have never been abandoned by a father seeking a lover younger than your mother, never been subject to a date-rape, never been dumped without a word by a man to whom you gave as much of yourself as you can give, never been abandoned by a lover and left to fend for yourself, never been driven to the abortion clinic at midnight by your best friend because the father of the baby was nowhere to be found, or never been divorced because your husband sought after a younger and prettier trophy-wife, then let me not disturb the curtain of candy-colored clouds in which your romantic hopes for life are wrapped. My view of the world is darker. I have friends and family members, people I know well, to whom all these things have happened. Time will tell which of us is closer to the truth.

I hope any feminists reading these words – if so impossible a chimera can be imagined as a feminist reading anything written by John C. Wright – will agree with me that females have been disadvantaged, exploited, and betrayed by the lusts of men since the dawn of time, and men seek to keep women in a position of weakness, to rob them of their natural rights, because both masculine indifference and masculine ego urges them to do so.

Well, I’m a feminist, and here are my thoughts:

If I actually believed everything John C Wright said about men, my conclusion would not be “men are so awful that each woman should spend the rest of her life with one of them, live with him, share her finances with him, sleep next to him at night, and generally place herself in a vulnerable position in which he may rape or murder her at any time.” That is a bizarre conclusion. In general, the correct way to respond to threats is to escape from them, not to marry them.

If I believed what John C Wright believed, I would encourage women to start a separatist commune. Any men who tried to enter should be expelled violently. (Men are physically stronger than women, you say? God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.) We won’t be unreasonable; heterosexual women can go off-commune for sex and even brief flings, although we will encourage them to be appropriately armed at all times. All male fetuses should be aborted. As this commune grows to slowly include all of womankind (as it no doubt would, given how horrible John C Wright thinks men are), we will shift policies. Now, only ninety percent of male fetuses will be aborted; the rest will be confined in brothel/prisons under strict guard, and any woman who wishes may visit for sex. (Naturally, men will be permitted to refuse sex with those they don’t like; we’re not monsters.) We will research into creating artificial sperm and into transforming all women into lesbians, so that men can be finally, painlessly eliminated.

The observant reader of my blog may note that I do not advocate this policy. Unfortunately, human evil is not so easily eradicated.

I do not wish to disturb the curtain of candy-colored clouds in which Mr. Wright’s romantic hopes for life are wrapped, but: Women rape. Women dump men without a word after he has given her as much as he can give. Women abandon their lovers and force them to fend for themselves. Women divorce their husbands to search for a stronger and more handsome man. And, unfortunately, all those disadvantages, exploitations and betrayals, those keeping women in positions of natural weakness and robbing them of their rights, were supported by women. Women crippled their daughter’s feet so they would never again walk without pain; women circumcised their daughters, causing them tremendous pain and taking sexual pleasure from them; women taught their daughters to throw themselves on the pyre when their husbands died, to graciously accept being raped because they have no right to refuse sex from their husbands, to be secluded so they would never see the sun.

There is, I suppose, one large difference between women and men, which is that men are more likely to hit you, and women are more likely to lie about being on birth control so they can trap you in the relationship because if you leave you are abandoning your child in a situation where you can’t protect them. I am not entirely certain that the latter is superior.

Let me ask the mythical feminist reading these words think about a particular example: when a powerful and well-connected World leader, let us call him Bill, has a young intern working for his staff, let us call her Monica, a lady perhaps half his age, not only convinced that he means to divorce his wife to cleave to her, but also convinced to kneel in his office and suck on his crooked penis, do you think the social rules and institutions surrounding sexual acts were successful in this case in protecting her from exploitation and betrayal? Were they successful in protecting his wife, let us call her Hillary, from exploitation and betrayal? Were the successful in protecting his daughter, let us call her Chelsea, from exploitation and betrayal? If any feminist were ever to read these words (an unlikelihood, I admit) I would wish to ask her whether the interests of the women involved, Monica, Hillary, and Chelsea were being served or betrayed by the Sexual Revolution and the mores and customs it ushered in to predominance.

Do you think the Sexual Revolution invented the concept of mistresses? That would be news to Nell Gwynn and Madame de Pompadour; indeed, it would be news to Maria Crofts Halpin, Lucy Mercer, Sally Hemings, Nan Britton, Carrie Fulton Phillips, and Lucia Calhoun, to name just a handful of presidential mistresses before the sexual revolution.

Today, a woman whose boss coerces her into sex may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and receive damages. A wife whose husband cheats on her may divorce him without going through the humiliating process of revealing her private struggle to a judge to obtain a fault divorce, and without the fear that the judge will decide to not grant it. These are small improvements, yes, but they are improvements. Prior to the sexual revolution, the hypothetical Bill would have experienced no consequences; now, there is at least a chance he will receive some.

5.1 The Sex Act 

John C Wright provides two reasons why only PIV intercourse ought to count as sex proper.

First, he points out that in the common law consummation is required for a marriage to be valid, which means PIV sex (even if contraception is used or the partners are sterile), but not oral sex, anal sex, etc. I am unclear why a Catholic appears to be such a strong supporter of a law that would judge the blessed Mary ever-virgin to have a non-binding marriage. I am equally unclear why the common law says things about the fundamental nature of sex. Notably, nonconsummation is not necessarily grounds for annulment in the civil law, which leads one to the curious position that PIV intercourse is the only proper form of sex as long as one does not happen to be in France at the time.

The purpose of marriage, in the common law, is to minimize the number of bastards. If no act that could possibly produce a bastard has occurred, then there’s no harm to ending the marriage. Oral and anal sex are treated differently because they cannot produce bastards. When the common law was being devised, there was no effective form of contraception and the causes of infertility were not understood, so naturally no exception was made for sex between infertile or contraception-using individuals. Admittedly, in the 1100s people did know that postmenopausal women couldn’t conceive, but also women who got married after menopause in the 1100s and who wished to end their marriages were a tiny percentage of the population who were probably ignored for the sake of a clean rule. While this is all very interesting, this does not mean that the rules devised for minimizing bastards in the 1100s are remotely useful for a philosopher trying to discern the nature of sex nine hundred years later.

Second, Wright argues:

Imagine begin a young bride, wafted off to the Honeymoon, only to hear your loving and devoted young bridegroom, his eyes shining with romance, announce that he will not now and never will consummate the marriage. Instead, you and he will engage in sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, and mutual masturbation. Assume moreover that there is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him: he is not suffering from an old war wound to the thigh. You will never mate with your mate. Does that seem like a proper culmination of romantic love to you, or does there perhaps seem to be something missing, even if you cannot at first put your finger on it?

This is a fun thought experiment, and I fully expect that half the comment section will be people sharing their opinions on it. I admit that many people would be annoyed at not getting to have PIV, but many people would also be annoyed at not getting to have oral sex, manual sex, seeing their partner naked, kink, etc. This does not mean that cunnilingus is the true kind of sex and PIV is a mere imitator, it just means that people don’t like it when you take popular sex acts off the table for the rest of their lives. (Personally, I’d rather never have PIV again than never give a blowjob again, but that’s me.)

John C Wright goes off on a tangent about how the “natural” in natural law is different from the “natural” of what trees do when left to their own devices, which I agree with and shan’t argue with.

John C Wright’s conclusion is as follows:

Let us leave this old-fashioned language to one side, and merely point out that copulation with a sterile partner, or during a sterile time of the month, is necessarily and legally in the same category as copulation with a fertile partner, whereas sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, even if done as preliminaries, or “safer” substitutes, are not only not copulation, in any sense of the word, and they are sexual only in their inessentials, a mockery or substitute for sex, a way to enjoy the sensations without the thing itself, the way vomiting up a meal is an inessential substitute for eating, a way to enjoy the taste of food without the act of really eating and digesting it.

On an emotional level, while the same feelings, base or sublime, lustful or devout, and the same physical sensations which attend the sex act may indeed accompany these surrounding sexual-ish acts, as a matter of biological fact, they are not the same. To confuse the feelings or sensations with the reality is the core the issue: an emotion can be false-to-facts in the same way a statement can be. The thing the emotion represents does not exist; the emotion is false.

I do not consider his evidence to have established his point. Human sexuality is, to take a phrase from the Catholic church, unitive and procreative; I would add a third, that it is pleasurable. That is, human sexuality leads to the production of children, it leads to warm feelings between the people who are having sex with each other, and it leads to feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. Unlike other species, we have concealed ovulation. We do not have sex only when it is possible to conceive a child. Instead, we have sex as an expression of caring, affection, and often love, and we have sex because it feels nice and we like it.

(A caveat: as a card-carrying libertine, I do not consider it my business to meddle in the everyday lives of others. I personally happen to consider unitive and pleasurable sex to be the best form of sex, and I attempt to convince others of the same. However, if someone insists that for them non-unitive or non-pleasurable sex best serves their overall eudaimonia, I do not consider it my place to question them; I recognize that mental diversity exists, and anyway the costs of imposing my viewpoints on others are much higher than the benefits gained. Given that my argument is “non-unitive/non-pleasurable sex makes you less happy”, I trust that people can observe their own levels of happiness themselves.)

Mr. Wright has belabored the obvious point that sex other than PIV cannot produce a child, and that institutions primarily intended to regulate procreation (such as marriage in the 1100s) naturally show a great deal of interest in PIV. But he has failed to establish that they cannot serve the unitive and pleasurable purpose of sex, nor would it be possible for him to do so, as it is obviously the case that all the wide variations of human sexuality– from married PIV for the purposes of procreation to the people who fuck cars– can sometimes be used to express people’s feelings of fondness for one another and are sometimes enjoyable. He could perhaps argue, as the Catholic Church does, that it is not permitted to separate the procreative purpose (at least in formal cause, if not in material cause), the unitive purpose, and the pleasurable purpose from each other. But he does not do this. Instead, he makes bad, fallacious arguments to attempt to show, in defiance of all human experience, that the unitive purpose cannot be served by blowjobs.

5.2 Passions Related To The Sex Act 

John C Wright argues that the passions associated with the sex act are lust, infatuation, devotion, and love, and gives reasonable definitions of each. I do not actually necessarily disagree with Mr. Wright here, except for his characterization of lust:

Lust is the physical attraction. This lust can either be friendly (as when it is accompanied by infatuation, devotion, or love) or unfriendly (as when it is without anything more.)

Lust without anything more is how we describe the attraction felt toward whores, or, for that matter, airbrushed pictures of Playboy bunnies. Neither respect, nor any tender emotion is necessarily provoked by lust without anything more. Indeed, to judge from locker room conversations, hostility and contempt seem to be the frequent, if not inevitable, by-products of lust without more.

Now, I’m inclined to agree that lust accompanied by hostility and contempt is all too common in this fallen world. I am even inclined to be against having sex out of pure lust; it rapidly loses its interest compared to masturbation. And there is an obvious reason for Mr. Wright’s observations: people who like casual sex a lot are awful people. But I utterly disagree with the idea that the only emotions lust can be accompanied by are infatuation, devotion, and romantic love.

I think people fall into two categories here. First, there are those for whom lust for someone they like naturally produces feelings of infatuation, which later naturally ripen into devotion if all goes well. Second, there are those for whom lust may be accompanied by other friendly feelings: affection, friendship, admiration, sympathy, even pity. I do not mean to say that the former are monogamous and the latter are polyamorous; indeed, I know many a monogamous person who does not experience infatuation at all, and whose romantic relationships are purely motivated by the combination of lust with friendship and affection. But I do think that the former group is likely to have a quite miserable experience of sex outside of romantic relationships– either unrequited love or dark contempt– and for them it is wise to reserve sex for romance. For the latter group, however, sex because you think someone is nifty, even without romantic feelings, often leads to joyous outcomes for everyone involved.

(To be clear, this is not a stance that is against sex with strangers, assuming one is capable of having positive feelings about strangers and associating them with sex. As Samuel Delaney writes, “Because feelings, emotional and physical, are so foregrounded in sexual encounters, the orgy is soon the most social of human interchanges, where awareness and communication, whether verbal or no, hold all together or sunder it”…)

Psychological studies tend to suggest that people who like casual sex a lot are awful people, and that my observations suggest that people who like casual sex a lot are kind, agreeable individuals with a good word to say about everyone. I think the difference is that in the sex-positive communities I’ve been in, sex is an accepted way of expressing positive feelings for people. Naturally, those who have more positive feelings for people have more casual sex. Conversely, in communities where that is not a norm, those who have lots of casual sex are mostly those who want to get sexual pleasure out of others without having any sort of emotional connection to them whatsoever no matter how brief, i.e., mostly assholes.

Part three tomorrow!