On Peter Singer, Anna Stubblefield, and Rape

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[content warning: ableism, rape apologism, bestiality, rape of children]

Anna Stubblefield has succeeded at the dubious achievement of simultaneously being a rapist three different ways at the same time.

First, Stubblefield used facilitated communication, a discredited way of communicating with nonverbal disabled people, to speak with DJ. Assuming for the sake of argument that facilitated communication works, she was literally his only means of communicating with the outside world; DJ did not successfully use facilitated communication with his family. His ability to get a GED, read books, even say what he wanted for dinner, was entirely dependent on her continued support. This creates a power imbalance in which sex cannot happen ethically. If she had been responsible, she would have said “I have feelings for you too, but we can’t explore them until you have another long-term facilitator who’s able to work with you.” (She would have also checked his desire for sex with her with another, naive facilitator, as is done when a disabled person who uses facilitated communication accuses someone of sexual abuse.)

Of course, facilitated communication does not work; according to the best scientific evidence, facilitated communication works something like a Oujia board, and what you get out of it is what the facilitator put in. So she raped him in a second fashion, by having sex with a nonverbal disabled person without taking the appropriate measures to ensure that he fully consented, instead relying on a pseudoscientific communication technique.

The third way that Stubblefield raped DJ is by ignoring his nonverbal communication: when she kissed him, he sat up, left the bed, and scooted out of the room. She then proceeded to perform oral sex on him. While she believed this was okay because his facilitated communication said he consented, given that facilitated communication does not work, our only means of understanding his preferences implies he did not want this.

Peter Singer has written a controversial editorial about Stubblefield’s case. Several parts of this editorial have been condemned throughout the effective altruist community: for instance, Singer’s defense of the pseudoscientific facilitated communication technique and his failure to mention either the first or the third ways in which Stubblefield raped DJ. However, one passage from his editorial has led to a great deal of argumentation:

A central issue in the trial was whether D.J. is profoundly cognitively impaired, as the prosecution contended and the court seemed to accept, or is competent cognitively but unable to communicate his thoughts without highly skilled assistance, as the defense contended. If we assume that he is profoundly cognitively impaired, we should concede that he cannot understand the normal significance of sexual relations between persons or the meaning and significance of sexual violation. These are, after all, difficult to articulate even for persons of normal cognitive capacity. In that case, he is incapable of giving or withholding informed consent to sexual relations; indeed, he may lack the concept of consent altogether.

This does not exclude the possibility that he was wronged by Stubblefield, but it makes it less clear what the nature of the wrong might be. It seems reasonable to assume that the experience was pleasurable to him; for even if he is cognitively impaired, he was capable of struggling to resist, and, for reasons we will note shortly, it is implausible to suppose that Stubblefield forcibly subdued him. On the assumption that he is profoundly cognitively impaired, therefore, it seems that if Stubblefield wronged or harmed him, it must have been in a way that he is incapable of understanding and that affected his experience only pleasurably.

This is not exactly what one would call the most lucidly written passage. Several people I respect, including Kelsey and Scott Alexander, have interpreted it differently than I do; they believe the passage says that it is theoretically possible for disabled people who can’t use language to consent to sex. I certainly hope that Singer was trying to say that and failing miserably, and I hope that he edits the article to clarify given the controversy he has engendered.

However, in the overall context of Singer’s work, I believe that a more reasonable and charitable (in that it accurately reflects Singer’s beliefs) interpretation is that Singer believes there is nothing wrong with having sex with a disabled person who can’t use language, regardless of their consent, as long as violence is not used.

Peter Singer regularly compares severely disabled people to animals; one of his most commonly used arguments in favor of animal welfare is that one would not torture a severely disabled person with the cognitive capacities of a chicken, and therefore one should not torture a chicken. He has repeatedly spoken out against speciesism, the belief that one should treat beings of equivalent capacities differently based on their species. Therefore, given that he believes that many non-language-using disabled people have similar capacities to animals, and that it is unethical to treat beings of similar capacities differently based on species, we can use his beliefs about bestiality to enlighten us about what this passage means.

Singer has written in the past about bestiality. He has explicitly outlined forms of bestiality he considers unacceptable:

Soyka’s suggestion indicates one good reason why some of the acts described in Dekkers book are clearly wrong, and should remain crimes. Some men use hens as a sexual object, inserting their penis into the cloaca, an all-purpose channel for wastes and for the passage of the egg. This is usually fatal to the hen, and in some cases she will be deliberately decapitated just before ejaculation in order to intensify the convulsions of its sphincter. This is cruelty, clear and simple. (But is it worse for the hen than living for a year or more crowded with four or five other hens in barren wire cage so small that they can never stretch their wings, and then being stuffed into crates to be taken to the slaughterhouse, strung upside down on a conveyor belt and killed? If not, then it is no worse than what egg producers do to their hens all the time.)

But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop. Soyka would presumably have thought this within the range of human sexual variety.

This suggests that Singer may believe that bestiality is morally okay as long as it is mutually satisfying, and that all cases in which the animal initiates are certainly mutually satisfying. However, there is an intermediate case: the case in which the animal is not particularly interested in sex, but is having sex for some other reason. Singer writes:

[Rural men] may also take advantage of the sucking reflex of calves to get them to do a blowjob…

For three-quarters of the women who told Kinsey that they had had sexual contact with an animal, the animal involved was a dog, and actual sexual intercourse was rare. More commonly the woman limited themselves to touching and masturbating the animal, or having their genitals licked by it.

In this case, the animal does not desire sex. The calves are sucking as a reflex action; the dogs are presumably not licking human genitals out of a passionate desire to perform cunnilingus. (My understanding is that people who practice bestiality often put a food, such as peanut butter, on their genitals to induce the dog to lick them.) Singer does not appear to have clarified whether he considers this form of sex to be acceptable. However, given the fact that he mentions it as evidence that bestiality is quite common and does not condemn it, it seems to me that the correct way of interpreting Singer’s belief is that this too is acceptable. In short, it appears that Singer’s view is that it is always okay to have sex with an animal as long as the sex does not involve injury or pain to the animal, particularly if the animal experiences something that is prima facie rewarding (as sucking is to calves and food is to dogs).

Extending this to DJ’s case, I believe that Singer’s passage above means that as long as no injury or pain was done to DJ, and DJ experiences something that is prima facie rewarding (as oral sex is to humans), then sex with him is ethical.

Further evidence is that this explains an otherwise puzzling omission on Singer’s part. Singer says that “[DJ] was capable of struggling to resist, and, for reasons we will note shortly, it is implausible to suppose that Stubblefield forcibly subdued him.” But DJ did, in fact, resist: he attempted to leave. It’s possible that Singer is ignorant of this basic fact of the case. However, Singer himself says he has “stud[ied] the evidence advanced by Stubblefield’s attorney in support of her appeal.” When I searched Google for “anna stubblefield” on incognito mode, the above article was the second result. (The first was Singer’s own.) This is readily available information for anyone who wishes to read about the Stubblefield case. Unless we’re assuming that Singer is both a liar and grossly negligent, we should assume that he is aware of these publicly available facts of the case.

Therefore, the most logical conclusion is that Peter Singer does not consider DJ’s attempt to leave to be a sign of resistance. The idea that, in general, trying to leave isn’t a revocation of consent to sex is absurd rape apologism and I would not slander Singer by claiming he believed it. However, if Singer believes that violence or pain is what makes sex with DJ unethical, then it makes sense for him to point out that there wasn’t any violence or pain. In this context, Singer’s statement makes perfect sense.

The bestiality case illustrates this clearly. One can imagine a situation where you intend to have a calf give you a blowjob, the calf wanders off, you wait a bit for it to stay still, and then you have it give you a blowjob. It seems to me that if bestiality is unethical, this situation is unethical, and if bestiality is ethical, this situation is ethical.

The difference is that calves do not have an abstract, conceptual understanding of sex, because calves do not have an abstract, conceptual understanding of much of anything. A calf is not thinking “I have a consistent preference over time to not have that guy’s penis in my mouth and I’m going to try to communicate this preference through walking out the barn door. Oh, okay, it looks like he’s not going to give in, so I’m going to lie back and think of England.” A calf is thinking “I want to go investigate that sunbeam. Ooh! A thing to suck on!”

However, while I’m sympathetic to this model when we’re talking about sex with calves, I am very unsympathetic when we’re talking about sex with non-language-using humans. Calves have known capacities; severely disabled humans do not. To pick a very clear example: it is vanishingly unlikely that calves are capable of receptive and expressive language, with vocabularies of hundreds of thousands of words, and the only reason they’re not writing poetry to rival William Shakespeare’s is that their vocal cords aren’t shaped right. Receptive and expressive language are complex capacities and there would be absolutely no reason for them to evolve in a species without vocal cords that can produce speech.

Conversely, nearly all humans have receptive and expressive language capacities. We know that some humans retain receptive and expressive language, even if they have lost the ability to speak. For instance, many humans with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling their mouth muscles, so they can’t speak, but they can communicate with augmentative and auxiliary communication technology. Some autistic humans are intermittently incapable of speech under stress. Therefore, a non-language-using human may lack the capacity to use language altogether, or they may understand language but have such large difficulties using it that (unlike in the case of many humans with cerebral palsy or autism) we can’t tell that they have that capacity.

Of course, language use is not a morally relevant capacity. But the same thing does apply to morally relevant capacities. How are you supposed to tell whether a person who can’t use language understands the normal significance of sexual relations between persons or the meaning and significance of sexual violation? I mean, it’s not like you can ask him.

We don’t even have a good sense of the probabilities here. It could be that every non-language-using disabled person has the cognitive abilities of a calf. It could be that every single one of them understands sexual violation. We have no way of distinguishing these two worlds.

I note that Peter Singer agrees with this argument. Inexplicably, he seems to believe that DJ can have the ability to understand sexual violation if and only if facilitated communication works as a way of communicating with him. Since presumably DJ had those capacities (if he does) before he ever met a facilitator, he could also presumably have those capacities even if he cannot communicate them.

Furthermore, it does not seem like the ability to be sexually traumatized is as complicated as all that. One-year-olds in general have a very poor understanding of consent, as one can see by their tendency to hit other toddlers to hear the interesting noises the other toddler makes, but I would expect that fucking a one-year-old would cause them no small amount of emotional harm both in the short and the long run. It certainly seems like a bad idea to decriminalize sex with toddlers on the grounds that they are incapable of giving or withholding consent.

The safest course, I believe, is to assume that DJ is a person (albeit a person with certain diminished capacities). As a person, he is capable of being sexually traumatized. This does not necessarily mean he should be consigned to celibacy. I personally agree with Scott’s proposal:

I wish there were a system in place to protect disabled people from sexual abuse while not banning all sexuality entirely. If you want to do surgery on a disabled person who can’t consent, lots of doctors and lawyers and friends and family get together and do some legal stuff and try to elicit information from the patient as best they can and eventually come to a conclusion. The result isn’t perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than either “no one can ever operate on a disabled person” or “any surgeon who wants can grab a disabled person off the street and do whatever operation they feel like”. If there were some process like this for sex, and they decided that DJ wanted to have sex with Anna, then (again ignoring the power dynamics issue) I think this would be better than either banning him from all sex forever, or letting her have sex with whoever she wants as long as she can make up convincing enough pseudoscience.

Notably, this does seem to not have happened here even in an unofficial way, as one can tell by the fact that the family’s response to Anna revealing that she had sex with DJ was not “woohoo, finally” but “what the FUCK?” and trying to get her to go to jail for twelve years. Which is the second reason that I’ve claimed she’s a rapist.

(The fact that Peter Singer did not say something like “while good consent practices were not used in this case and Stubblefield is a rapist, I want to be clear that it is possible for a neurotypical person to have enjoyable and enriching sex with a non-language-using person if proper care is taken to ensure that they consent” seems to me to be further evidence that my claim about what Singer means is right and he in fact thinks that Stubblefield’s actual behavior is morally acceptable.)

Finally, I’d like to address the issue of abstracting away specific details of the case to talk about underlying philosophical issues. Clearly, it should be acceptable to talk about under what circumstances it is okay for non-language-using people to have sex; clearly, the routine desexualization of intellectually and developmentally disabled people is a grave harm to them.

However, let’s imagine that Peter Singer had instead written an article entitled Who Is The Victim In The Brock Turner Case? In this article, in addition to using pseudoscience to claim that Brock Turner’s victim actually consented, Singer writes that it’s a mistake to assume that sex with unconscious people is unethical just because they can’t verbally revoke consent.

Of course, it is possible to ethically have sex with unconscious people. Many couples enjoy waking each other up with sex. It is very silly for some sex-positive feminists to criticize it for lack of affirmative consent. But it seems to me that making this argument in the context of, you know, an actual rape victim is absurdly offensive and insensitive. Doing so in an article called Who Is The Victim In The Brock Turner Case? in which you argue for clemency for Brock Turner leads one to the conclusion that you’re not just abstractly considering important issues but, in fact, arguing that the particular rape which actually happened is morally unobjectionable and should not be punished.

And it seems to me to be equally objectionable to argue against protests of Who Is The Victim In The Brock Turner Case? by pointing out that it’s harmful to say that waking people up with a blowjob is rape and then saying it’s a shame that Singer didn’t do his homework about the details of the case, whereupon he would realize that Brock Turner did not in fact finger his girlfriend with her previous consent with the intent of allowing her to wake up pleasantly. Brock Turner’s case is clearly and obviously not the same thing as waking up your partner by fingering them, and it is offensive, morally wrong, and worst of all extremely unenlightening to discuss them in the same place.

Intellectual Turing Test Results

Tacitus Browning, author of Blanchard-Bailey ITT entry#5, has come in first place on the Intellectual Turing Test for the gender-identity side, with 79% of voters considering him to be a Blanchardian. tcheasdfjkl is the other winner on the gender-identity side; she also participated in and won the last Intellectual Turing Test.

J, author of gender identity ITT entry #4, has come in first place on the Intellectual Turing Test for the Blanchard-Bailey side. There were no other winners for the Blanchardians.

Tacitus, therefore, is the overall winner of the Intellectual Turing Test.

Finley, author of Blanchard-Bailey ITT entry #4, has won the Strawman Award for Poorly Representing Your Own Side. In spite of the opinion of voters, he is a Blanchardian.

There were three entries on which Blanchardians and gender identity supporters disagreed, although in no case did this disagreement cause a winner to lose or a loser to win. Blanchardians considered Blanchard-Bailey ITT entry #1 to be written by a gender identity supporter, while gender identity supporters believed the author to be a Blanchardian. The Blanchardians were correct. Blanchardians considered ITT gender identity entry #5 to be written by a Blanchardian, while gender identity supporters believed the author to be a gender identity supporter. The gender identity supporters were correct. Blanchardians considered ITT gender identity entry #1 to be written by a Blanchardian, while gender identity supporters believed the author to be a gender identity supporter. Gender identity supporters were correct.

Full rankings are below:

  1. Tacitus Browning, ITT GI #6, 74% gender identity, ITT BB #5, 79% Blanchardian.
  2. tcheasdfjkl, ITT GI #8, 91% gender identity, ITT BB #6, 63% Blanchardian.
  3. loki-zen, ITT GI #7, 74% gender identity, ITT BB #1, 49% Blanchardian.
  4. sigmaleph, ITT GI #5, 51% gender identity, ITT BB #2, 43% Blanchardian.
  5. ReaperReader, ITT GI #1, 71% gender identity, ITT BB #9, 26% Blanchardian.
  6. Alizarin, ITT GI #2, 64% gender identity, ITT BB #7, 16% Blanchardian.

Blanchardians

  1. J, ITT GI #4, 64% gender identity, ITT BB #8, 76% Blanchardian.
  2. Finley, ITT GI #3, 41% gender identity, ITT BB #4, 44% Blanchardian.
  3. Trent Z Andrewson, ITT GI #9, 34% gender identity, ITT BB #3, 85% Blanchardian.

My Third April Fools’ Confession

I have, over the course of my life, been to three universes; this is the third. The example of my predecessors suggests that I soon shall visit a fourth, and thus I write these words. It is perhaps too much to hope for that my fourth world will be the same as my first, and I will once again return home.

The second world I shall not dwell on unduly. It is identical to your Earth, except that none of the good TV shows got canceled. (Firefly season thirteen is terrible– almost as bad as the first!) The first I will call Patria, which in Latin means “homeland” (for it is my home, long though I may be in exile) and also “fatherland” (for reasons that will soon become apparent).

In Patria, it is generally agreed upon that every man a woman has sex with the month before she conceives a child is that child’s father. Of course, not all fathers are fathers to the same degree: if a woman has had sex with one man nine times in the month when the child was conceived, and another man once, then the first will be 90% the child’s father and the second 10%. We normally do not bother with such mathematics; instead, we rank the fathers by how often the mother had sex with them.

Most children have five to ten fathers. Of course, few women have five to ten lovers at any given time; it is usual, when a woman decides to try to conceive, for her to choose a small number of beloved friends to have sex with once or twice. They are selected for their handsomeness, kindness, bravery, intelligence, or other traits the mother would like to have in her offspring. It is considered a great honor to be asked to be a child’s sixthfather or seventhfather.

The firstfather is generally the mother’s committed partner. Socially, his role is similar to that of a father in Earth culture. The secondfather usually lives with the mother as well, although his role is more similar to babysitter or trusted friend. He may have his own wife, who is referred to as the secondmother, who may also help take care of the child. (I translate the terms, but they are much more euphonious in my own language.) The thirdfather and fourthfather are something like uncles: they don’t necessarily live with you, but they do come to your school plays and baseball games, play catch with you sometimes, and talk to you about boys. The fifthfathers and up tend to be more distant: they typically give presents at Christmas and your birthday, call or send cards every now and again, and sometimes engage in a bit of light nepotism.

One exception to the distance of the fifthfathers and up is in the six weeks immediately following birth. Culturally, a mother is not supposed to do much of anything for the six weeks following birth; she is supposed to sleep, breastfeed, and play with her baby. She will typically wear pajamas all day. All other duties are taken over by the fathers. The firstfather and secondfather are on-call if the mother wants anything (a footrub, a softer pillow, someone to hold the baby while she showers) and themselves often don’t get much sleep. So a lot of the cooking, cleaning, and other household maintenance gets done by the thirdfathers and up. A fifthfather who doesn’t even bring meals is considered quite neglectful. (That said, in the modern era, many fifthfathers instead pay for takeout or hire a cleaning service.)

Of course, nothing is ever the way they describe it to you in your relationship education textbook. There are several ways that modern society differs from this idealized vision.

Most importantly, of course, scientists have discovered how reproduction actually works. In fact, all children only have one father. While the commitment level of each father roughly aligns with the probability that they are the father, in fact, only one father provided the sperm that gives the infant half its genetic material. The Religious Right in my world insists on denying these scientific facts. The more fundamentalist argue that, in fact, children have more than one father; the term “epigenetics” is often used. The more liberal religious people agree that while only one father provides the children with genetic material, the other fathers compose the child’s soul. Even for children who have had their paternity tested (perhaps because of the chance that they will inherit a rare disease) and have been confirmed to be genetically related to, say, their secondfather, people will regularly comment that she has clearly inherited her firstfather’s kindness or her sixthfather’s wit.

Gay marriage was legalized about two years before I got married to my husband. In queer communities, all the mother’s lovers are considered to be parents, regardless of gender: for instance, one might have a female “thirdparent”. If the mother is a lesbian, she will typically have sex with one man, who is then by custom considered to be the fifthparent. Similarly, the surrogate mother or birth mother of a child adopted by a gay male couple is the fifthparent. Some heterosexuals refer to fifthparents instead of fifthfathers and fifthmothers in an attempt to be progressive and gender-neutral, but this is generally considered to be unbearably twee.

We do not have assisted reproductive technology, which you have developed. It was discussed in science-fictional terms, but all research along those lines was crushed by the advocacy of the Religious Right.

Long ago, when we developed these traditions, people rarely moved more than a day’s walk from their home village– certainly not after they’d had children. In the modern era, however, it is difficult to coordinate even as few as seven or eight adults all living in the same place, because many people have to move for work, and it is quite uncommon for people to have flexible jobs that are easily moved around.

That isn’t as bad as it could be, because families have gotten smaller. My birth family, for instance, had twelve adults in it. On the other hand, when I married, my family consisted of merely five people: me, my husband, my child’s secondfather, his wife, and her child’s secondfather, who himself had no interest in marrying or producing children. Many more people these days are interested in being a secondfather or secondmother but themselves do not want to raise children, and because of birth control it’s possible to do so. But nevertheless families often wind up fractured because people have to move.

The Religious Right disapproves of all of these changes to The Way Life Is Supposed To Be. They generally hold that gay parenting, divorce, and people moving (as well as people not knowing the names of all their children’s fathers, as happens sometimes in working-class communities) are all what happens when you start believing in the single-father theory, instead of the Godly theory of multiple fathers.

(A random, interesting bit of trivia, which occurred to me as I was writing about the Religious Right: In your universe, flirty fishing was only practiced by one small cult. In Patria, it is endemic in both evangelical and Catholic communities. The former typically use contraception when single and flirty fishing; the latter have Jesus babies, which are generally raised in convents or adopted by devout Catholic families.)

I had previously believed that the Religious Right was mistaken about the single-father theory. It’s science; how could knowing the truth harm people? But being transported into your universe has led me to realize, much to my horror, that they were absolutely correct. The single-father theory is destructive. Your universe– this universe into which I have unwillingly been dragged– is horrible and I hate it and I want to go home.

First, of course, there is the harm I face, having been rejected by my family of origin for my perfectly normal and indeed sedate sex life.

Second, there is your society’s horrifying attitude towards parenting. In Patria, most families have a stay-at-home parent (usually a mother) who cleans and cooks. The labor of being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t scale up linearly with number of people in the household: it doesn’t take that much more time to cook for six than for four. And since families are so large, even a relatively poor family can afford a stay-at-home mother.

In your society, there is this bizarre obsession with only the biological parents of the child providing care. This is perhaps most obvious in the six weeks after the birth. As far as I can tell, in your culture, new mothers are expected to do their own cleaning! Mothers talk about being sleep-deprived and depressed as if this is the normal state of affairs! Of course you’ll be sleep-deprived if you don’t have twelve or fifteen people to help take care of you, my god. My husband, in spite of the fact that I am relying on him for everything since my child will have only a firstfather, gets only six weeks of paternity leave. Many fathers don’t take paternity leave at all! Grandparents help a little bit, but you still only have four of them, and many people are disconnected from their parents. (Of course, many people are disconnected from their parents in Patria too, but at least we have more than one father to pick up the slack!)

In reading feminist texts in this world, I have heard of this appalling concept of “the second shift”. Apparently women put in a full forty hours a week at work and then come home and are expected to clean and cook and run errands and take care of children! Having a housespouse is utterly out of reach for average couples. No wonder the rise in feminism has made women so unhappy.

In our universe, feminism made women happy. Before the feminist movement, mechanization of domestic labor freed some of the women of the household from taking care of the home, and in their spare time they typically volunteered or made art or engaged in political activism. Afterward, of course, women had jobs. There’s still the problem that men tend not to be housespouses, but all in all our system is far less horrifying.

Day care is unheard of in Patria; I think there might be some social programs for teenage mothers that offer it. To be clear, I don’t object to day care at all. Children naturally thrive with more than a single caregiver, and if you don’t have multiple fathers and mothers like sensible people then hiring someone to be your child’s caregiver is fine. My primary objection is that it costs literally ten thousand dollars a year. How is a normal family supposed to afford this?

Third, you are all so isolated. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a housing crisis, so there are group homes and I am fortunate enough to approximate a normal lifestyle. But outside of San Francisco, people generally live in nuclear families, if they don’t live alone. (You don’t even have boarding houses for single people!) I was appalled to read The Ferrett’s article about how not being lonely is hard work. No, it isn’t! If you live in a normal extended-family environment, then you have social interactions with half a dozen people without having to leave your house. And your family members will invite people over and you can spend time with them without constantly having to do the work yourself. Your culture has completely eliminated all normal means of social interaction, and then you wonder why you’re so lonely and isolated and depressed and why everyone spends so much time on social media. I’ll tell you why: because social media is a place where you can talk to people without having to put on pants. If you had a healthy family life, then you would get that in face-to-face interactions.

Fourth, your culture is appallingly incapable of responding to divorce or child abuse in a remotely functional way. Divorce is far more common in Patria than in yours, because of the number of potential breakups that are possible. In a small family of five adults, there are ten potential relationships that could go bad and result in someone wanting to leave the family; I don’t even want to think about how many potential conflicts there are in a family of twelve.

But the results of divorce are far less bad in my world. I have personal experience with this, because my children’s secondmother’s secondfather (your language does not have enough words!) left our family when my daughter was five. Of course, it broke my daughter’s heart that he left; she cried, regularly asked for him to come home, and absolutely refused to read any Greek mythology for a month, which had been his favorite thing to read to her. But her life stayed stable: she lived in the same home and did not move between houses. (When a family breaks up, children generally stay with the largest fragment of the family.) And she wasn’t poor. In your culture, after a divorce, you have to maintain two households, which is almost twice as expensive as one household. In Patria, you still only have to maintain one proper household; the person who left lives inexpensively in a boarding house, in which dinner, laundry, and cleaning is typically provided by the landlord.

And don’t get me started on child abuse. Most children in Patria have huge extended families. At the age of ten, children legally acquire the ability to switch to any guardian in their extended family who consents to have them. (“Extended family” means the family of any adult descended from any of your grandfathers and grandmothers, and can easily be one of several hundred people.) Normally, children are fine with their parents and don’t go to the bother of switching. However, if a child is being hit, neglected, or called names, they will almost always switch to a different relative who doesn’t do that. Children’s extended family members can also file for custody (which is done when the child is younger than ten or is being abused such that they don’t feel comfortable leaving), in which case the best interests of the child is decided by the judge. In your universe, a child who objects to their parents has to go into the foster care system, which is so awful that many teenagers prefer to be sex trafficking victims instead. In Patria, foster care only happens in the rare case in which a child’s entire extended family is appallingly abusive; since there are very few participants, it is actually adequately funded and can provide good foster care.

Finally, and most importantly to me: I miss my daughter Grace. I miss my secondfather’s children Sarah and Michael. I miss my family. I miss waking up snuggled between my husband and my boyfriend. I miss being able to go to parties easily because I can ask the child’s secondfather to watch the kids. I miss tutoring Michael in reading while my child’s secondmother taught them math. I miss my boyfriend’s cooking. I miss being able to talk to my family about the people I love. I miss not being a freakshow. I miss my home.

Both of the previous people who wrote these confessions left shortly afterward. I hope, yearn that I, too, shall leave soon, and be with my family again. But given what has happened in the past, I suspect I shall spend the rest of my life alone, without my children, wandering through dozens of worlds, none of which understand family at all.

Ask me anything, I guess, and I’ll talk about it in the comments.

Arguments Against Guaranteed Basic Income

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[This post was requested on Patreon by Daniel, who asked me to write up an argument against guaranteed basic income. Each month, one backer at the $5/month or above level is randomly selected to suggest a blog post or story topic. You may find my patreon here.]

The reason one should not support a guaranteed basic income is that economists don’t support it. In fact, weighted by the economists’ confidence in their opinions, 84% of economists surveyed either disagree or strongly disagree with granting every American citizen over the age of 21 a guaranteed basic income of $13,000/year, financed by eliminating all transfer programs.

…wait, you mean I have to write more than that? Come on.

As always, I’m not an economist, but looking at common themes in the explanations the economists of the IGM Economic Experts Panel, I think I can come up with some more answers.

The GBI is expensive. Really, really expensive. The GBI proposed in the question economists were polled about would cost about three trillion dollars a year, equivalent to all the tax revenue of the United States federal government. It is generally believed, even by the most libertarian among us, that countries should continue to have things like “an army” and “diplomats” and “a place for the President to live.” Most of the liberals I know would go so far as to say that we should have environmental conservation, publicly funded science, and foreign aid. A GBI is either going to lead to a massive increase in taxes or a cut in a lot of really basic things.

And the benefits aren’t actually that great. Thirteen thousand dollars for each adult is enough to get most families over the poverty line (although not single parents with two or more children). Living at the poverty line is pretty terrible, but it’s not the worst possible thing; you don’t starve. Of course, most people who are at or below the poverty line benefit from food stamps, Medicaid, and other programs intended to help the poor, which don’t exist anymore because we slashed them to fund the guaranteed basic income. So we’d expect that being a poor person would become significantly harder.

I’m talking about one specific proposal, but these arguments apply to pretty much every level of guaranteed basic income. You can give everyone $20,000, which is enough to live on happily in many parts of the country, but then you’d better find some more sources of tax revenue. You can give everyone $5,000 and be able to afford the continued existence of the White House, but then it’s not going to do a hell of a lot of good for most poor people.

Part of the reason the GBI is so expensive is that it goes to everyone. Bill Gates gets a $13,000 check; I get a $13,000 check; the homeless guy down at the bridge gets a $13,000 check. This is often justified by pointing out that means-tested programs lead to disincentives to work. If working to earn a thousand more dollars will lose you your food stamps, and you have to pay taxes on the extra thousand dollars, you can quickly wind up with more than half of your additional income going to the government (either in the form of taxes or in the form of means-tested programs you’re not benefiting from). In some cases, nearly 100% of your additional income would go to the government.

That’s a serious problem with means-tested programs. However, there has got to be a better way to solve it than giving everyone in the United States $13,000. For instance, we could phase out benefits more slowly. We could also work on simplifying the absurdly complicated array of social welfare programs. A lot of times, no one intends to make someone have a 80% marginal tax rate; it’s just that when you have dozens of programs affecting poor people, it’s impossible to account for all the ways they could interact with each other.

Related to targeting the most vulnerable: a guaranteed basic income does not account for the fact that severely disabled people are more expensive than other people. For instance, consider a quadriplegic. She is currently unable to work, so she lives on her $13,000 guaranteed basic income check. Let’s say she requires a home health care aide to bathe, dress, and use the bathroom, which costs her $19 an hour for two hours a day of care. Over the course of a year, this adds up to $13,870– which is more than her basic income check, leaving her with zero money for food, rent, entertainment, or health care.

Right now, home health care aides– as well as innumerable other services required by the severely disabled– are covered by Medicaid. If we eliminate Medicaid, then many– perhaps most– severely disabled people will be unable to afford the care that allows them to live. Some will be taken care of by friends or family, or will be rich enough to afford it themselves, or will go into the kind of nursing home you can afford for $13,000 a year (spoiler: it is a really terrible nursing home). Many will die.

Many of my readers, I know, basically think that severely disabled people should not exist. That is another conversation for another time. But let me point this out to those readers: most quadriplegic people aren’t born quadriplegic. You could walk out of your house today and get hit by a car and wind up quadriplegic. So the question is whether, if that happened, you would like to continue to be able to live independently, or you would like to die.

Finally, the idea of a guaranteed basic income does not necessarily work well with increased immigration. If the guaranteed basic income is available to everyone, there is an incentive to come to the United States and not work. If the guaranteed basic income is not available to everyone, we create a permanent underclass. Neither is satisfactory.

ITT #9: Blanchard-Bailey

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This post is a person– who may believe either a gender identity or a Blanchard-Bailey theory of transness– doing their best to write what a Blanchardian believes. Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.

How do you define woman/man?

Like most people I keep multiple different definitions in my head. Eg a grandma is someone with grey hair who is retired, loves cooking and spoiling her grandkids and all the other stereotypes, and a grandmother is someone whose children have children of their own. So Tina Turner is a grandma even if she doesn’t act grandma-ly.

In the case of woman/man, I generally go with what people tell me about what they are. However, I am well aware that historically, being a woman or a man was about external body parts, and if you got classified as a woman you were subject to various social definitions, if you got classified as a man you were subject to the draft or press-ganging, personal identity had nothing to do with it, barring some exceptional cases. So I switch between meanings depending on context.

I also am well aware that a binary definition does not cover everyone, some people identity as genders other than the binary, some people physically are inter-sex. I don’t think we will ever have words, or even short noun phrases, that cover every single possible case.

What’s your opinion of the cotton ceiling?

I think the cotton ceiling was the unfortunate intersection of two principles, both good in themselves. One, that people should avoid prejudice and discriminating on irrelevant grounds, and the other, that anything remotely like shame in relation to sexual preferences should be avoided. Sex should be about fun and pleasure, and violent language like “breaking down barriers” only used where both parties want it.

If you look at what advertisers do, they present their products as fulfilling existing needs or wants of the people they’re selling to, not as the needs or wants of the seller. A much better approach to trans women’s concerns would have been to focus on telling stories, and encouraging key idea makers, to produce stories, about trans women in happy romantic relationships and as attractive partners, and criticising only people who dispute others’ claim to be lesbian or whatever because they’re in a trans-relationship. There’s nothing sexy about obligations.

On the other hand, there was definitely ridiculous overreaction by radical feminists to the cotton ceilings, which should not happen, and is terribly abrasive to the public discourse.

Why are trans women disproportionately likely to be programmers?

A combination of factors I think. Programming is something you can do without navigating social situations. (I got into it when I was forced to spend weeks as a kid off school lying down with my foot elevated.) So it’s a natural place for kids who get bullied, and kids who get bullied tend to have something odd about them (as a kid, a lot of other kids tried to bully me).

It’s also a good career for people who can be happy inside their heads, which goes with a strong inward focus, and perhaps also the willingness to take on prejudice that transwomen face, or have faced. It’s easier to defy social norms if you don’t face them all the time.

And, it’s intellectually demanding of precision. “feelings” that some code is wrong or something have their place, but feelings don’t debug code. Working through implications rigourously is important.

So several reasons.

Explain trans people assigned female at birth.

A full explanation of the whys of trans men of course depends on proper research being carried out. But in the meantime I will speculate. There’s nothing I can think of in the laws of the universe that says that women (in sense 3) can’t be auto-androphilic, nor that they can’t find transitioning to men (in sense 1) attractive for social reasons.

There are more social advantages to people who are perceived as female to transition to male as well in our often sexist society. Which is another incentive for trans men to transition.

The first item on the poll refers to what side you think the author of this post really believes, while the second item refers to what side you believe. When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.

ITT #8: Blanchard-Bailey

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This post is a person– who may believe either a gender identity or a Blanchard-Bailey theory of transness– doing their best to write what a Blanchardian believes. Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.

How do you define woman/man?

Women are adult female humans. Men are adult male humans. Not that complicated.

Now, “female” and “male” are not absolutely rigid descriptors. Sexual differentiation begins at a very early stage of embryo development, and a lot of things can interfere with the process. Some people get an extra sex chromosome. Some people with XY chromosomes have a metabolism that does not respond to androgens. Or they could have 5-alpha- reductase deficiency (5-ARD) which causes them to appear female from birth until puberty hits and they suddenly masculinize. If you’re reading these threads you’ve probably heard of a dozen intersex conditions like this. (The term hermaphroditic, alas, has long since met its grisly death in the gears of the euphemism treadmill.)

In the last few generations, children born with ambiguous genitalia or other intersex conditions were surgically ‘corrected’ (where applicable) and raised as one or the other. Some of these individuals who found out came forward to say that this compromised their right to autonomy. (Not all of them find out, and there are surely plenty among us living, for now, in blissful ignorance.)

For the most part, I’m a fan of autonomy. If an intersexed person decides that they align more with men, or with women, or somewhere in between, they should be welcome to figure it out on their own and stick with what makes them more comfortable.

But that’s not who we’re talking about. No, we’re talking about chromosomally normal men, and chromosomally normal women, apparently fertile and healthy, who decide that they were meant to live as the opposite sex. (There’s a handful of individuals who want to identify as some kind of neuter, androgyne or ‘non-binary’ being, but that’s getting into the margins of an already very small niche.)

With today’s resources, it’s possible to manipulate the body’s chemistry, or, more crudely, its anatomy. Drugs can suppress hormone expression or launch it into overdrive. We can manufacture artificial hormones and administer them. We can cut into your body and twist it with a scalpel. Can we turn men into women, and women to men? Well… soooorta. MtFs can never bear their own children, and FtMs can never sire them. Which flies in the face of what males and females are supposed to be for. But that huge caveat aside, the best luck and medical science looks capable of “really” changing one’s sex, at least to the point where only a philosopher with a medical license would be qualified to argue.

Some people go for it. The reigning orthodoxy is that we have some kind of inner brain-to-body map, usually said to be molded by pre-natal hormones, and that trans people ended up with the wrong one.

But color me skeptical. I don’t ‘feel’ like a man. I am one. It’s a physical attribute, like having two arms or wavy hair. “Man” is a category defined by my presence in it, not vice-versa. Sometimes I like that I’m a man. Sometimes I don’t. But usually it doesn’t even cross my mind, because my sex is completely irrelevant to most of life’s endeavors.

Yet I’ve heard stories from trans people so caught up in their ‘body map’ that they tried to cut off their gonads or crush them with rocks, or bind them or tuck them or whatever and it makes me think gaahhh what the fuck that’s your OWN BODY what in the hell is WRONG with you? And we’re to believe this is a normal thing that could just happen to anybody? Look, if the theory is true then everything has a body map, there should be dysphoric lab rats and wolves and monkeys trying to chew off their sex organs. And we don’t see it.

I don’t think transness is about becoming something you are. It’s about becoming something you aren’t. And for a lot of MtFs it’s about becoming a fuckable woman.

I have no reason to believe most men would mind being a woman. I wouldn’t. Obviously it’s not something cis people bring up for conversation, but in certain contexts (describing the clownfish, say, or a hermaphromorphic android shell in an RPG) my guy friends have hinted or said outright, apropos of nothing, they’d totally be down with that. (As one put it, “I’d never leave the house!”) And these are guys on the normie side of nerd-dom, not the kind of weirdos who hang around the LWsphere. The horror cis people are supposed to feel just isn’t there. Cis-by- default is the default.

But I should confess to something. I’m egg-mode trans. Probably. Because I’m part of Rashey Tumblr and plasticbrainy as fuck. And because for as long as I can remember, I’ve been getting my rocks off to TF-TG fetish shit on DeviantArt. Comic strips and dirty stories of men turning into women. Not just any men, and not just any women. Miserable unattractive gawky men, and gorgeous young nymphs whose self-esteem and sexual appetite runneth over. And Christ on a bike, are these forums crawling with dysphoric dudes. I would not be at all surprised if at least half of the artists and their clients were trans. In the better part of a decade I’ve seen… at least six?… TF artists announce their transition. In journals and comment chains, you see a lot of wobbling. Once they tip, they never return.

Their creations don’t always show people fucking, but all of it’s porn. It exists completely within a sexualized context. There are no illusions from anyone involved about why the artists are making it or what their audience is coming for.

A few ‘plotlines’ show up over and over. Best friends become romantic partners. Bullies become fawning groupies. The self-insert ‘victim’ of some curse is transformed utterly, their memories erased, reality itself re-written – and everything about their new life is inexplicably more fulfilling or promising than their old one. (Of course, they find time to fuck or masturbate.) The person they used to be is simply erased like they never existed; no one ever mourns their loss.

Kind of fucked up, don’t you think? Fantasy is fantasy, but are you so surprised that people aren’t tripping over themselves to validate someone trying to make this degenerate affectation real?

“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” – Woody Allen

Still, nobody would do that just for a boner, right? I know what you’re probably thinking about me right now – ‘poor sad sack, he’s just trapped in the closet.’ Yeah, no – I don’t believe gender identity works like that, I doubt that anyone is inherently that attached to their ‘nads. Here’s a verbatim excerpt from a 2012 entry in my private journal (three months before “Cis by Default” was published, and years before I’d ever heard of it):

“Maybe I just don’t feel these things on the ‘deep’ level that some people do. I can’t imagine clinging to a self-label of ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ and pursuing it like a manly-man or a feminine woman or transitioning transsexual. I’m male because that’s simply what I am, and have always been.”

But you’re right – no one would transition just for a kink. You’d have to be crazy.

My incredibly volatile, politically incorrect hunch is that transitioning is a way to kill yourself without actually having to die. A mixture of suicidal ideation and putting the pussy on a pedestal. Don’t take my word for it: the metaphors are EVERYWHERE in the community. The new name and signifiers. “Look at it this way, you’re losing a son but gaining a daughter.” The dreaded faux pas – “deadnaming.” The butterfly iconography. Referring to the untransitioned as “eggs” – lifeless things that just haven’t hatched yet. THE RAMPANT SUICIDAL DEPRESSION.

You know how rich white people kill themselves more often than poor black people, even though it seems like their lives couldn’t possibly suck as much? But I bet poor people who are stuck in shitty situations think, ‘one day I could have money, and this will all be a bad memory.’ Their privileged counterparts feel like they already have everything – so they don’t have anything left.

If you’re a dude with this kink and you hate yourself, you’ve got one thing left. Hope they’re right when they say it works.

What are your opinions on the cotton ceiling?

Dysfunctional SJ power dynamics are the whole reason it exists in the first place. Looks like nobody wants to sleep in a bed that they’ve shat in.

Why are trans women disproportionately likely to be programmers?

Programming is an attractive pastime for nerds. Nerds like abstract systems with lots of variables that can be tweaked to produce predictable, yet distinctively unique and complex results. It’s why they’re also disproportionately likely to take up an interest in fantasy worldbuilding, game rule systems, time travel, alien planets, and shape-shifted sex.

Explain trans people assigned female at birth.

And here we get to what’s supposed to be the other side of the dichotomy – trading ‘cis and gay’ for ‘trans and straight.’ Unlike the AGP side, I have no particular insight into the seedy underbelly here. I only know one or two (pre-anything) AFAB trans people, and I’m not sure what distinguishes them from butch lesbians other than their desire to have a penis. Which I suppose is all you really need, if you want it enough, and there’s no reason why they couldn’t.

Probably it’s just the mirror-image of what non-AGP MtFs experience. I disagree that non-AGP trans people are always gay (because clearly, some of them aren’t), but they definitely appear under-masculinized if AMAB and vice-versa. In my experience non-AGP transness tends to be co-morbid with a bunch of cluster A or cluster B disorders. (The LW- sphere suggests a connection to autism as well.) Honestly it doesn’t surprise me that much. Transness just compliments the rest of the badbrains. This is where the ‘trans-trender’ stereotype has the most play, I think; people who fit this umbrella tend to clump together and experiment with radical politics or psychoactive drug use, and it’s also where you get the peculiar group dynamics that reward the most outrageous or outré persona you can get away with.

Can we also acknowledge that everyone is prone to think the grass is greener? Especially in today’s fucked up climate. Who wants to be one of those unlovable, predatory, oppressive men? Who wants to be one of those objectified, victimized, defenseless women? It’s a miracle everybody hasn’t gone screwy. Maybe they have.

The first item on the poll refers to what side you think the author of this post really believes, while the second item refers to what side you believe. When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.

ITT #7: Blanchard-Bailey

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This post is a person– who may believe either a gender identity or a Blanchard-Bailey theory of transness– doing their best to write what a Blanchardian believes. Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.

How do you define woman/man?

Woman – An adult human assigned female at birth.

Man – An adult human assigned male at birth.

Saying that being a woman or a man is a feeling or state of mind implies that women’s and men’s mindsets are inherently different. The whole concept of gender identity is sexist. “Oh, I like pink, and makeup, and giggling, that’s what women like so I must be a woman.”

It also ignores that for 99.99% of human history and for most people today except a privileged few, there is no changing the categories. If a teenage girl in Somalia really, strongly, identifies as a boy and has done so all her life, that won’t save her from FGM and an arranged marriage.

Even for people who can transition, gender socialization starts at birth. There’ve been tests – parents underestimate their girl babies’ gross motor skills and overestimate for their boys, and assume that a crying girl baby is scared and a crying boy baby is angry. No matter how strongly a man wants breasts and a vagina, it won’t change the fact that everyone around him all his life has treated him as a man.

What are your opinions on the cotton ceiling?

The transwomen who push the idea of the cotton ceiling are sexually entitled male predators. Lots of the anti-cotton ceiling arguments I’ve heard could come from any frat boy. “If you like strap-ons, why don’t you like dick?” “If you like butch women, why don’t you like men?” The most similar concept is the friendzone. There’s no difference between “Women owe me attention and sex , why won’t they give me a chance, if they reject me they’re entitled bitches who hate nerdy guys,” and “Cis women owe me attention and sex, why won’t they give me a chance, if they reject me they’re transmisogynists.”

Lots of these people act like being attracted to women is being attracted to long hair, high heels, dresses, and makeup, instead of being attracted to the female body. They have a femininity fetish and say that women who like vulvas are the ones with a fetish.

Even the ones who accept that lesbians don’t like dick insist that they have to like neovaginas. A surgically created pocket that doesn’t smell or taste anything like a real vulva and is filled with hairballs and E. coli isn’t something any lesbian wants on her face.

On behalf of their enablers, it’s a mix of straight and bi lesbophobes who are thrilled to have a SJ-approved excuse to attack lesbians, bi people who Do Not Get the concept of preferring one set of genitals over another, and self-hating lesbians who attack other lesbians to hide the fact that, deep inside, getting within three feet of a penis makes them want to vomit.

Why are trans women disproportionately likely to be programmers?

Because socially awkward boys who are bad at performing masculinity tend to be drawn to programming. Lots of these boys socialize with other nerdy boys in sketchy places on the internet and get drawn into various anti-feminist ideologies. They look at feminism and think “I don’t have any privilege because I’m not an alpha male, I get bullied, and I can’t get a date.” Some of them become MRAs or join the Alt-Right. Others find transgender ideology. They learn that the fact that they don’t fit in with the popular guys at school and like lesbian porn means they are really lesbians. They are the most oppressed. The girls who won’t go out with them are transmisogynists. Everything fits.

Explain trans people assigned female at birth.

They fit into two categories, just like trans people assigned male at birth.

A) Female people who transition because they don’t want to be women any more. Women and girls who have been hurt and feel like being a man would protect them, or who hate their bodies because of sexual assault. Butch lesbians who face a lot of homophobic harassment and rejection, and who feel like society doesn’t have a place for them but it’s made for straight men, or who hang out in radiqueer communities where everyone assumes gender non-conforming woman = “masculine of center” = trans or nonbinary. GNC women who’ve absorbed the lie that real women don’t have masculine interests. This is a really sad thing when these women transition and then detransition and have to live in their bodies after testosterone and mastectomies.

B) Female people who transition because of autoandrophilia or a desire to be special. Straight slash fangirls who want to be pretty gay boys like in their favorite yaoi. Lonely teenage girls who hang out on Tumblr where everyone talks about the Evil Cishets and how glad they are to be in the Mogai community which is a 24-7 awesome rainbow party and also gives them a bunch of SJ persecution points they can use to win online arguments. Anyone who’s already listed all the fictional characters she’s kin with and her 17 different self diagnosed personality disorders on her Tumblr About Me and is desperate for more ways to make herself special and unique. This is really sad when these women transition, which is why it’s a good thing that they mostly don’t.

The first item on the poll refers to what side you think the author of this post really believes, while the second item refers to what side you believe. When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.

ITT #6: Blanchard-Bailey

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This post is a person– who may believe either a gender identity or a Blanchard-Bailey theory of transness– doing their best to write what a Blanchardian believes. Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.

How do you define woman/man?

Humans are basically sexually dimorphic. There are edge cases, but there are also two mostly distinct clusters, one containing people who typically have XX chromosomes, vaginas, etc., and the other containing people who typically have XY chromosomes, penises, etc. The first cluster is “women” and the second is “men”.

Of course, all the controversy is over what to do about the edge cases. Some people are intersex – they’re naturally between the clusters, or just at the edge of one. Others are trans – they’re in one cluster but they want to be in another, or they have taken some steps to actually move to the other cluster, which might land them between the clusters or possibly within (but still towards the edge of) the other cluster. I think that the best way to categorize a particular individual is to see where they are in this hypothetical graph with the two clusters. (This does mean that for certain people, it won’t be reasonable to put them in either category.)

I do think that when one is in the midst of transitioning, or if one has completed the steps of transition without actually landing in their desired cluster, as a courtesy we can use the pronoun they want. But the categories that *matter* are mostly the physical clusters.

What are your opinions on the cotton ceiling?

I think this is an absurd term for a real struggle.

Trans people who want sexual and romantic partners really are in a difficult situation. But… this situation is sort of a natural consequence of choosing to transition.

Most people’s attraction to others is heavily gendered, and the ideal of an attractive man is very different from the ideal of an attractive woman, which makes androgynous people unattractive to many. And unfortunately current transition technology does not let all trans people look like their preferred gender. Also unfortunately, SRS is relatively expensive, so many trans people don’t get surgery – but many if not most people do in fact care about their sex partners’ genitals.

I’m not saying that trans people who don’t pass can never find love (clearly there are people who do find androgyny attractive, though this is not the norm) and I’m also not saying that transphobia plays no part in this (some people who are attracted to trans people are too ashamed to date one). But you’ll never get rid of the inherent disadvantage that trans people get in dating.

(I’ll note, btw, that though androphilic trans women have a disadvantage in dating compared to straight cis women, they’re still in a better position dating-wise than they’d be sans transition, since they tend to specifically prefer straight men.)

Also if your activism focuses on getting into someone’s pants, you’re doing activism wrong. Sexual pressure continues to be wrong if it’s perpetrated by a disadvantaged person.

Why are trans women disproportionately likely to be programmers?

Depends on who you’re comparing them with.

One reason trans women are more likely to be programmers than cis women is that the set of trans women contains the set of autogynephilic trans women, and autogynephilic trans women basically have typically male interests (and typically male socialization, which unlike androphilic trans women* they actually tend to absorb as kids).

The question of why trans women are overrepresented in programming compared to cis men is more interesting – if autogynephilic trans women had purely male-typical interests while androphilic trans women had purely female-typical interests, you would expect trans women to end up somewhere between men and women in programmeriness. I don’t think we know the full answer to this, but this too is clearly driven by the autogynephiles – androphilic trans women mostly have relatively female-typical interests and occupations. Trans people seem to be unusually likely to be autistic, so this is likely to be a factor; other than that, I don’t really understand this myself. This is definitely an area for further research.

*”homosexual transsexuals” is the technical term, but I disagree with Blanchard’s choice of terminology here – I think when you’re talking about trans people, using their own sex/gender as a reference point is going to be confusing for people who aren’t sex researchers. I also think that when we can use non-inflammatory language without sacrificing truth, there’s no reason not to do that (I’m trying to do so in this entry, for instance).

Explain trans people assigned female at birth.

This is woefully understudied, so I can’t do much more than speculate.

It seems plausible that a similar two-type situation could exist for trans men, except that there should be very few autoandrophiles because women generally have less intense sex drives than men and paraphilias in general are much less common in women. (Here Blanchard and Bailey both kind of fuck up – Blanchard says autoandrophilia doesn’t exist at all, Bailey says paraphilias are exclusively or almost exclusively experienced by men – but, well, I’ll just say that based on my observations both of these claims seem really unlikely. Women with very high sex drives & weird sexual preferences do in fact exist, they’re just rare. I think this is an excusable fuckup since they both primarily study male-sexed people.)

Gynephilic, masculine trans men should thus be the majority of trans men (and indeed Blanchard has a study that shows just that). This group would be analogous to androphilic trans women – they would naturally fit into society better as men and more easily be able to find straight, feminine female partners. (In a sense this is just a variant of butch lesbians who are into femmes – I think very butch lesbians are more common than very feminine gay men because gender-variant behavior is punished less for women than men; this would also predict fewer trans men than trans women.) Then there should be a few autoandrophiles – trans men who are into men and don’t seem that different from women, other than an unusually strong sex drive and, obviously, autoandrophilia & therefore a desire to transition.

Non-binary people don’t seem to fit neatly into either group – the first group wouldn’t fit because nobody becomes non-binary to *fit into a social role better*, and the second group would seem not to fit because, like, auto*andro*philia. But actually I do think it could be autoandrophilia. Consider that non-binary people frequently modify their bodies to become less like their birth sex and more like the other sex, and that even if they most prefer gender-neutral pronouns, they tend to prefer the pronouns of the opposite sex over the pronouns of their own sex. “Partial gynephilia” is in fact a thing – that is, some people have an attraction to themselves with some male and some female traits (e.g. breasts and also a penis). What if non-binary-ness is the same thing, conceptualized differently?

The first item on the poll refers to what side you think the author of this post really believes, while the second item refers to what side you believe. When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.

ITT #5: Blanchard-Bailey

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This post is a person– who may believe either a gender identity or a Blanchard-Bailey theory of transness– doing their best to write what a Blanchardian believes. Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is or what “gender identity” and “Blanchard-Bailey” mean? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post.

1. How I Define Men And Women

Let’s start off by conceding a completely irrelevant point: intersex people exist. I mean, yeah, they do exist and deciding whether an intersex person is male or female is complicated and there’s nothing wrong with letting them pick whichever they want so they can put “Mr.” or “Ms.” on forms instead of explaining their complicated medical situation to everyone they meet. There’s no god to tell them what they really are. It’s sort of the parable of bleggs and rubes. When you have a purple cuboid thing with rounded corners that’s furred on one face and smooth on the rest, you admit that you have to make a judgment call. You know what you don’t do? You don’t decide that you’ll never be able to tell whether a blue furred egg is a blegg because of the existence of edge cases… unless you’re politically motivated, that is.

I have to start with this long, irrelevant digression because otherwise the entire transgender community will remind me that intersex people exist—not that they actually care about intersex people who were sterilized against their will and without medical need, intersex people who are taught to be ashamed of their bodies, intersex people who exist in real life in contexts besides transgender arguments—and pretend that’s a knock-down argument that we can’t define men and women at all.

Men are men. They have XY chromosomes, broader shoulders than hips, beards, flat chests, testes, penises, more testosterone and less estrogen. Women are women. They have XX chromosomes, broader hips than shoulders, no beards, breasts, ovaries, vaginas, more estrogen and less testosterone. What about people with XX and SRY translocation? Judgment call. I say they’re men. Better question: does anyone identify as a trans woman due to getting a karyotype and finding out that they have this condition? If not, then why bring it up? It’s irrelevant and it’s a distraction. I’ve never heard anyone say “I am really a woman because I have gynecomastia” or “I am really a woman because I’m shorter than the average height for a man of my race” so it seems to me like this is all irrelevant. Everyone knows a man with SRY translocation is actually a man. No one is actually confused about this.

I’m not going to come up with one single thing that all men have and no women do, but I don’t need to. We all know what makes someone male or female. I’d like the transgender community to stop pretending to be confused now.

2. The Cotton Ceiling

People who want to be seen as women more than anything else, enough to rearrange their entire lives to achieve it, who especially want to be seen as women in a sexual way, feel bad when people just won’t see them that way. They want to be attractive women whom people attracted to women want to have sex with. Not being able to get what you want is disappointing. It’s even more painful when you can’t be what you want to be than when you just can’t have what you want to have. Admitting the problem is inherent in you is extremely disheartening because it means giving up hope. This is why some transgender people look for a way to blame their rejection on other people. It’s true that transgender people are at very high risk for assault; transgender people take this as evidence that they’re an oppressed minority. Once they already believe in “transphobia” as a social ill like racism, they can attribute all sorts of things to it.

Of course trans women are at a massive disadvantage trying to look like attractive women. They’ve had all of adolescence to grow into adult men. Some can still manage to look feminine enough to attract partners who are attracted to women, depending on which aspects of womanhood they’re attracted to and that’s lucky for them.

There’s a reason the cotton ceiling is mostly about lesbians and that’s because it’s later-transitioning, more masculine autogynephiles who want to be seen as women and desired as women and want female partners. Earlier-transitioning, more feminine homosexual transsexuals are able to pass better and don’t have this concern to the same degree, which is why there aren’t similar complaints about straight men. Further, more feminine homosexual trans women are more feminine (and tautologies are tautological) and more accommodating. Autogynephiles, who are very masculine, are more willing to demand that other people make them happy.

It’s not PC to say it that way. It’s not even nice. I do agree, in general, with the idea of talking to the person in front of you rather than a statistically average member of the same group as the person in front of you, but when you’re actually asking about the reason for general trends in group behavior, then you’re just going to have to talk about statistical tendencies and not that one autogynephile you know who’s a total teddy bear and would never hurt a fly.

3. Trans Women Programmers

Most trans women are actually more masculine than the average man. That is, autogynephiles are. Even a normal male sex drive isn’t intense enough to make someone risk losing friends and family and undergo painful and risky surgery just to live out a sexual fantasy; autogynephiles are more sexual than the average man, probably because they have even more testosterone. They’re even more inclined toward traditionally male pursuits like sports and programming than the average man is.

Besides, programmers are pretty autistic and interested in what you do, not who you are. I bet it’s a welcoming field for anyone who can do it.

The statistics are different for homosexual trans women, but they’re a minority of trans women.

4. AFAB Trans People

There’s nothing hard to explain about this. Paraphilias are less common in females than in males, which explains why trans men are more rare, but just because they’re less common doesn’t mean they never happen at all. There are also homosexual trans men who are attracted to women and generally more masculine than women. There are probably about as many of these as there are homosexual trans women who are attracted to men. What’s so inexplicable about that?

5. Transgender People Being Wrong About Their Own Experiences

The questions didn’t include this, but I thought I should mention it. One of the things that really seems like it bothers the transgender community is being told that they’re wrong about their own experiences. A lot of autogynephiles say that their experience isn’t autogynephilia at all. Some of my “side” (I’d really like to think we’re all on the same side, though: Team Help People Live Comfortable Lives) thinks they’re lying but I don’t think so and I think it’s horrible that that’s anyone’s first idea.

Everyone here reads Thing of Things, right? So we all remember Ozy’s post about feeling shame instead of sadness for losing time to depression. I love that post and it helped me a lot. I’m the exact opposite of Ozy! I used to feel guilty for everything. I thought I had a scrupulosity problem because I would feel so guilty all the time. Except, the weird thing is, it didn’t help to realize that I wasn’t doing anything that went against my values! I figured out eventually that I wasn’t guilty. I was scared everyone in the world would hate me! I don’t think I’m bad at introspection and I don’t think Ozy’s bad at introspection, so I don’t think it says anything mean about transgender people to say that they can’t always figure out their own motives. People can’t always figure out their own motives. Ozy thought they were ashamed of their depression. I thought I felt guilty whenever I did something that anyone in the world didn’t approve of. Most transgender people think they’re experiencing “gender dysphoria” when they want to transition.

“Gender dysphoria” isn’t a worthless model for homosexual transsexuals, either. That works with the analogy, too! Some people do have scrupulosity problems. Some people do feel ashamed of their mental illnesses.

Transgender people tell the truth about their beliefs about their experiences and their mistakes aren’t stupid or obvious. It took a lot of research the state of available evidence to a point where I feel comfortable saying that most transgender people are actually experiencing a sexual fetish. If you don’t have multiple studies behind you, it’s probably a bad idea to say you know someone’s experiences better than they do. I agree with that. People know their own experiences better than they know other people’s. I could be more cynical and say people are even more wrong about other people’s experiences than their own. It should take a lot of evidence to decide someone is wrong about their own feelings, but sometimes you have that much evidence. Check out Kay Brown’s blog, sillyolme.wordpress.com, because she understands the science and explains it better than I do. She has some great posts laying out the evidence. People usually can’t do better than just believing other people about their own feelings, but usually isn’t always.

The first item on the poll refers to what side you think the author of this post really believes, while the second item refers to what side you believe. When taking the poll, if you can POSSIBLY round yourself off to Blanchard-Bailey or gender identity, please do so. Please do this even if you have major disagreements with the side you are leaning towards. Only use “neither” if you really really really cannot in good conscience round yourself to either.