There is a secret blog post up over at my Patreon; if you’re a backer, go check it out.
I also wrote about Peter Singer, effective altruism, and the murder of disabled babies for NOS Magazine, a disability rights magazine.
There is a secret blog post up over at my Patreon; if you’re a backer, go check it out.
I also wrote about Peter Singer, effective altruism, and the murder of disabled babies for NOS Magazine, a disability rights magazine.
I am fairly libertarian-leaning, but I have qualms about going full libertarian.
Prices are really great. Prices are a really great thing about markets. For instance, consider flow restrictors (example chosen for being extremely unimportant and having a delightfully pissed off article written about them). Most showers in the US have flow restrictors, which means that their showers use less water, but also are less enjoyable, at least to some people.
Prices are a much better way to solve this problem than requiring flow restrictors is. If the price of water reflects the costs of water– either due to the Magical Free Hand of the Market, or because the government has put a tax on it equivalent to the externalities of using too much water– then that guy who wrote that delightfully pissed off article can have as unrestricted a shower as he pleases. If he pays for it, that is prima facie evidence that the shower is more valuable to him than the cost of the water. On the other hand, if you’d rather spend your money on hookers and blow, you can install your own flow restrictor, or take a shorter shower, or some other method of conserving water. Since people have different preferences, this lets everyone satisfy their own preferences.
At least, as long as everyone has the same amount of money. If we both make $20,000 a year, the fact that I take that shower and you don’t is a pretty good sign that I care more about the shower and you care more about hookers and blow. If I make $20,000 a year and you make $200,000, it might just mean that you can’t be arsed to install a flow restrictor to save an amount of money that is comparatively meaningless to you.
Of course, you don’t actually want to require that everyone make the same amount of money. Some jobs are more desirable than other jobs. If your job is soul-crushingly mind-numbingly boring and my job is taste-testing ice cream, then it makes sense that you earn more money. We can model that as you and I working the same job, except that I paid a $180,000 Getting To Eat Ice Cream For A Living fee.
(Totally worth it.)
The same thing goes for jobs with longer hours vs. shorter hours, jobs working with nice people vs. jobs working with complete assholes, jobs that help people vs. tobacco company executive, etc. If your job has good traits other than money, then– all things equal– one should expect you to make less money at it.
But all things are not equal. In fact, you can observe that the jobs that make the least money are often the worst in terms of working conditions. Fast-food employee, retail clerk, guy who holds up a sign telling you that there’s a “sale!!!!!!” at the jewelry store– these jobs are ill-paid and also terrible.
The reason is that people have different abilities. Through no fault of their own, some people are smart, hard-working, and charismatic; other people are dumb, lazy, and in possession of voices so soporific that Pfizer is considering marketing them as a sleep aid. Some people have parents who are willing and able to pay for them to get training or the $100,000 conscientiousness and intelligence certificate; other people don’t. Some people have friends who can tell them about well-paying jobs and vouch for their good qualities; other people have friends who can tell them about the fact that the McDonalds down the street is hiring; still other people don’t have friends at all. Some people inherit billions; other people grew up on the street. None of these have anything to do with your desires: if you’re in the fifth percentile in conscientiousness, you probably really want to be more hard-working, but as it happens you were born with a lazy brain and you’re probably not going to become as rich as an effortless workaholic.
The most striking case of this is disabled people. Many disabled people– including myself– are incapable of working a job that will support ourselves. Many others require significant and potentially expensive accommodations to work a job.
What this means is that the market will tend to oversupply the preferences of some people (those that have skills and abilities that mean they have a lot of money) and undersupply the preferences of other people (those that don’t). From many moral perspectives (including utilitarianism, contractualism, and veil-of-ignorance Rawlsianism) this is unsatisfactory. It is unfair that society cares less about someone’s preferences just because they were born stupider than other people.
Of course, it’s often hard to distinguish impairments and preferences. It is hard for a government or society to tell apart “I am low conscientiousness but would prefer to be able to do more work than I am capable of” from “I don’t like working that much and am gladly taking a lower salary so I don’t have to.” (Hell, it’s hard for an individual to tell those two apart.) We want to care about group #1’s preferences as much as we care about everyone else’s. But we also want The Magic of Prices to allow group #2 to make an informed decision about how much they should work.
I think the least distortionary way of dealing with this problem is by transferring sufficient cash to poor people that they can maintain a reasonable standard of living, gradually phasing it out as people earn more money, such that people will always earn more money the more they work. That isn’t perfect. Some unimpaired people will not pay the full social cost of their desire to work less. And it isn’t treating impaired people completely equally; they still won’t have the option to work $200,000/year jobs. But I think that that is the least imperfect tradeoff. It makes sure that impaired people can fulfill their most important needs, while minimizing the distortion to prices.
I also think it makes sense to transfer cash to disabled people, with more money to more severely disabled people. Most disabled people are impaired, not people with unusual preferences. Of course, any attempt to give something to disabled people and only disabled people creates gatekeeping problems: wherever you draw the line, some disabled people will not be able to take advantage of it and some people who probably aren’t that impaired will be able to. But the other option is undervaluing the preferences of all disabled people, which I think is worse.
[Thanks to Jonathan and Cliff for giving me books!]
[you might say “Ozy, this is observably not May!” Yeah, well, I’m bad at things sometimes.]
Among the Creationists: My absolute favorite genre of books is Books About What Fundamentalist Religious People Are Getting Up To, I don’t know why this is but I have accepted this fact about myself. Anyway, this is a perfectly good book if you happen to share my interest, and gives you a real sense of why creationists believe what they believe and what it feels like to be a creationist from the inside. If you aren’t interested in creationists, however, it’s definitely skippable.
Only A Theory: tfw you’re part of the way through your nice book about What Fundamentalist Religious People Are Getting Up To and you start having the creeping suspicion that the author believes in God
[content warning for Nazis on the next review]
Pride Against Prejudice: A Personal Politics of Disability: Interesting fact I learned from this book: the Nazi euthanasia program was originally motivated as much by ‘mercy killing’ as it was by attempting to improve the race. Until 1943, Jewish children were not euthanized, because it was believed that as a lesser race they did not deserve it. I think that is a really emotionally moving argument for– even if you happen to be in favor of suicide rights– emphasizing that suicide rights are about people having the right to decide what happens to their own bodies and lives, not about some lives being objectively “worth living” or “not worth living”.
This book has a really interesting exploration of the intersection between feminism and disability rights. Many feminists have advocated for institutionalization, on the grounds that it keeps women from having to be caretakers; however, disability rights advocates tend to oppose institutionalization. I appreciated some of the snark: for instance, in response to a theorist who argues that institutionalization allows disabled women to develop ungendered roles free from family-centric ideology, she proposes that perhaps if institutionalization is so beneficial nondisabled people should do it too.
The story that made my heart ache the most was of Annie, a girl with severe cerebral palsy who was assumed to be severely cognitively disabled and placed in an institution without toys, education, or activities; even the television was for the benefit of staff. A caretaker taught her to use a letter board and it turned out that Annie was, in reality, tremendously intelligent– among other things, she had independently invented multiplication after learning about addition and subtraction from Sesame Street. Not, of course, that it’s okay to neglect people who are severely cognitively disabled, but I think that shows the importance of presuming competence and not assuming that people who can’t talk are things that don’t have subjectivity or a sense of self.
[Spoilers for the Vorkosigan Saga. Did I read half the Vorkosigan Saga in two weeks? Yes, I fucking did.]
Ethan of Athos: So the Vorkosiverse had a bunch of gay separatist telepathic religious fundamentalists. That is going to be… really interesting in a couple of centuries.
I spent a large part of this book terrified that Ethan would suddenly discover that women weren’t so bad and he was attracted to them, or worse that he was in love with Elli Quinn. Fortunately, Lois McMaster Bujold would never betray me so, and he gets to date Terence Cee the telepath instead. Also I love how Elli being hot is established by Ethan being confused by why all the other men are constantly looking at her enlarged mammary glands.
It’s really remarkable how capable Bujold is of making characters likeable. I don’t think there’s any other series where I’m as invested in the continued health and happiness of every random character in it. I started out Ethan of Athos being like “well, he is kind of a misogynist” and by the second chapter I was like “Ethan! My kind, gentle, innocent son! I will protect you from all the scary galactic women and their mammary glands!”
Borders of Infinity: Sergeant Taura, my precious angel, my one and only, my favorite character in all of the Vorkosigan Saga. Like, every character is my favorite, but Sergeant Taura is my favorite favorite, if you understand me. I was misled by Effulgence, which I read before I read the Vorkosigan Saga and includes Vorkosigan fanfic in which the role of Sergeant Taura is played by Wolverine, and I did not expect that there would be KISSING and it is my favorite story in the whole Saga.
“How free can she ever be, in that body, driven by that metabolism, that face-a freak’s life-better to die painlessly, than to have all that suffering inflicted on her-”
Miles spoke through his teeth. With emphasis. “No. It’s. Not.”
To be honest, I cheered at my book when I read that.
Brothers in Arms: Old Earth! Also, one of the few mentions of religion in the Vorkosigan Saga– there’s a bit about a galactic going on the hajj. Like, I know that Betans are all atheists or agnostics or maybe Space UUs, but what about Barrayar? They do the whole burning-things-for-the-dead thing but are they ancestor worshippers? Do they pray to a god? There should be more religious worldbuilding in the Vorkosigan Saga IMO.
Anyway, clone shenanigans are the best shenanigans.
Mirror Dance: One chapter into this book I was like “eh, Mark, I’m not sure how I feel about Mark, is this whole thing going to be from his point of view?” By the time I finished I was like “I want another dozen books and all of them are about Mark!” Lois McMaster Bujold is a master of likeable characters, let me tell you.
This is the first book in the Vorkosigan Saga where I had not read an Effulgence of it first, and this lead to considerably more suspense in the plotline! Particularly since Miles died! I was extremely concerned that Miles was going to be dead permanently and then I was going to read about Mark ending death through capitalism for the rest of the series.
Memory: “In the last book, he died,” Lois McMaster Bujold says to herself. “How could I possibly top that? What could make the reader feel more suspense than the actual death of my protagonist? I know! I’ll get him fired!” Apparently getting fired is more permanent than dying, also!
This book is so depressing and I wanted to give Miles a hug the entire time and I was seriously concerned that he would have to be retired forever.
Komarr: I was sort of leery when I started reading this book because I knew Ekaterin would be in it and I was worried I’d have to spend the whole time being grumpy that she wasn’t Sergeant Taura, my favorite, or Linyabel from Effulgence, whom I continue to be disappointed does not ‘exist’ in ‘canon’ because she is technically from ‘Twilight’. Anyway, no worries, Ekaterin is awesome and I am 100% behind Ekaterin/Miles as a pairing.
Let me be perfectly frank: fuck Tien. Tien is probably one of the most effectively horrifying abusers I’ve read in fiction. Partially, it’s because Bujold does an excellent job of evoking how trapped Ekaterin is in her relationship– quite wisely, she concentrates more on how Ekaterin feels than on the gritty details of the abuse. Partially, it’s because Tien is kind of pathetic: he feels like the sort of person who actually exists, and you can see the process of rationalization that Ekaterin goes through to make her stay in the relationship. Basically, my cheering when Tien died was about as loud as my cheering about Sergeant Taura.
A Civil Campaign: Lois McMaster Bujold, apparently: “I am just going to put a Georgette Heyer pastiche in the middle of my military SF series, this is a perfectly reasonable decision which no one will ever question.” I wonder what her editor was thinking when this book hit her desk. “Uh, Lois… you seem to have forgotten the part where they blow each other up in spaceships…”
Lord Dono is the best representation of a trans dude in fiction ever. I appreciate that the role of “transphobes”, in this book, was played by a man whose other personality traits appear to be “smug smarmy douchiness”, “committing lots of rape”, and “literally murdering a puppy.” I mean, sometimes I want a serious exploration of the nature of transphobia, and sometimes I want a Georgette Heyer pastiche in which it is clearly explained that all transphobes murder puppies. This is cathartic.
Diplomatic Immunity: BABIES BABIES BABIES BABIES LITTLE TINY QUADDIE HERM BABIES
Cryoburn: I would like to nominate Kibou-daini for the position of Creepiest Planet. Also, I feel like DIY cryonicists rebelling against the evil cryonics establishment by making sure there’s immortality for everyone is the aesthetic.
Aral died! 😦 I don’t understand why this was allowed to happen! Mark was LITERALLY JUST ABOUT TO END DEATH, you guys! AAAAAAAAAA
Winterfair Gifts: I do not buy for one single solitary second that Ekaterin and Miles are in a monogamous relationship. You’re telling me that a monogamous guy is going to invite his ex-girlfriend to be in his wedding, and give strict orders that she is to be treated like she’s a princess and given everything she wants? And then in Cryoburn he’s going to drop everything so he can be by her bedside as she dies? And his wife not only has no problem with this but makes the ex-girlfriend her maid of honor? Nah, Sergeant Taura is and has always been Miles’s secondary partner and they have a great relationship.
Shards of Honor: This is a romance novel. This is literally a romance novel. There is, technically speaking, a war, but it is all strictly secondary to the question of Aral and Cordelia: Will They Kiss. “Commander Cordelia Naismith of the Betan Astronomical Survey has never had time for love. When she meets the mysterious Barrayaran Aral Vorkosigan, she’s intrigued by his rugged masculinity… and all too aware of his reputation as the brutal Butcher of Komarr. But when her passion for the strangely honorable general conflicts with her duty to Beta Colony, Cordelia will find herself making decisions that change the course of history…”
I am endlessly, endlessly pleased by Aral’s deep confusion about these strange Betan customs like “not yentas” and “not arranged marriages” and the fact that he didn’t quite grasp that in the Betan model you’re not supposed to propose marriage a week after meeting someone.
Beta Colony is fucking creepy. Add “vivid descriptions of psychiatric abuse” to the Lois McMaster Bujold: Weirdly Good On Ableism list.
Barrayar: Does the Vorkosigan Saga seem weirdly pro-fetal-personhood to anyone else? Like, first in Shards of Honor the fetuses that were a product of Barrayaran soldiers raping people were put in replicators and sent to Barrayar, instead of being aborted. And now in Barrayar not only is killing a disabled fetus presented as unambiguously a villainous action but said disabled fetus is the MacGuffin that propels the entire climax. I guess being anti-abortion is a lot more reasonable in a universe with uterine replicators.
TINY MILES. TINY MILES IS MY FAVORITE PERSON. I WANT TO GIVE HIM INFINITE HUGS.
[Thanks to Picklefactory for getting me Chernow!]
Alexander Hamilton. Yep, that’s right, I am the trash of the thing.
I highly recommend reading Chernow if you’re a fan of Hamilton; there’s a lot of great character details and it’s very fun to see where Miranda drew his inspiration for various lines from. Things that didn’t make it into the musical: Hamilton/Lafayette; Hamilton confessing the Maria Reynolds affair to Jefferson and Madison, in salacious detail, while they said “…you really don’t need to tell us all of this…”; Hamilton supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, because he is my Problematic Fave; Hamilton is literally the only reason we have a functioning economic system; Burr and Eliza both had habits of staring at busts of Hamilton; Aaron Burr was a feminist; Aaron Burr filled his letters to his daughter with information about the hundreds of women he was sleeping with; Eliza consents to anything Angelica and Alexander might do together except that he love her more than he loves Eliza (“and that you are too reasonable to expect”).
One aspect which very much annoyed me is that Chernow has a different interpretation of Alexander Hamilton than I do, and so I spent a lot of time going “Wait, no, ‘Eliza adores both Angelica and Alexander’ is not a good argument for why her sister and her husband never had sex! Lots of people are extremely cheerful in the weeks leading up to a suicide attempt! Argh!”
The Forever War. Haldeman’s book is one of the most clever uses of a speculative element for a thematic purpose that I’ve ever seen. The book is about the feeling of coming back from Vietnam and everyone’s listening to different music and arguing about different political beliefs and making pop culture references you don’t get; the speculative element is (essentially) time dilation, so that when the hero gets back from the Space Wars society is literally two hundred years in the future. I very much appreciated the hero– a heterosexual– having to command soldiers from the heterophobic future who call him the Old Queer.
A Disability History of the United States. While I’m not familiar with Native American history enough to critique it properly, the chapter on Native Americans came off very much as “Native Americans are a culturally unified group of noble savages who all had the political views that I, the author, possess”. However, other chapters were fascinating: Deaf people briefly managed to convince the WPA that they ought to be an exception to its no-disabled-people rule on the grounds that they were not disabled but rather a minority linguistic community; deinstitutionalization was largely a product of conscientious objectors (a group selected for their idealism and altruism) working in asylums during World War II. Favorite passage, about a group of disabled soldiers in the Civil War:
In the midst of battle, Colonel Johnson’s commander sought reassurance from Johnson that his men would not retreat: “Will your invalids stand?” the general asked via a messenger. “Tell the general,” Johnson replied with deadpan humor, “that my men are cripples, and they can’t run.”
The Devil and Dan Cooley/Hell on High. Not nearly as good as the first book in the series; still enjoyable reads. Annoyingly, they do not feature Dayne, the protagonist of the first book, who is my favorite. And there isn’t nearly enough about Devil’s Point, the demon-run theme park. To be honest, I just want a five hundred page book explaining how the demon-run theme park works.
Heir to the Empire/Dark Force Rising. It is really great reading a book series that I’d last read in elementary school, because I keep having vague senses of “I think this character is evil” and “doesn’t this character end up getting married to the person she’s trying to murder?” and “oooh, I remember that scene!” Thrawn is, of course, the single best villain in Star Wars. Thrawn’s famous “studying species’s art to learn their weak points” strategy is actually mostly used for color and as a hook to make him a more memorable villain; Thrawn’s actual competence is mostly a product of the fact that he’s the only member of the entire Empire to have read a management guide other than How To Kill Friends And Influence People Via Force-Choking. Also I continue to have a crush on Mara Jade.
More Than Two. A very good polyamory advice book sadly marred by its psychiatric ableism. The section on dating mentally ill people, summarized: “you have to disclose your mental illness or if you’re a caregiver of a mentally ill person. Don’t become your partner’s therapist. Mental health issues can make relationships difficult and sometimes intractable.” I mean, I don’t disagree with any of that (except maybe the bit about therapy, which sort of comes off as “it’s okay to support your partner about Regular Sad, but as soon as it becomes a special Crazy Sad you have to call in a trained professional”). However, it seems to me like one also ought to put in “and also many poly people are in happy relationships with mentally ill people. Polyamory can be good for mentally ill people, because it allows them to spread out the burden of caretaking more easily. And being a relatively functional crazy person gives you a head start on all the CBT skills we spent the rest of this book explaining,” all of which are also true and give a little more balanced perspective on dating crazy people. (Also, it kept talking about “enabling” mentally ill people to not seek treatment, which, ugh.)
The best part of reading advice books, of course, is finding out all of the horrible life choices you’re not making. More Than Two delivers: from the man who told his heterosexual wife “we’ll have a one penis policy and you’ll become bisexual!” to the man who saw his wife come home happy from a first date and then forbade her from ever speaking to the person she went out with again to the man with a forty-five-page list of rules that his partners had to abide by. I think the common thread in a lot of these relationships is people who have managed to go through their entire lives without realizing that “Person did Thing, which caused me to be upset” is not the same thing as “Person did something wrong”, much less “I have a right to forbid Person from ever doing Thing again”. I would suggest that this is perhaps a sign that one ought not date neurotypicals, on account of most of us crazy people figure that out by the time we’re sixteen, but unfortunately I am not as much of a jerk as the authors of More Than Two.
The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. Fun fact: I first read this book in middle school when I had just figured out I was bisexual and, like a good nerd, had gone to research the subject of having sex with girls in the library. It’s a pretty comprehensive introduction: it covers everything from the exact mechanics of fisting to to how to make sure your sex parties are disability-friendly. (Do you have an ASL interpreter, by any chance?) While some of the information is out of date– the only thing that changes faster than Internet resources is acceptable trans terminology– overall it’s a book I’d recommend to most women who are considering having sex with women.
[Commenting Note: I am trying to be as charitable as possible to radical feminists in this blog post and I would greatly appreciate it if my audience would do the same]
[Content warning: extensive discussion of sex, BDSM, abuse dynamics, and sexual violence; brief, approving discussion of self-harm]
I recently read an article by a radical feminist asking five questions about BDSM she had never heard satisfactorily answered. And, you know, how else does one respond to a temptation like that?
1. How would you teach women that they are owed bodily integrity, freedom from violence, and mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it’s normal for sex to be degrading, painful, and non-mutual?
I want to turn this around into another question: how would you teach women that they are owed bodily autonomy, freedom from domination, and activities they find pleasurable, if they are also taught that those rights only extend to activities no one finds sufficiently gross or incomprehensible?
My thoughts here are closely tied to neurodiversity activism. One concept arising from the intellectually and developmentally disabled people’s rights movement is dignity of risk. Even today, a lot of people decide that intellectually and developmentally disabled people should be protected– other people should make their decisions for them, because what if they make the wrong decisions? But if you’re not allowed to make bad choices, you’re not actually allowed to make choices. Actual autonomy involves the ability to take risks, to decide what costs you’ll accept for what benefits, to make decisions your guardians or peers disapprove of, to make mistakes, to fail, to fuck up. Otherwise it’s meaningless.
The policing of nondisabled women in our society is, of course, not nearly as bad as the policing of disabled women. But I still think a lot of sexism takes the form of “don’t worry your head about that, little lady. Just let someone else think about it for you. We’ve already decided what’s good for you.” So I think we should, at the very least, default to the position that, when a person’s choice is not directly hurting other people, you don’t have to like what they choose, you don’t have to understand it, you don’t have to want it for yourself, but they are making understandable choices given their own life circumstances, and you shouldn’t limit their choices without a damn good reason.
“Hey, wait!” you might say. “I have a damn good reason! Those women are hurting themselves!” The Icarus Project, in their excellent workbook on self-harm, gives examples of things that could reasonably be thought of as self-harm: running a marathon; not exercising; getting tattoos; working when you’re sick; skydiving; even undergoing psychoanalysis. The point, of course, is that it’s pretty hard to draw a hard line between the intentional infliction of damage on one’s body that we accept and even approve of, and the intentional infliction of damage on one’s body that we pathologize. Therefore, the line shouldn’t be drawn around acts, but around the relationship people have to particular acts. If someone wants to not work while they’re sick but has panic attacks whenever they try to stop, or it’s making them unhappy or making it harder for them to reach their goals or harming their relationships, then they have a problem. If someone cuts, and it calms them down and is a useful tool in their emotion-management toolkit and generally improves their life, and they’re taking appropriate safety precautions, then they’re fine. The best thing is to provide nonjudgmental, harm-reduction information that allows individuals to make the best decisions for themselves.
The same thing applies to BDSM. If someone wants to stop having kinky sex but feels compelled to do it anyway, or it makes them feel like shit, or it harms their ability to reach their other goals, then we have a problem. If someone is having kinky sex and it makes them feel happy and at peace, or more connected with their partners, or even just gives them some good orgasms and no other consequences– there isn’t a problem. It doesn’t matter what the act is. It matters what the individual’s relationship to the act is.
2. How do you expect to prosecute and prevent domestic violence when you promote controlling relationships, sexualized abuse, and psychological and physical abuse as part of “healthy” relationships?
The Conflict Tactics Scale is a commonly used method of measuring interpersonal violence. It typically finds that men and women are equally likely to abuse each other, and that a substantial number of relationships are “mutually abusive”.
Why? Because the Conflict Tactics Scale looks at individual acts of violence. If a man hits his partner because she burned the dinner, and she hits him back in an attempt to get him to stop, the Conflict Tactics Scale will record it as each partner having hit each other once, and therefore both the man and the woman are abusive and the relationship is mutually abusive.
The context of the relationship is not a minor detail. It is not something you can handwave past. It is not something you can leave out for simplicity. It is literally the entire difference between an abusive relationship and a nonabusive relationship. Abuse is not a particular set of behaviors. You don’t get two abuse points for name-calling and five for gaslighting and ten for shoving and if you get more than twenty-five the relationship is abusive. Abuse is, at its core, the act of maintaining power, control, and domination over your partner; hitting is just a popular strategy for doing so. If no one is trying to maintain power, control, and domination over anyone else, it ain’t abuse.
Now, this does get into the thorny issue of 24/7 relationships. As it happens, I tend to get decision-fatigued very easily. Therefore, I sometimes ask my partner to order for me at restaurants, or decide what task on my to-do list I’m going to do. I feel like this is fine. If I said “partner, I am going to be decision-fatigued for the next while, so just order for me at restaurants until I say for you to stop”, I think that would also be fine. It seems implausible to me that this setup would suddenly become unethical if I added collars or boners.
The important difference here is between my partner taking power and control and me giving power and control. In a healthy 24/7 relationship, the submissive is deciding, of their own free will, to do what their dominant wants; if they decide that they don’t want to do that anymore, then they can just stop. If you could stop abusive relationships by going “nah, I don’t want to be abused anymore”, there would be a lot less need for domestic violence shelters.
Look, I agree with you that consent is not enough. Consent is the bare minimum standard. “Enough” is that the sex contributes to the happiness and flourishing of everyone involved. But I don’t think you can strip a particular act from the entire context of the relationship and the people involved and be like “that! That is clearly harmful to the people involved!” People are more complicated than that.
3. How would you teach men to respect women and want to engage in mutually pleasurable activities if they are also taught that it is sexy to hurt, dominate, and coerce women?
Well, uh, to begin with, I don’t support teaching men that it’s sexy to hurt, dominate, and coerce women. I think one of the great things about the Internet is how polymorphously perverse it’s allowed human sexuality to be. I want there to be balloon fetishists and dragons fucking cars and knotting and Comstock Films and dendrophiles and transformation fetish and inflation and wetlook and feederism and giantesses and 200,000 word fanfics where they don’t fuck until word 180,000 and the Hydra Trash Party. The faster we get out of this vanilla/BDSM binary where the only alternative to cunnilingus and cuddles is bondage and flogging, the better, I say.
But even in that polymorphously perverse world some people are going to be enjoying the Hydra Trash Party, and therefore some men will get off on the idea of hurting, dominating, and coercing
Sebastian Stan their sexual partners. However, in my experience, this is not related to actual abuse.
People in the BDSM community are probably at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence, although it’s confusing. However, the BDSM community also has a lot of casual sex. In a monogamous community, Jane Rapist will get married and rape her wife; in a casual-sex-heavy community, Jane Rapist will rape three, or four, or a dozen sexual partners– greatly pushing up the percent of people who have survived rape. In addition, the plausible deniability offered by such communities makes them extremely attractive to rapists. Does the BDSM community have a higher rate of rape than, say, the vanilla bar scene? I don’t know. But I suspect the answer is “no.”
To be honest, this is a hard question for me to answer, because of how absurdly distant it is from my own experience. The sex partner I’ve had who fantasized about the most objectively horrifying things is also someone I’ll be forever grateful to, because they were the first person to notice that I had a hard time setting sexual boundaries and deliberately teach me how to say “no” to things I didn’t want. My current primary is pretty fucking kinky, and also tremendously understanding about and patient with my disabilities in a way I’d never expected a neurotypical to be. Conversely, the partners I’ve had who most blatantly disrespected my preferences, limits, and boundaries all fantasized about sweet, loving sex with attractive women. I admit I am only one person, and this is only anecdote, but you understand why this question is much less satisfying than the others. I have no experience to draw on.
4. How do you expect to teach men about affirmative consent when BDSM practices themselves do not embody affirmative consent — including situations where consent is physically impossible?
I want to emphasize that we’re on the same side here. I agree that the BDSM community all too often fails to embody affirmative consent, and I agree that we should work on fixing that. In fact, the author’s very own FAQ quotes from an extended series of essays by a kinkster about preventing rape in the kink community.
If we applied the same standards to non-BDSM sex that this question applies to BDSM, we are all going to be celibate for the rest of time. The vast majority of rapes are not BDSM-related. The vast majority of rapes are oral sex, manual sex, anal sex, and PIV, because of the simple fact that most sex is oral sex, manual sex, anal sex, and PIV. Forced electricity play is essentially a rounding error.
Earlier in the FAQ, the author gives a more extensive idea of what she means by the BDSM community’s poor consent practices and situations where consent is physically impossible. She says, describing the former:
The author described the rapist’s grooming behavior (subjecting his victim to other forms of penetration and lying about what he was doing) thusly: “It’s not a bad way, this sort of mind game, to move towards opening up a limit.” [emphasis mine]. Respecting a boundary is to take the boundary as an absolute limitation on behavior; not something to be pushed, or worn down, or (euphemisms again!) “opened up.” The author condones the grooming because the victim “didn’t say no,” in spite of the fact that the victim was uncomfortable with the perpetrator’s behavior. Insofar as they condone grooming, manipulation, and coercion to violate boundaries (and this author apparently does), BDSM practitioners cannot claim that they respect consent.
On the same blog, this author dismisses unwanted torture and assault, as well as resulting permanent trauma, as “shit happens” (which sounds disturbingly like the oft-cited dismissal that various forms of sexual violence or abuse are simply “bad sex”). Some of this, he claims, is due to “miscommunication” and the fact that a “good top” is not going to do simply what has been explicitly discussed. A very flimsy excuse — if there is the slightest ambiguity about whether a partner is uncomfortable with a sexual activity, one can always ask.
I think these passages greatly misrepresent Millar’s points. First, it is a very unusual definition of “lie” which includes “I am going to put my fingers inside you and claim that it’s a knife. Is that okay?” Normally, “lie” implies that you are misleading people about facts. Do you also think that reading fiction to your partner is grooming behavior?
Second, I think this passage confuses you pushing my boundaries and me pushing my boundaries. If I say “no, I don’t want to do that” and you say “please please please please”, you are clearly being an asshole. However, if I say “I’m uncomfortable doing that, but I’m going to do it anyway. Can you help me work my way into becoming more comfortable?”, that is perfectly ethically fine. If it wasn’t, I would be morally obligated to never leave my house. (It’s true that Millar’s essay leaves it ambiguous which one is happening, and if it’s the former it’s obviously unconscionable.)
Third, the author fails to mention that what Millar calls “shit happens” are technical errors and emotional landmines. While those may have awful emotional and physical consequences, they are clearly not the same thing as actual rape. Millar does not dismiss the consequences of those acts; he compares the effect of an accidentally tripped emotional landmine to a tsunami. He simply points out that it’s no one’s fault, which is true.As someone with a hell of a lot of emotional landmines, the idea that my partner accidentally triggering me is the same as rape is absurd. And both of those are also issues in vanilla sex: the broken condom, the rape flashback.
I agree that people don’t check in enough during sex; a “can I pull your hair?” saves a lot of trouble and guesswork. However, people are still not perfect at reading each other’s signals. The problem comes exactly when from one person’s perspective there isn’t any ambiguity and no need to check in. Fortunately, most cases of miscommunication aren’t particularly disastrous, because in a healthy sexual relationship you can just say “actually, that’s not my thing”; legitimate sexual-violence-by-miscommunication is probably even less common than forced electricity play.
Next, she discusses cases when, to her mind, people cannot consent:
A submissive may be in such a state of fear, pain, or disassociation she is unable to give or withdraw consent: “Lots of bottoms, especially subs, are not really in a state of mind mid-scene to advocate for themselves… Some folks just can’t use safe words at all because they can’t access them in scene: they have to negotiate up front and then trust.” But if there is no consent if someone is in such a state of pain, fear, or disassociation — or for any reason feels unsafe expressing her feelings — that she cannot withdraw consent or communicate (certainly no one could claim that someone in such a state is actively giving consent).
First, this is clearly a misrepresentation of Millar’s point. Millar is not talking about “feeling unsafe expressing her feelings”– he would most certainly agree that making someone feel unsafe expressing their feelings so they can’t say “no” to sex with you is an act of sexual violence. What he’s talking about is that for many people BDSM induces an altered state of consciousness. For many people, altered states of consciousness make them vulnerable– think of it like having sex with someone who’s drunk.
(Tangent: nonverbal people are capable of communication. Everyone is capable of communication. When I go nonverbal and point to something, or make an upset noise, or bring someone a movie I want to watch, that’s communication. All you need to be able to communicate is the ability to move at least one (1) muscle. The idea that nonverbal people can’t communicate is regularly used to ignore the preferences and consent of disabled people, and you should not put it in your feminist blog post.)
Now, it is a defensible position that it is unethical to knowingly have sex with someone in an altered state of consciousness. Indeed, many people have a similar position with alcohol: if your partner is sufficiently drunk, you shouldn’t have sex with them. In that case, you don’t have to condemn all BDSM, you just have to condemn BDSM that puts people in an altered state of consciousness such that they are more likely to agree to sex acts that, in the cold light of morning, they wouldn’t approve of. However, I disagree. I believe that if I say to my partner “honey, when I’m really drunk, you can have sex with me if you want”, and my partner respects my limits and my drunken “no”, then this sex is ethically fine. And I believe that if I say to my partner “honey, I get very deep into subspace, but I’m okay with doing a scene with you”, and my partner respects my limits and my subspacey “no”, then that sex is also ethically fine. Riskier? Perhaps. But I don’t think it’s a risk that it’s wrong to knowingly take.
5. How would you prevent emotional and social coercion into these practices?
Now that’s one difficult as hell question!
I don’t think anyone has come up with a satisfying answer about how to prevent emotional and social coercion into sex. But that’s the thing– there’s nothing special about BDSM. The feeling of being socially coerced into a flogging you didn’t want is really not a whole lot different from the feeling of being socially coerced into cunnilingus you didn’t want. If you rule out BDSM but allow cunnilingus, you’re not going to solve the problem of social and emotional coercion into sex, any more than you’re going to solve it if you rule out cunnilingus and allow BDSM.
One important step, I think, is to get rid of the bullshit status games around sex. The quality of your sex life is measured in how much enjoyment you and your partners get from it– whether that means celibacy, missionary-position penis-in-vagina intercourse once a week, quadruple penetration while being suspended, or all of the above at different points in your life. Not being into kink doesn’t make you a prude. Not being interested in penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t mean you’re being unreasonable. Not wanting to orgasm doesn’t mean you aren’t liberated. And not wanting sex at all is perfectly fine– for whatever reason you don’t want it.
We should also get rid of the idea that certain sex acts are something we ‘owe’ our partners. Of course, we should strive to find partners we’re sexually compatible with: it’s tremendously convenient to have a partner who isn’t interested in the sex acts we aren’t interested in. And there’s nothing wrong with trying something out if you’re not sure if you’ll be into it, or doing a sex act because you like making your partner happy. But in the event that your sexualities change, or you discover new things about your sexuality, or perhaps you or your partner were not quite as open in communication as one would hope– you don’t have to engage in any sex acts you don’t want to. Period. End of story. If you decide to let your partner finger you, or fuck you bent over the desk, or diaper you, when that’s not your thing, it’s a favor you’re doing for them. There is nothing your partner is entitled to.
Finally, in a linked article, a person argues that widespread BDSM creates a form of social coercion. A woman who doesn’t like BDSM may have a choice between BDSM and celibacy. However, ending BDSM does not solve this problem. I myself have a hard limit around receiving oral sex. Let me tell you: there are a lot more people who will sulk when you say “please don’t touch my genitals” than people who will sulk when you say “please don’t tie me up.” I think there are about three solutions here. First, you can argue that being socially coerced into bondage is far, far worse than being socially coerced into a sex act that makes me dissociate from gender dysphoria, in which case, uh, good luck with that. Second, you can support mandatory celibacy for everyone. Third, you can support a diversity of sexual preferences, so both I and people who aren’t interested in BDSM can find sexually compatible partners.
The problem with talking about someone having “high-functioning autism” or “a high-functioning developmental disability” or “a high-functioning personality disorder” or “being a high-functioning sociopath” (thanks Sherlock) is that how well you function is a product of a whole fuckton of stuff, only one of which is your impairment.
For instance, what’s the environment like? I do great in environments where I have a lot of expectations and structure, and poorly when my brain has a lot of time to eat itself. An autistic person might appear a lot more autistic if they happened to live in a place with sirens going off constantly. This is particularly true because a lot of people tend to behave in more dysfunctional ways under stress.
Another important aspect is what people expect of the person. If you define “functions well” as “can speak”, a lot more autistic people are going to function well than if you define it as “can hold down a forty-hour-a-week job and have a romantic relationship.” That matters on a more micro level too: if no one expects me not to break down in response to routine life problems, I don’t have to hide my emotions, and then I can devote more energy into recovering better from my breakdowns.
Similarly, the person’s other abilities matter a lot: an autistic person who’s a tremendously gifted writer might easily find a workplace that tolerates her eccentricities, while an equally severely autistic person might join the 58% of autistic people who are unemployed. It also matters what coping skills they’ve developed or been taught: a person with a personality disorder who’s spent a year working with a really good therapist will probably do better than someone who hasn’t.
This is a problem because a lot of times people use high-functioning to describe the disorder, rather than the person. Saying “Joe has high-functioning autism” makes it sound like Joe’s autism is very mild. But, in reality, someone exactly like Joe, but with comorbid bipolar disorder, no knowledge of how his brain works and what sets him off, and a noisy environment full of people constantly talking to him and expecting him to do complex neurotypical social games– and Joe is going to look a hell of a lot less well-functioning.
Even if you use “high-functioning” to describe the person, it’s inaccurate to treat high-functioning and low-functioning as binary categories. A lot of times, whether someone comes off as high-functioning or low-functioning depends on what traits they choose to emphasize. Stimmy Abby writes powerfully:
Let’s take two girls with autism.
Trisha is an articulate and eloquent writer. She has autism, but that hasn’t kept her from presenting and preforming for large audiences. Her teachers have described her as introverted, bookish, gifted, and eager-to-please. She has multiple friends, she can take a train across the city independentally, and her mother thinks nothing of leaving her home alone with her younger brother.
Kailey cannot bathe herself and has trouble with dressing, eating and most activities of daily living. She spends hours engaging in self-stimulatory behavior and she routinely self-injures to the point of bloody sores. She has meltdowns in which she hits herself, bashes her head into walls, and destroys things; medication cannot control them. She has limited verbal ability and a wandering problem that has led to her almost walking into cars. She cannot function in a normal school.
Which of these people sounds “low functioning” and which sounds “high functioning”?
Guess what? They are both me.
For instance: a lot of people who come off as Aspie are nonverbal sometimes or otherwise have poor expressive language (for instance, forgetting common words and having to be like “that purple thing (makes rectangle hand gesture)” “you mean the Skittles packet?”). A lot of people who come off as Aspie headbang. I guarantee you, every single fucking thing you hear described as something that low-functioning autistic people do, there’s a ton of people who come off as high-functioning who do it too.
A lot of neurodiversity advocates think we should throw out functioning labels entirely. I don’t think that’s true! I think it’s important to talk about how some people function better than other people. However, when we’re talking about this, we should remember that it’s a vast oversimplification of a more complex reality. We should never say that a person’s disability functions well– instead, they function well. And we shouldn’t use functioning labels as a way to silence people, either by saying that people who function less well can’t speak for themselves or have opinions, or by saying that people who function better don’t count.
While we are nowhere near a Transhumanist Morphological Freedom Utopia, people are capable of altering their brains through chemistry. They take stimulants to be more focused and energetic; they take antidepressants to ward off one of the most unpleasant experiences it is possible to have; they take euphoria-inducing drugs to make themselves happier. So far, so good.
What strikes me as interesting is how often people take drugs to become psychotic. LSD, mushrooms, peyote: all induce a state remarkably similar to psychosis.
Probably some of this is that it’s relatively easy to make human brains psychotic and relatively difficult to make humans (say) experience romantic love for a specific individual. The fact that no one takes love potions doesn’t provide any evidence about whether they would be desirable, it just says they don’t exist. So we can’t conclude from this that psychosis is one of the top changes people would want to make in their brains.
On the other hand, a drug that induces depression exists. No one fucking takes it because it’s awful.
Of course, the fact that hallucinogen users can control when they’re psychotic matters: schizophrenics don’t get to be nonschizophrenic during the work week. Psychosis does not seem to solely strike people who want to be psychotic, whereas most hallucinogen use is by consenting individuals. And actually psychotic people have far more than the optimal level of psychosis. LSD lasts for about ten hours; r/drugs seems to have a consensus that once a month is fairly heavy use, and once a week is very heavy. Psychotic episodes are, at minimum, a few days long, and often last indefinitely.
(This lines up pretty well with my own experiences. I experience dissociation, and it is the worst, but I can see where it would be really interesting if it happened consensually, for a few hours, once every few months.)
But it still strikes me as interesting that, by revealed preference, there is an optimal level of psychosis for many people, and it isn’t zero.
I’ve recently read this paper by Bryan Caplan, which argues that many neurodivergences can be understood, from a microeconomic standpoint, as very unusual sets of preferences.
I think Caplan does seriously overstate his case. In particular, his argument for why delusions should be viewed as extreme preferences fails. There is no reason to believe that people with fixed false beliefs should not be responsive to incentives. I have a fixed true belief that two plus two is four, but if I were involuntarily imprisoned and drugged unless I said that two plus two is five, I would certainly do so. That doesn’t mean that I “really” believe that two plus two is five, or that my belief in basic addition is any less fixed. In addition, the fact that some people can reason their way out of delusions does not make their impairment any less real. It is possible to believe things on one level but not another. Most people discard the hypothesis “all my friends are secretly conspiring to hurt me” without even thinking about it; having to carefully gather the pros and cons of that belief and laboriously work out whether it’s true is, in fact, believing “all my friends are secretly conspiring to hurt me” far more than is warranted.
Similarly, his “gun to the head test” for telling apart impairments and preferences does not make very much sense. If you put a gun to the head of someone with a migraine and said “dance or I’ll kill you,” most people with migraines would manage to dance. But it would be very strange to think that migraines are actually the desire to lie under a blanket with a bottle of painkillers and moan “owwwwwwww”. Being able to overcome one’s constraints if one’s life is at stake is not the same thing as not having constraints.
However, I think it’s interesting to think about how many neurodivergences are actually unusual preferences.
Some neurodivergences are just odd preference sets. Transness, for instance, is the unusual preference to be a different gender than the one you were assigned at birth. Bodily identity integrity disorder is the unusual preference to have one of your limbs removed. Paraphilias (which are still in the DSM!) are unusual sexual preferences.
Some neurodivergences seem to be pure impairment. Caplan’s protests aside, delusions seem to be clearly in this territory. Similarly, depression is perhaps the most crippling impairment that exists; other impairments are bad when they make it harder to be happy, but depression is literally an impairment in one’s ability to feel happiness.
On the other hand, a lot of neurodivergences seem to be a combination of impairment and unusual preferences. Consider autism. An autistic person has certain impairments: for instance, they may lose the ability to speak under stress, or not be able to tell people’s emotions from their faces. An autistic person also has unusual preferences: they might only want to eat certain foods, or like flapping their hands when they’re happy, or collect lots of information about a special interest, or play by lining their cars up in a row.
Similarly, borderline personality disorder comes with certain impairments: for instance, I do not have an instinctive understanding that when people leave the house they continue to exist, and I’ve been known to have fixed false beliefs (although more “cognitive distortions” than “delusions”). BPD has less unusual preferences and more unusual strength of preferences: as best I can figure out, I’m some sort of mild utility monster who gets much, much happier from some stimuli and much, much sadder from others.
Probably most of you have figured out by this point that yesterday’s post was not entirely motivated by abstract concern about tiling the universe with things. Basically: many solutions to the tiling problem– average utilitarianism aside– make eliminating unusual preferences at least morally problematic. On the other hand, I think this lines up pretty well with my intuitions about eugenics: eliminating BPD and autism– much less paraphilias and transness– seems to be wrong in a way that eliminating depression or delusions does not. So that is useful.
A lot of marginalized groups are desexualized. Desexualization is when someone expressing their sexuality is thought of as disgusting, laughable, or just unthinkable. It’s “this man is attracted to a FAT WOMAN” being a punchline in a sitcom; it’s someone assuming that an autistic person doesn’t have crushes or date or have sex; it’s someone saying to a person in a wheelchair that they’re very lucky that they don’t have to deal with dating; it’s thinking of being attracted to trans women as a fetish and being attracted to cis women as, well, normal.
Because this comes up every time desexualization is being discussed: I am not saying anyone is required to have sex with anyone else. If you legitimately aren’t attracted to fat women, then don’t fuck fat women. But lots of people aren’t attracted to redheads, and no one uses “a redhead expressed sexual attraction to me!” as a hilarious comedy setup, so I am pretty sure we can stop the latter without ending the former.
Monica Maldonado wrote an excellent series about the desexualization of trans women, How I Came To Hate My Body, which has unfortunately been mostly removed from the Internet. (I am not aware of her preferences about whether people access her work via Wayback Machine; if someone reading this knows that she prefers her essays not be cited, please inform me and I will edit.) In this essay, she vividly describes the eunuch/rapist dichotomy that trans women are trapped in:
One of the complex pressures that society uses to keep trans women’s sex and sexuality in check reaches back to almost as long as we’ve been in history and is drenched in sexist essentialism: namely, the idea that a woman is a lesser man, or even that a vulva or vagina is just the absence of a penis (hence the common “cut it off” tropes re: trans women). According to the social order, in order to exercise bodily autonomy trans women don’t become women, we become desexed eunuchs. Western societies that we often think of as accepting towards trans women actually pressure trans women into this desexed placement; and even though trans women are still quite often sexually active in these contexts, it’s usually shrouded in shame, hidden within the sex trade,trafficking, and pushed into the shadows. Instead, the public face of trans women around the world is often one where we are pressured to insist sex and our sexuality play no part in our lives.
Much like the eunuchs of days past our placement in society is one that is tacitly accepted on the condition that we remain without desire and subservient to the desires and needs of those who are permitted such things(our common involvement in sex work across the world reiterates that the focus is on the sexuality of others rather than our own). And due to the state of the world, this typically necessitates being submissive to the desires of men, because men are typically the ones permitted desire. We remain non-threatening assuming our sex is reserved for the moment that someone is interested in a “walk on the wild side.” If those who are disgusted — or who have their own sexuality or their gender/sex placement shaken to the core — by the reality of our existence are able to assure themselves that we, and our sexuality, are relegated to the fringes then they can live more securely in the safety of their binary cisnormative bubble…
The difference [between how men treat cis women and trans women] occurs at the moment that our trans status is revealed and our placement moves from sexually available woman to deceptive gender variant pervert. And since this is perceived under a cissexist society as a deceptive attack on the man’s sex and sexuality, and further a violation of the coercively assigned social contract regarding eunuch status, the contract becomes violently enforced, and that violent enforcement is even considered acceptable: a la trans panic.
Our implicit expression of desire through appearing sexually attractive to men is considered a violation, which is only exacerbated if we explicitly express desire.
Maldonado characterizes the eunuch/rapist dichotomy as a product of misogyny– the virgin/whore complex on steroids. However, I disagree: I think that the eunuch/rapist dichotomy is a form of desexualization commonly directed at men and people who are sexually interested in women, and it is directed at trans women because the kind of assholes who see trans women as either eunuchs or rapists see them as men.
To take a few examples: Many straight people are okay with gay and bi men who are a nonsexual “gay best friend”, but find them creepy and predatory as soon as they express their sexuality– particularly if they (gasp) have a crush on a straight man. On a more cultural level, straight fondness for Neil Patrick Harris coexists quite well with straight anxiety about gay and bi men and AIDS, cruising, or child molestation.
Developmentally disabled people of all genders are often treated as eunuchs, to the point that there is only one auxiliary and augmentative communication sexuality vocabulary set that is not designed solely for reporting abuse. However, when developmentally disabled men express their sexuality, a lot of people view them as inherently rapey (sometimes covering it with a thin veil of “he can’t help it, he can’t understand, he’s developmentally disabled”).
The Scott Aaronson case is another example– perhaps more vivid than most, because Scott Aaronson was so afraid of being a metaphorical rapist that he wanted to be a literal eunuch.
I’m not sure I can talk about lesbians and bi women better than The Unit of Caring did in her essay Pure Queers. The posts she quotes describe lesbians and bi women as eunuchs who would definitely not do something as horrifying and disgusting as “want to look at women in the changing room” or “be interested in casual sex”. The Unit of Caring herself describes how she viewed her sexuality as harmful to women, invasive, objectifying, and gross; many lesbians and bi women of my acquaintance have described similar feelings.
I think there are two things in play here. First, a lot of people view male sexuality (particularly marginalized male sexuality) as dangerous and barely controlled. (And they think trans women are men, natch.) I would like to be very clear here that while feminism is not exactly helping, this is not feminism’s fault. Feminism has a long way to go before it’s as hysterical about male sexuality as abstinence-only sex education convinced that men will be unable to control themselves as soon as they see a bra strap. Many nonfeminists warn women about the dangers of walking alone at night; many nonfeminists make jokes about fathers cleaning their guns in front of their daughter’s boyfriend, jokes that only make sense if you assume that male sexuality is a dangerous force that can only be controlled with threats of violence. There is a long patriarchal history of “women, you have to put yourselves under our control so we will protect you from those horrible violent other men”, and while feminists can rightfully be blamed for giving in to patriarchal ideas (come on, feminists! you had ONE JOB!), I don’t think we can blame this one on the feminist movement.
Second, people tend to view privileged women as victims. Black feminists have theorized about white women’s tears: the power that white women have to avoid accusations of racism by presenting themselves as victimized by cruel women of color. (Not to mention the long history of violence to protect the precious flower of white womanhood.) I think a similar dynamic is in play with women and marginalized men who are attracted to privileged women. Since privileged women are viewed as inherently victims, if someone makes them mildly uncomfortable, it’s clearly not because the woman in question has some oppressive beliefs she needs to work on. Clearly, it is because the marginalized person is a predator.
(I’d like to highlight that privileged women don’t always have this power– in particular, they’re quite often socialized to not protest when they’re uncomfortable that a man with more social power is hitting on them.)
I suspect that a lot of my readers might have internalized something like the eunuch/rapist dichotomy. In that case, I want to say that the eunuch/rapist dichotomy is a lie. It is not predatory to be sexually or romantically attracted to people, to flirt and ask people out, or to express your sexuality by yourself or with consenting other people. Your sexuality is not inherently harmful. If someone makes you feel that way, you are fine, they’re being a dick.
I have recently purchased a chewable phoenix pendant from Stimtastic, and this is such an excellent life decision that I want to make sure everyone else knows about it.
I am the sort of person who chews on my hair, my nails, my clothes, paper, necklaces, the little strings on tea bags, charging cables, headphone cords, leaves, etc. etc. I have fretted for a long time that many of the things I chew on are not exactly intended for human consumption, and thus may very well contain neurotoxins or carcinogens.
The Stimtastic chewy necklace frees me from such worries! It’s made of food-grade silicone, free of lead, heavy metal, BPA, phthlates, and everything else you don’t want inside your mouth. In a private email, they assured me that the cord is also safe to chew on (although you may break it).
However, my enthusiasm is not just about it making my chewing safer, but also making it more enjoyable. Some of it, I think, is that the designs on the phoenix pendant are very tactilely interesting, both for the mouth and the fingers; I get the feeling that this product was designed by someone who chews. And some of it is that I don’t always have in the back of my mind “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I am going to GET CANCER and DIE”, and I don’t have to spit it out as soon as I notice I’m chewing. It turns out that, without the anxiety and guilt, I actually find chewing really soothing and fun. It’s relatively rare that one discovers an entirely new physical pleasure, particularly in adulthood, so I’d give this a positive review for that, if nothing else.
One of the things I appreciate about Stimtastic is that its products are aimed at adults. A lot of chew toy websites have child models, testimonials from nine-year-olds, and statements about how “kids love it!” The pendant itself is designed to be discreet: it passes quite well as an ordinary, non-chewy necklace. I’m not exactly sure how discreet it actually manages to be, given that I’m eating it all the time, but the thought is nice. Be aware that two and a half inches (the size of my phoenix pendant) is actually quite large for a necklace; I don’t think it goes very well with my fashion sense. If you wear necklaces, you might want to measure some of your favorite pendants so you know what sizes to look for.
Unfortunately, my pendant is too thick and kind of makes my jaw hurt when I chew it too much. I don’t think that’s necessarily a failure of the design, though. I’m a pretty heavy chewer, and in order to make it heavy enough to stand up to my biting it needs to be heavy enough that it makes my jaw hurt. This is still an annoying part of an otherwise wonderful experience.
While the thick parts of the pendant are standing up quite well, I’ve already chewed through one of the thinner decorative bits, and another is showing some signs of wear. On the other hand, given that most of their products are less than ten dollars, I would be perfectly happy to buy another one in six months.