All posts filed under: Science / Tech

OnlyFans and the Changing Face of Pornography

Late last week, I warily opened the latest article to be written about OnlyFans, a platform that allows creators to monetise social media posts behind a paywall. I began using the site back in 2017 when it was still in its infancy, and when no one outside the freelance modelling community was talking about it. This year it became big enough to interest the mainstream media, and I have waded through numerous misbegotten attempts by writers to explain the phenomenon. I’ve seen journalists fixate anxiously on the large sums some creators are earning, express concern that it might harm teenagers (though under-18s are locked out of the site), and agonise over the possibility that users might ask creators to do things they don’t want to do (a hazard in many service jobs). The latest example of this trend is an article by Louise Perry for the New Statesman entitled “How OnlyFans Became the Porn Industry’s Great Lockdown Winner—And at What Cost?” Reading it, I barely recognised the site I now use on a daily basis. …

On the Cusp of a Vaccine—and a Historic Scientific Triumph

More than a century separated the first wave of Spanish flu in 1918 from the emergence of COVID-19 in early 2020. Yet as Nicholas Christakis writes in his new book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, there are people who’ve been laid low by both plagues, and even lived to tell the tale. These include Marilee Harris, who caught the Spanish flu as a six-year-old child in Chicago. She survived, then a century passed—during which time she became a sculptor, got married (twice), wrote a book about her life, and moved to Washington, DC, where, still a working artist at age 107, she was hospitalized with COVID-19. Doctors called her daughter with the grave news that she only had hours to live. (The COVID-19 death rate for those aged 85 and over is estimated to be 630 times higher than for young adults.) Amazingly, she survived, went home, and lived another five months before passing away on September 11th. As Christakis shows, there are some aspects of …

Totally Under Control—A Review

Alex Gibney’s Totally Under Control revisits a time, the legacy of which still haunts us. Spanning the period between January of 2020 and late spring of 2020, his new documentary traces the rise of the pandemic which has become a defining feature of our time. A New York Times headline on January 21st read “China Confirms New Coronavirus Spreads From Humans to Humans.” The full horror of mass deaths and economic lockdown hadn’t dawned on the world yet. Even in Wuhan there wasn’t full comprehension of what was to come. Nevertheless, the next day President Donald Trump was asked if he was worried about the pandemic and responded that “We have it totally under control.” Obviously, Trump was wrong. Totally Under Control is squarely focused on the bungling, mismanagement, and incoherence of the Trump administration. Gibney’s documentary is fundamentally a chronicle of the lopsided match between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration. As a point of contrast, Gibney focuses on the coherent and concerted efforts of America’s Pacific Rim ally, South Korea. The comparison …

It’s Still Early Days. But Pfizer’s Stunning Vaccine Results Could Be a Real Game-Changer

With COVID-19 cases surging in the United States and many other countries, Monday’s announcement that ongoing vaccine tests had produced positive results comes as much-needed good news. In a placebo-controlled trial of 43,538 subjects, a vaccine developed by Pfizer, working with the German company BioNTech, was found to be “more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.” (Although the early work was done in Germany, by Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, the BioNTech co-founders, subsequent development work has been performed collaboratively with Pfizer, which is why it is commonly referred to in the media simply as the Pfizer vaccine.) Half the subjects received the placebo and half the vaccine (dubbed “BNT162b2”); and an independent monitoring committee unlocked the data when 94 COVID-19 cases had been recorded among all subjects (a predetermined point of interim analysis). Pfizer reports that “the case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 percent, at seven days after the second dose.” In …

Gender Activists Are Trying to Cancel My Book. Why is Silicon Valley Helping Them?

The day after I tweeted about the ongoing attempts to block sales of my book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, I was stuck on the phone with my parents’ real estate agent. “How’s your book going?” she wanted to know. “Is there a lot of controversy?” I know it’s fashionable these days to claim to be an introvert—something to do with an unwarranted assumption of depth, maybe—but I actually am an introvert. Small talk exhausts me, not because I believe it’s beneath me, but because it feels like being handed a socket wrench. I have no idea what to do with it. “Well, you had to expect that, right?” she added casually. “When you write a book like that, that’s what you’re expecting.” This is, more or less, most people’s reaction to the efforts to suppress my book. It isn’t that they agree with censorship per se. But you also can’t go setting fires without expecting Big Tech’s cops to shut them down. “If you’re going to talk about the trans thing, …

R.M. Vaughan (1965–2020): A Beautiful Mind Silently Extinguished in a Time of Fear

We were extremely close for about five years. He was my confidante and my support system. We were best friends. Never lovers—though many thought we were. It was a dark time for me, and I needed him. Canadian gay writer Richard Murray Vaughan (1965–2020) was found dead by police in Fredericton, New Brunswick on October 23rd—10 days after being reported missing. No foul play is suspected. This is in part a remembrance of R.M. (as he was widely known, including to his friends), but also a reminder that the campaign against COVID-19 can create its own kind of harm. I don’t pretend that this essay is one Richard would have authored (though he did write about COVID-19 and mental health shortly before his death). He and I were different men and different writers. But I do think my old friend would have agreed with at least some of what I have to say. I met Richard when he entered my office at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre—142 George Street, Toronto—in 1991. Initially we talked about …

Sex Differences in Occupational Attainment are Here to Stay

In many nations and for many people, the sex difference in occupational attainment is a social pathology that begs for corrective intervention. The ultimate societal goal for many is equal numbers of high-achieving men and women across high-status fields, including those that typically draw more of one sex or the other (e.g., men in engineering)[1]. Here, I place the sex difference favoring men in occupational attainment in an evolutionary perspective and show that this pattern will be immune to all but the most draconian interventions, such as legally-imposed quotas. The reason for this is simple: The relation between social dominance and reproductive success is typically stronger for males than for females, and this in turn favors the evolution of traits that facilitate male status striving[2]. In the first section, I show that the achievement of social status and some degree of success in culturally-important domains are more strongly related to men’s than women’s reproductive prospects and success. The sex difference here is found in hunter-gatherer, pastoral, and agricultural societies, as well as in early empires, …

Jack Turban’s Dangerous Campaign to Smear Ethical Psychotherapy as Anti-Trans ‘Conversion Therapy’

This essay is adapted from a letter published on October 21 by the listed authors in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. It has been abridged for a non-academic readership. A subset of the scholarly citations included in the original letter appear below in the form of web links. Readers who wish to read the full text of the authors’ original letter, including the complete list of sources, are invited to consult the Archives of Sexual Behavior web site.   In September 2019, JAMA Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Medical Association, published an article entitled ‘Association Between Recalled Exposure to Gender Identity Conversion Efforts and Psychological Distress and Suicide Attempts Among Transgender Adults‘ by psychiatrists Jack Turban and Noor Beckwith, and epidemiologist Sari Reisner. Turban, the article’s corresponding author, is a well-known advocate for trans rights and medical treatment of transgender-identifying individuals. This publication concluded that therapy causes harm, and has been used to promote bans on psychotherapy for gender dysphoria worldwide. As the title of the published study indicates, Turban and his co-authors (whom we will …

I Signed Up to Study Sexual Health. What I Got Was Gender Ideology, Fetishism, and Porn

I am not a conspiracy theorist. And as recently as a year and a half ago, if someone had told me the things I am reporting here, I would have accused them of culture-war paranoia. That was before I enrolled in a professional training program that I’d hoped would expand my skills as a therapist, but instead delivered an extreme form of ideological indoctrination. The Sexual Health Certificate Program is a prestigious University of Michigan program conducted in affiliation with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). As someone who recently studied in the program, I can attest that, notwithstanding whatever mission AASECT once had, it now operates largely as a de facto activist group that seeks to reshape standards applied to mental health care and education, and to limit the rights of parents to make decisions about their children. And no, I am not an extreme social conservative complaining about the failure of these organizations to support “abstinence only” sex education. Nor do I object to teaching kids that it’s okay …

How The Intercept Abandoned Its Truth-Seeking Mission—And Lost Its Best Journalist

Journalist Glenn Greenwald shocked his global readership on Thursday, when he abruptly announced his resignation from the Intercept, the six-year-old site that became famous after publishing documents released by Edward Snowden. The incident that sparked Greenwald’s departure was the Intercept’s refusal to publish in whole an article he’d written criticizing much of the US media for failing to seriously cover allegations by a former business associate of Hunter Biden—son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden—that the Biden family had used its name to profit from business deals in foreign countries where the United States has important foreign-policy interests. Since his early days at the Intercept, which Greenwald co-founded in 2014 with left-wing journalist Jeremy Scahill and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, he operated under an agreement stipulating that his columns would be published without the requirement that they be edited by colleagues. In a lengthy statement posted to his new Substack page, Greenwald argues that politically motivated Intercept editors violated this agreement in regard to his latest article, by “refusing to publish it unless I remove all …