All posts tagged: sex

Reversing the Descent of Man

On virtually every indicator that anyone might want to consider, men in Britain and various other Western states seem to be performing very badly at the moment, both for themselves and for the communities in which they live. Not that this is particularly unusual. Throughout history, men have been inclined towards being social outsiders. Their usefulness to communities varies much more than women’s, and depends greatly on the way in which social institutions define and reward their roles. Whereas most cultures seem to recognize this, in the West we have increasingly pretended that it is not the case. And we are now paying for our mistake. Many people are asking themselves whether some of the radical social experiments attempted in recent generations are viable in the long term, or should now be ditched. It is not too late to face up to the problem. But we have such an accumulation of policy errors to deal with that we require a thorough re-orientation of public discourse before we can expect any specific measures to have much …

In Defense of Male Stoicism

I dealt with the most stereotypically feminine of mental illnesses in the most stereotypically masculine way. After acknowledging that I was anorexic, and deciding that I had no wish to be, I put my head down and tried to recover with the minimum of fuss. I told almost nobody about my condition, and almost never discussed it with the people I had told. I had two sessions with a therapist—almost missing the first after getting myself lost and terrifying pedestrians by running up to them, wild-eyed, to ask for directions to the mental health center—and then abandoned them out of embarrassment and reticence. I did not want to talk, and I did not cry, and I had no wish to hold anyone’s hand or be hugged. As a means of recovery, I would not recommend this. I was fortunate enough to have a family who supported me as I recovered, and someone less privileged would need additional support. Had I been more open to professional help, meanwhile, I might have made a quicker and more comprehensive recovery, …

Twitter’s Trans-Activist Decree

On November 15, I woke up to find my Twitter account locked, on account of what the company described as “hateful conduct.” In order to regain access, I was made to delete two tweets from October. Fair enough, you might think. Concern about the tone of discourse on social media has been widespread for years. Certainly, many have argued that Twitter officials should be doing more to discourage the vitriol and violent threats that have become commonplace on their platform. In this case, however, the notion that my commentary could be construed as “hateful” baffled me. One tweet read, simply, “Men aren’t women,” and the other asked “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” That last question is one I’ve asked countless times, including in public speeches, and I have yet to get a persuasive answer. I ask these questions not to spread hate—because I do not hate trans-identified individuals—but rather to make sense of arguments made by activists within that community. Instead of answering such questions, however, …

On the Nature of Patriarchy

By their very nature, it is said, women are the source of nearly all discord and litigation within the community. Through their ceaseless enticements to adultery, their notorious insensitivity to the sensible commands of father, husband, and brother, and their mindless passion for gossip and intrigue—in these and countless other ways women are the bane of a peaceful society. ~Anthropologist Donald Tuzin, describing the ideology of the Ilahita Arapesh ‘men’s cult’ in Rituals of Manhood, 1982. Humans are an anisogamous species. For us, as with all animals, reproduction involves the fusion of gametes—small, highly mobile sperm that joins with the larger, relatively immobile egg. This initial asymmetry between organisms who produce sperm (males) and those who produce eggs (females) contributes to the different fitness strategies individuals of each sex tend to utilize. Sexual conflict is an inevitable consequence of being a sexually reproducing species: the evolutionary interests of males and females do not always neatly align. Being placental mammals, human females gestate, give birth to relatively helpless live young, and nourish their infants through lactation …

Who’s Afraid of Ludwig Wittgenstein? Explaining the Lack of Women in Philosophy

While criticism surrounding gender disparity in academia often is concentrated on STEM fields, there is at least one liberal-arts discipline in which the underrepresentation of women is equally as stark: philosophy. While women outnumber men in the humanities, U.S. survey data suggests they earn fewer than 30 percent of the Ph.D.s in philosophy. The philosophy gender gap garnered public attention in 2013, when the sexual harassment case of Colin McGinn, a philosophy professor at the University of Miami, was featured on the front page of The New York Times. The Times then solicited a series of op-eds from female philosophers to get their take on the issue. In one, titled “Women and Philosophy? You do the Math,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sally Haslanger complained that most philosophers are “white men,” and that the small number of women is both “inexcusable” and “appalling.” She then went on to claim that female philosophers also face sexual harassment, “alienation,” “loneliness,” “implicit bias,” “stereotype threat,” “microaggression,” and “outright discrimination.” Since then, philosophy departments have been scrambling to address …

Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project

It was suggested that I apologize, and that an apology might help. This wasn’t an assurance, but an idea—if I walked back what I had written, there might be a way forward. I looked around the table at these four women who knew me too well to believe that I would apologize for something I had written. Before each of us sat the full length script on which we’d spent several months collaborating. I’d formed this theater collective precisely to make a play based on a killer idea I’d had, and I’d asked each of these talented, thoughtful, intelligent, creative women to work with me. We were only in the first few months of what was meant to be a year-long residency in a theater space in downtown Manhattan. What I wanted most of all was to develop this project. By the time it was suggested that I apologize, I knew full well that I wouldn’t, and that the project, the theater company, and the residency were all dead in the water. At issue was …

Camille Paglia: It’s Time for a New Map of the Gender World

I discovered Camille Paglia’s work when I was pursuing my undergraduate arts education at The University of Adelaide, South Australia, in the early 2000s. I was deeply disillusioned with the courses in my arts degree and their monomaniacal focus on social constructionism, and was looking for criticism of Michel Foucault on the internet. I stumbled across a 1991 op-ed written by Paglia for The New York Times, in which she described the followers of Lacan, Derrida and Foucault, as “fossilized reactionaries,” and “the perfect prophets for the weak, anxious academic personality.” I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I discovered that my university’s library contained each of her books, including the essay collections Vamps and Tramps and Sex, Art and American Culture. For the final year of my arts degree, (before pursuing my studies in psychology) I spent the bulk of my time at the university reading Paglia in the library. She was like a revelation. Her work was subversive but erudite, and she synthesized insights made in the realm of the arts, ancient history and folk biology—something that no other scholar …

How the #MeToo Movement Helped Create a Script for False Accusers

The complainant, whom I’ll call Chloe, wept as she labored through her testimony. At several points, she was so overcome by emotion that court proceedings had to pause for a break. Throughout that first day of the preliminary hearing, she projected a sense of soft-spoken vulnerability, but also a certain inner strength. In the hallway outside the courtroom, she was surrounded by trained victim-services support workers, who helped her family avoid contact with the accused. As an observer in court that day back in 2016, I can attest that Chloe appeared highly credible. She seemed intent on answering every question to the best of her ability. On the drive home from the British Columbia courthouse where the proceedings were taking place, a colleague who’d accompanied me concluded, quite simply: “She’s very believable.” It had been a year since the alleged assault. Still, she was able to summon up details that brought those past events to life. Her speaking style was natural and unaffected. Absent-mindedly pulling the sleeves of a somewhat ill-fitting cardigan sweater down toward …

Silencing Women in the Name of Trans Activism

It all began with a warm and friendly email from an arts producer who runs a regular London-based project called the Truth to Power Café (TTP). Founder Jeremy Goldstein had seen my writing, and figured I might be a worthy performer. “[The show] includes live and spontaneous testimony from participants rising up in the name of free speech and political activism,” he told me. “During the course of the show, I invite participants to respond to the question, ‘Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ before a live audience. This year, I’ve worked with over 100 participants in four countries including U.K., Australia, Netherlands and Croatia.” I hesitated before accepting. Performance art isn’t really my thing. And I already do a number of events as part of my feminist activism, so I need to be careful about how I allocate my remaining time (especially when, as in this case, I’m not being paid). But the free speech and truth-to-power elements appealed to me, so I agreed to take …

On Toxic Masculinity

Unless you happen to live in a cave, you’ve probably noticed that masculinity has undergone quite a thorough examination. Actually, examination is an understatement; demolition appears to be a more fitting description. Masculinity, in some quarters, is labeled a dirty word, with some labeling it “toxic.” With the abuses revealed by the #MeToo movement and the misogynistic rhetoric of Donald Trump, the desire to use such a visceral adjective is somewhat understandable, but is it warranted? From New York to New Delhi, significant debates are taking place. Many of these debates revolve around one question: what, in both an ethical and moral sense, does it mean to be a man? This question, among many others, wrestles with the concept of “toxic masculinity.” You’ve likely read a lot about toxic masculinity, an all too disingenuous term used to highlight men’s dominant position in society, largely achieved through the subordination of women. Critics of masculinity claim that such noxiousness helps sustain and solidify men’s dominant position in a patriarchal hierarchy. More recently, the phrase has been adopted and …