Monday, September 29, 2008

Wake Up! It's 1984


No sooner had I put my last post up, than I heard that a UK man has been convicted of possessing child porn, in the form of computer-generated "Tomb-Raider-like" images. (Found via ¡Journalista! and Icarus Pub NSFW.)

Let's be clear about what's going on here.

No actual children were involved. So you can't really say this case protects children, unless you want to tread close to some kind of prior restraint-style protecting; that is, protecting children against what you think someone might do.

One person in the linked article says faked child porn "feeds the demand". That, however, is remarkably stupid. Of course pedophiles will try to create material that appeals to them. With the advances of technology, they may be able to create more-and-more realistic images without involving real children, but what do you think is really going to happen if you deny people those tools or the images they create? I fear that if fake child porn is aggressively pursued, it will just mean a resurgence in real child porn. What's the difference, if the penalties are the same either way?

So you can't say this guy was actually molesting real children, and attacking it as somehow supplying the need of pedophiles is short-sighted and moronic. What you're left with, then, is convicting this guy on the basis of his alleged fantasies. His thoughts upon seeing these images.

And I know what some of you may be thinking: "Well, he's just some pedo, he doesn't deserve the same rights as the rest of us." Which, if you really did think that, only makes my point for me. The accused denies interest in child porn. (And who wouldn't?) We can't truly know another's mind, so you have to assume the suspicions are true and then decide that simply having taboo thoughts or fantasies is by itself worthy of criminal conviction. This is, as George Orwell once put it, thoughtcrime.

Parents should begin stitching up those burqas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Moelita (Torches and Pitchforks Ahoy, part 856)

Do you remember the McMartin Preschool abuse trials? I do. In fact, I bet a lot of folks recognize it when it's mentioned, though I bet fewer actually know how it turned out.

It was, at the time, quite the sensational scandal. Our Kids! Being Abused by Teachers! Satanic Rituals! How Could This Be Happening Under Our Very Noses???

Only, turns out it wasn't, at least not in any way anyone could prove. I will bet you dollars to dunkin' donuts that you, Dear Reader, if you recognized the name of the incident, had a brief inner monologue that went something like "oh, yeah, that thing where the people molested those kids", which is the kind of response I've heard about 90% of the time I've ever mentioned it to anyone else post-1990 (which, to be fair, isn't really all that much, it doesn't really come up in conversation easily).

People tend to remember the accusation, remember the media storm, the public outrage, the assumption of guilt, but few, if any, recall that ultimately all charges were either dropped or the defendants acquitted. Not to say that everyone believed no abuse at all took place, but that there simply wasn't enough evidence to support those accusations.

Was there really abuse or not? A bit of Occam's Razor applied here would seem to tilt probability in the favor of there being no abuse at all, if we cannot truly know the entire truth of what went on. For what is more likely: that the McMartins were fiendishly clever abusers that could conceal mass abuses enough to avoid conviction over several years of prosecution and testimonies, or that the accusations were either overhyped overreactions or even in some cases, blatant forgeries?

It was, I think, the beginning of the wave of Child Abuse Paranoia, the turning point where life began to be filtered through the assumption that Everyone Wants to Rape Your Child (or You, if you are a child). And while it seemed that (if you watched the news, at least) the country was simply awash in horrible tales of child abuse and murder, it's difficult to say with any certainty what really increased: the instances of abuse, or its being reported on the news.

Now, push that jerking knee back down, I'm certainly not saying there haven't ever been just dreadful instances of child abuse, or that the media attention hasn't helped produce great strides in protecting children. I would, however, suggest that some of it treads into some pretty hysterical territory.

Skorts, for instance. Not that I have anything against them in particular, but I remember the first time I saw one hanging on the rack at some store, and I mentioned it to the person I was with, in a "what the heck is that?" manner, and was introduced to The Skort, which apparently had been around for a couple of years without me noticing.

"If you're wearing a skirt, why do you need to also wear shorts?" I asked, thinking it was all simply some sort of fashion trend, and even as the other person fumbled for some answer, I realized it was to keep people from seeing young girls' panties if a skirt should flip up. Who would care about seeing that? Why, pedophiles, of course! I mean, really, they ought to just call it PedoShield™, though "skort" probably charts better in marketing studies.

In a similar vein, I happened to be looking through an old department store catalog from the early '80s, and saw, in the clothing pages, a section featuring girls' underwear being worn by teen and pre-teen girls. My first thought, upon, seeing the images, was "well, I bet they aren't doing that anymore!" And sure enough, the next time I was in a department store I quickly ruffled through one of their more-recent catalogs: if girl's underwear was featured at all, it was pictured as laid flat on a table, certainly you wouldn't want to show how it looks on an actual girl, for fear that some pedophile somewhere might also see it and, you know, like it.

Look, this isn't the fall of Western Civilization or anything, but there's a thousand little things like this that have crept in over the last couple of decades that show just how utterly worried sick the general public is about the relentless tide of Pedobear's over 9000 penises. And the unutterably vast majority of it all is predicated on the one notion that, should a pedophile see something that appeals to his/her pedophiliac tendencies, they will be compelled to immediately assault a child.

It's as simple as that. "Look there! That girl tripped and fell, and her panties are showing under her skirt! Let the raping begin!" That's EXACTLY what people fear when they get worked up about this stuff. And, frankly, I think that reasoning falls on the wrong side of the stupid line.

Which is why, when I see well-reasoned statements like the following, it warms the black, moldy cockles of my heart:

And for moe that can be interpreted by its readership as sexual? That’s like calling something slashable, and as we all know, everything is slashable.

[...]Making broad statements about a culture that produces a particular type of popular niche media is a very, very dangerous game to play. And saying all media aimed at men has to be somehow sexual? Why, because men only care about sex? That’s pretty much the most unfair thing I’ve ever heard.

[...]Why do some critics think a girl niche genre is okay but a boy niche genre isn’t? A lot of this reeks of misandry, and that ain’t feminism, I tell you what.

There’s an ugly, holier-than-thou trend going around these days, especially among teen girls, that compel them to post PEDO in all caps every time they see a character in a short skirt (even when they don’t seem to mind shota-esque yaoi). I think too many people are trained to be easily offended, and the Web especially encourages their habit of knee-jerk judgmentalism.

The argument may be made that the mere existence of lolicon art is a violation of basic human rights in principle, but if that argument is made, the same argument must also apply to fictional depictions of violence against human beings that occur in television programs, movies, video games, theatrical drama, and prose fiction. Common sense has to apply in order for the conventions of society to function.

[...]At its most simplistic level, this argument is valid when conjoined with an absence of social conditioning and rational intelligence. In effect, the argument against lolicon only works if common sense is set aside. And if the argument against fictional depictions of child sexuality are applied, the same principles must also be applied to all art, sports, politics, and religion - concepts which all have a potential to desensitize and influence behavior.

[...]If a large number of people observed lolicon material then transformed into vicious sexual abusers, I would have to concede that lolicon is dangerous material with a harmful influence. However, that has never happened, and, I believe, never will happen. So I consider lolicon material no more “wrong” to enjoy than, say, a tall glass of beer - which also has a potential to influence behavior and is also restricted to consumption by only rational, responsible adults.

Let me just say, amen to all that. It does me good to hear that there's people out there who actually have two sticks of common sense to rub together in order to make a fire of enlightenment, because (before my metaphors get any more ridiculous) there's days when it all seems to be along these lines:

I want you to know: sexualizing underaged kids is wrong. I have personally suffered because of it. An older family member, one who I trusted and loved dearly, decided that his boner was more important than my well-being and sexually abused me. His temporary sexual pleasure was more important than my psychological health.

Open your mind for a minute. You dislike the eeebil feminists because they don't give you sexual favors, which you see as a god-given right. I am apprehensive about boys like you (because you are not worthy of being called a man) because I have been FUCKING RAPED.

If there were any justice in this world, you would be tied to a post by the docks and used as nothing but a squirming human jizzjar.

Well lets see, you’ve now for the second time accused me of saying lolicon is harmful which I’ve repeatedly denied. You’ve also told me “what I must think”. So yeah, I’d say you’re straw-manning.

Your assertion is flawed. Lolicon is not simply “depictions of immoral acts”. I have no problem with pedophilia or even child molestation being depicted. However, lolicon goes way farther than that. It panders to that “immoral act”. (That’s your choice of words here by the way, not mine). When someone watches violent anime, it is not because they want to go around killing people but can’t in real life.

I do not have a problem with the depiction of immoral acts. (obvious)

I have a problem with people indulging in something that panders to their desire to perform a despicable act.


So what's wrong with these bits, you may ask?

Let's start with the former comment, left on one of my own, earlier posts. I've wondered for a while whether this was a serious post or a troll; for now, we'll assume it's a genuine statement and the person really is that stupid.

Because it is, really, it's a pretty stupid thing to say, on many levels. Right off the bat there's the equating of drawn fantasy images with someone actually physically raping a real person. It's capped off with a wish that I endure the poster's graphic yaoi fantasy for the crime of defending the right of people to draw what they want and for others to see it, if they want. Assuming this isn't a troll, it'd have to be a mind with little sense of proportion, a very off-balanced perspective on "justice".

But that, although moronic, is at least an open and more-or-less honest viewpoint - they hate my opinion and hope I meet a bad end for expressing it. It's the vacillation of "ikillchicken" that really rubs me wrong as he/she continually protests that lolita-themed manga isn't bad while at the same time stating it's bad for people to read it. (This is ludicrous just on the face of it; extended logically it would mean that people could create and publish stacks of lolita manga without any sense of wrongdoing but that they'd have to be crated up and sunk to the bottom of the ocean to keep them out of the hands of readers.)

The dichotomy of those people who don't want to seem like censors or prudes but at the same time want to tell everybody how much of a sin it is to do certain things, well, that's bound to be fertile growth medium for years of therapy down the line.

It's been a couple decades since the McMartin case began, and that's enough time for kids to be born and grow to young adulthood in a world where it is drilled into their heads repeatedly that THE RAPIST IS GONNA GET 'EM and under these conditions, it isn't too surprising that, as Jape suggests, we've produced a generation that not only resists taboo sexuality, but a lot of other sexuality as well, as well as reacting to the slightest hint of sexuality or things that could possibly maybe by someone else be considered a little sexy.

This would explain why you have people calling a picture of a little girl that features no nudity, no lascivious posing, no overt sexuality in the least... "gross". Because that person seems to think someone, somewhere will find it sexy, thinks that the artist made it that way to appeal to perverts.

That person is a dumbass. I'm sorry that there's no politer way to put that, but sometimes you just gotta stand up and say, "hey, you got a wrong thought in your head, there, and you're an adult, you should know better than that".

I have yet to hear any argument against lolita manga or other similar (let me stress, fictional) works that doesn't turn on some unprovable assumption. Many of same people who will agree with the premise that Grand Theft Auto isn't really going to make a whole lot of people go out and murder people for their cars for real somehow can't accept that a lolita comic, by and large, isn't going to make someone rape a child. Certainly those who argue against lolita imagery have a whole rash of reasons why that is an exception to the "media does not control peoples' actions" rule, and I defy anyone to prove how any of those reasons make a lick of sense.

Ikillchicken's series of statements seems to revolve around the idea that one shouldn't "pander" to one's base fantasies, on the assumption that lolita material in comics appeals to pedophiliac desires. Somehow it's implied that this is different than pandering to violent urges with videogames and movies, that pedophiles want to rape children while most people don't want to kill other people.

But this line of reasoning only works (as far as it goes) if you assume those things to be true; that pedophiles do want to rape children, and that those who play violent video games don't want to hurt people. And even assuming that, you have to play kind of loose with the definition of "want".

I believe that anyone who says they've never wished to hurt or kill anyone else in their life, not even a little, deep down, is probably deluding themselves. I can't imagine a human being that has never been enraged by another at some point in their life, that has never once had a fantasy bubbling around inside them where they take vengeance out on whoever did them wrong. But the fact that most of us successfully keep these urges in the realm of fantasy and never act them out in real life does not mean that we don't want these things on some level; we just want other things more, like preserving our empathy to our fellow humans, or not going to jail.

It seems obvious to me, although apparently not to others, that "child molester" and "pedophile" are not necessarily the same thing, that what differentiates the two is carrying out the act in real life. You could be the latter without ever being the former, just as you could be homosexual but never have sex with a man.

To imply that pedophilia is somehow a more potent desire, more inevitably bound to cross over into real life, well, there's no real way to know that, is there? It's an assumption based on personal revulsion, no basis in reality.

Plus there's the chicken-or-egg factor to it: does material that "panders" to a base desire trigger an urge to commit an act, or is it (I feel, more likely) that such material is sought as an alternative to indulging such base desires in real life, until such time as a person loses their self-control?

Whichever: ikillchicken offers no basis for these statements, and little in the way of consequences (that is: so what if someone reads something that appeals to their pedophiliac desires? What does ikillchicken think's gonna happen if they do?), or even an explanation of why it's bad. At best it's spouting off generalities and implications, at worst it's more of the same knee-jerk i-hate-it-and-therefore-it-must-be-bad rationale that drives most would-be censors.

We're at that point now, in this post-McMartin world, where people are not only attacking expicitly sexual "lolita" comics, but anything that can be slightly construed to be appealing to pedophiles. Are we heading for a world where all persons under 18 must be dressed in a burqa to keep them safe from the eyes of perverts?


Monday, September 22, 2008

Diana's Costume, On or Off

And really ultimately gets to the bottom of my irritation of people who continue to insist that Wonder Woman needs a different costume to be taken seriously.

Okay, granted, she's in what amounts to being a slightly armored (depending on the artist) bathing suit. That's remarkably ridiculous! No one's going to take a woman fighting crime in a bathing suit seriously!

It's not quite the same argument, it seems, but this reminds me much of my posts in the past regarding Wonder Woman's costume, and complaints of the character being sexualized (such as on the Playboy cover).

(The Internet is a marvelous tool for conflating different points of view; if anyone out there was reading Kalinara's post and thinking, "yeah, that's just the kind of attitude that Uh Noon Uh Moose guy had a while ago, the sexist hog", let me correct you with a sharp nun-style rap to the knuckles with a standard Catholic-issue wooden ruler.)

I'm assuming Kalinara's reaction is aimed mostly at movie speculators wondering what form Wonder Woman's costume would take in a movie, but it's another one of those little parallels that I find so interesting: When Kalinara argues for the use of the iconic costume (essentially, with a few minor modifications), she cites athletic clothing for its ease of movement and lack of armor. When Nenena argued that Wonder Woman shouldn't be viewed in a sexual manner, she also cited athletic apparel as a "uniform" with a non-sexual "message". (As I said then, intended messages can differ greatly from perceived messages: muslim clerics agree!)

Let me tell you, in case anyone had any doubt at all: If a Wonder Woman movie were to be made that closely resembled that fan-made movie poster, almost immediately there'd be eroticization galore. Because, really, that poster? Pretty hot, in the same vein as Xena Warrior Princess.

Which isn't to say I wouldn't take WW seriously in such an outfit; in the comics her costume isn't all that more outlandish than any other superhero in comics, and these things can be translated well to movies, as shown in said poster. But I'd also find it sexy in an unashamedly objectifying way.

Yes, I can do both. I contain multitudes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


So I was listening to the radio, and caught a bit of an interview with Stanley Fish, who's written a book called Save The World On Your Own Time, the premise of which appears to be that colleges and universities should focus on teaching how to critically analyze material and abstain from attempting to instill "moral character" in students.

The Fox News crowd has an argument that dovetails with this; that higher learning institutions are infested with radical liberals that are indoctrinating Your Kids to become flag-burning atheist gay-marrying abortionists or worse.

While I'm not as hysterical over it as the right, I think it's actually a valid claim. Fish himself seems to be fairly liberal, so it's interesting to hear him voice similar concerns (in what I think is a far more rational manner).

You may or may not agree. But if it's true that universities and the teachers that staff them are attempting to mold the moral and political shape of their students rather than simply giving them the tools to think critically (in a truly academic sense), it has some interesting implications for other things.

It got me thinking about some discourse by and about fangirl feminists. Much of the terminology (as well as the writing style of many bloggers) has an academic taste to it: "patriarchy", "privilege", "I'm not here to teach you Feminism 101"; there's a lot of terms used in these discussions that I, personally, have never heard used in common parlance, at least not in the way they're used in feminist discussions. And there's a good many of them that come off sounding young-ish, if not in writing style, then in the inflexible self-assuredness that comes from being young and knowing that your opinion about everything in the goddamn world is the one right and true opinion.

I don't really have an issue over it being right or wrong, but it makes me curious enough that I wish I could insta-poll the blogosphere and find out how the fangirls skew in age and education. A more esoteric poll would seek to find out where the roots of their feminist awareness lie; whether they came to certain conclusions on their own and did their own searching and analysis apart from academia, or whether it was spoon-fed to them by some professor with a mission. Certainly academia seems to have bled into the discussion regardless of the route taken.

If there is any fault in framing feminism in academic language, it's that the basic concepts ("Feminism 101", if you will) can be difficult to convey to those not familiar with the jargon, limiting the message's effectiveness if one insists on speaking in an academic manner.

In fact, the phrase "I'm not here to teach you Feminism 101" itself comes across (to me, at least) as somewhat condescending: you are not worthy of conversation unless you already understand (and stipulate to) certain core concepts. This bypasses any question as to whether the core concepts themselves are flawed; but aside from that, it's an odd sentiment coming from people that (you'd think) have a vested interest in communicating with (and convincing) other people.

Sure, if you only want to discuss things with other like-minded people, so as to reassure yourselves that your positions are flawless and beyond critique, you can take that route. Anyone who wants to spread their wisdom to others and have it not simply roll off like water on a duck's back should (I think) be very prepared to teach Feminism 101, or ANYism 101, for that matter. Everything is new to someone once, and maybe it's not your job to teach them, but who will teach them, if not you...?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nothing You Know is Wrong!


We hold these truths to be self-evident...
--The Declaration of Independence

There are certain points of assumption that one must make in order to understand the reasoning behind women-centric feminist blogs and groups.

Over on Mad Thinker Scott's page, the discussion over Mickle ("shut up, asshats") and her call for privileged males to maybe not talk so much rambles on far beyond my own expectations. Since "S.D." apparantly has judged my opinions not fit for continued discussion, I'll leave the meat of it to her(?) and Scott; however, I do want to point out something relevant to the quote above.

Starting out with an assumption, with (if you will) a "self-evident truth" is, quite often, starting out with an article of faith. Very few things are actually true, in a self-evident fashion.

Even the Declaration of Independence, though inspirational and stirring, features statements that aren't really factual truths so much as they are philosophical talking points.

"All men are created equal"? Well, leaving aside the issue of how you define "men" (as males? or all of humanity? do races factor in?), we are not all created equal if for no other reason than simple accidents of genetics makes that impossible. A man born blind is not the same as a sighted man; people differ in height and weight and relative intelligence. You may be too short to ride the coaster. People are inherently not equal to each other (and thank goodness, otherwise it'd be pretty dull). This may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

"Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"? Right there, you have to take as a given that there is a "creator", and whether that's a diety such as Yahweh or some anthropomorphicized view of Nature as all-encompassing system manager, that's still an issue of faith, believing in the truth of something without any real evidence.

As for "unalienable rights", there's no such thing, except as large bodies of humanity gather together and agree that there is such a thing. If you doubt me, think about it: what right do you think you have that could not, if an authoritarian state came to power (jokes about the current Administration notwithstanding), be easily taken away with guns and dogs? Right to Free Speech? Right to Equal Treatment? These are all legal constructs, a social contract we all (more or less) agree to abide by. There is nothing inherent in the human condition that automatically grants them.

We agree to these things because (most of us) want people to have the right to their own life and their own freedom, and even the pursuit of happiness. Many of us will fight in some way to preserve (or attain) rights that are important to us. Even then, we allow for exceptions, otherwise, how could we imprision criminals or even execute them?

Deconstructing something that people take for granted like the Declaration of Independence should demonstrate a couple things:

One, that people do take some assumptions for granted, and the most basic assumption of all is that Nothing You Know Is Wrong, that everything you think is right and true is just that, right and true;

and Two, assumptions are Not Truth. An assumption you make might turn out to be true, or perhaps not, but it is not in and of itself a fact.

So when someone begins a statement with "we start with this assumption", my skepticism turns up a notch. Many times such a statement intends to shunt aside debate over very fundamental differences of opinion.

If I were to debate sexual ethics, and open by saying "we must assume that homosexuality is inherently immoral", I would essentially be saying "it just is wrong, and I don't want to hear any argument over it". That's not really a truly open debate, is it? It's stacking the deck.

It's a somewhat more clever version of the question "Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no?"

Feminism (fangirl or otherwise) certainly isn't the only sociopolitical viewpoint to carry its own articles of faith around as assumptions. I have my own. Everyone does, to some extent. But it behooves all of us who claim to be thoughtful, introspective people to try and recognize our assumptions when they're brought out, and acknowledge them for what they are.