So you see a racist Tweet…

How should we respond to awful posts on social media? Spoiler alert: I don’t know, but I think we can do better – overall – if we don’t always reply quickly, grounding our responses with what is best for others. Not what feels right at that moment. In my latest post for TBD, I use the example of a Tweet that directly targets people like me – “foreign-named”, darker skinned, etc. – and reflect on what I’d actually like to see more of.

Spoiler: It’s not abusive messages sent to the random kid who made the racist Tweet.

Read it at The Daily Beast

Against stigma of sex workers and adult performers

In my latest for The Daily Beast, I look at the case of camgirl and adult performer Eden Alexander – who had a fundraiser for important medical bills cut off because… sex work is icky?

The site that processes payments for the fundraiser, WePay, asserted that Alexander had violated their ToS, which strictly prohibits funds being donated in exchange for sexy activities. Except, as you’ll see, that’s not what happened: She retweeted notifications from porn sites that offered “perks”, in return for donating. That was not at Alexander’s doing and it’s bizarre that she should be held accountable for the actions of others – who were finding ways to get, you know, medicine for her. This aside from the dismissal of sex work as work.

It’s a hodgepodge mix of reactionary nonsense and sex worker stigma, which shows in a tangible way what arbitrary prejudice can do (and, no, I’m not claiming WePay “sent” her to the hospital – since, after all, the company is doing what they can to repair a mistake they never should’ve made in the first place). We shouldn’t stand for such mistreatment of innocent people, who are only viewed as “bad” because their work involves something R-Rated.

I hate that companies are ruled by policies that seem catered toward the most conservative moral viewpoint. Especially when they can lead to unnecessary harm.

“I do not condone rape” but…

This comment appeared on a local site about rape culture and what it is.

Comment
I’d rather not link to the comment directly nor name the individual, since I’m unlikely to change his mind. But it does set up a good basis to respond to yet more nonsense about women and sexuality and how men should consider both.

Let’s look at what this bro thinks about silly sluts and rape, then.

>> “I will start off by saying that I DO NOT condone rape. Boys and men should adhere to a girls [sic] or woman’s right to say NO.”

Good start. But don’t be surprised that people (like me) now read this as “I’m not racist but…”

>> “That being said, I too don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman dressing and acting like a “slag” and then being raped.”

Read that again. “I… don’t feel much sympathy for a girl or woman [acting like a slut] and being raped”.

So, sympathy for a rape victim is eroded due to learning that a woman was “acting” in a way you, personally, deem sexually provocative.

Of course!

There’s no way that people confuse friendliness for sexual advances; men have never mistaken amicability and Platonic interest for flirtation. And there’s no way women dress in a way that is revealing, enhancing of their features, etc. because it makes them feel great in their bodies (but almost always for a short period of time, because they live in a society that constantly pressures women into hating their bodies because they’re not photoshopped).

No: You are the Royal King Mister Master who can perfectly identify what “asking for sex” behaviour looks like.

Slutty, as Madison Moore highlights, is “when someone else’s sexual behavior makes you uncomfortable.” But probably also means you find them attractive (since people find tentacle hentai porn and consensual adult incest uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean they’ll call such things slutty).

So how that mitigates rape is mystery and only highlights women are people – but only up to an arbitrary point you have defined, premised on their sexuality. Which can’t be their own, of course, but must be defined by the loudest bigots.

And, here is a shocker: There is nothing wrong with women wanting sex and doing what they can or want to get sex. And, further, even if a woman is naked in bed with you, it may come as a surprise to learn that forcing yourself on her, ignoring her rejections, is still wrong. It’s weird, but women surprisingly are not objects making sounds to play hard to get. They aren’t setting up a challenge that manly men must overcome.

>> “The guy raping a girl/woman like that should suffer as much as their victim did, but the victim should also take responsibility for her actions that lead to this wrongdoing.”

What does “take responsibility” mean? And used so casually alongside someone who is, you know, raping seems to equate the two.

And since we’re asking women to “take responsibility”, I hope we’ll be consistent and demand the rapist’s parents also “take responsibility”; and I hope his teachers and lecturers “take responsibility”; his friends too, for not stopping him or teaching him, should “take responsibility”. I hope society “takes responsibility”. And books – whatever books he happened to read – that we find the authors and demand they “take responsibility”. Who else? Obama? Yeah, him too.

We’ll eventually find everyone and be able to account 100% for all the responsibility because obviously the person most responsible is irrelevant until we account for 100% of everyone involved toward the rapist raping – or the “rape occurring” like some malevolent Sauron-like disembodied force.

We do this for all other crimes, too: we demand the victim who is shot in his home take responsibility. We blame the victims for their murder and their physical assault, we worry that the perpetrators lives will be ruined (not their victim who is probably deceiving us right?); we distrust murder victims, we think they’re probably lying (dead but also in terms of deception)

Look, murder victims, just take responsibility for what happened, ok? At the funeral, let’s raise this and point this out to their families – because we do it for rape victims, so it means we do it elsewhere too. We’re totally not hypocrites!

>> “If you’re going to act in a certain way, you will attract the wrong people who WILL take advantage of the situation, no matter if it’s right or wrong.

Yes. But also note wrong people are still wrong. You’re not casting some magic spells that summons evil people.

>> “Girls should be taught from a young age that their actions and manners have consequences and if they don’t want these horrible things to happen to them, they should act responsibly and do what they can to prevent it from happening.

That’s right: The best way to avoid rape is not to be a slut. If you’re raped, it means you were being slutty/are a slut. That’s some perfect logic. QED. It’s totally not about how stats indicate rape victims are targets of someone they know, sometimes someone they themselves are attracted to, often someone they’re already in a relationship with.

Nope: rapists are like vampires and your slut behaviour is the open window (magic spells remember?). So just shut it. So obvious. And it’s so obvious and no woman has ever considered this because their brains are probably too small. That rape happens so often is obviously perfectly proportional to all the sluttish behaviour – or what I’ve called slutty – that occurs.

>> “No prevention method is 100% full [sic] proof and you may [be] the unlucky 1 to fall victim to rape or any other violent crime. The best you can do is everything in your power to prevent it from happening to you.

“Fall victim to rape”, like how you fall victim to disease, you know? Same thing.

Also, it’s not about luck so much as it is the way much of society – people like yourself and media portrayal – undermine rape s an actual serious crime, due to viewing women as not being allowed sexual identity. And it’s not an “unlucky” few.

>> “Girls, you know these things happen & there are men who don’t take NO seriously. Don’t give them the slightest idea that they can have their way with you unless you choose it. You are 99% in charge of your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body. Be responsible for your own fate, your life, your experiences and your body.

Yeah, “girls”. Don’t give “the slightest” indication you’re interested because, as we know, we all perfectly interpret flirtation, interest and so forth. And also once you show even a little bit of an interest, it means sex must happen. That’s the law, right? I think it is.

It’s so great to know that we’re 99% in charge of our fates: it’s not up to politics, economics, technology, other people’s whims, our bodies failing, strength, support. No: it’s just us. If you have a chronic disease, just think that crap away! You’re in charge cos it’s your body. QED.

So be responsible. If anything bad happens to you, you clearly wanted it cos you’re 99% in charge of what happens to you.

If you can find a more solipsistic perspective of life, I’d be surprised.

>> “Most men I know would never rape anyone, but there are many rotten apples, both male and female, out there. Protect yourself as much as you can.

Most? Most?!

Who are these minority of men? And are you doing what you can to prevent them raping? If you aren’t doing what you can to prevent them raping, then you’re not “taking responsibility” for these men. In all seriousness, I don’t know how you can say this without being concerned and fearful of such people and you know, potential victims (who are just sluts, so who cares?).

This is basically what you said: “There are a few men I know who would rape, but there are also some pretty crappy women, too.”

This attitude and dismissal and equivocation is part of what creates a prevalence of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, dismissal and derision of women as persons who are victims – not instigators – of one of the most horrible acts imaginable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting sex, desiring sex, flirting and having multiple partners. And further there’s nothing wrong later not desiring sex. People who feel “led on” have no right to “take” sex (i.e. rape) just because they (thought they) were promised it. Women aren’t Amazon.com – they’re people who are allowed to change their minds. If you feel hurt, too bad. You’re not that special and people can and are allowed to change their minds and do what they wish with their bodies, without it being about you.

Yes: Care should be taken that no one is hurt – through using protection, treating others as adults and persons, and so on. But until someone offers a definition of slut that isn’t merely the sounds people with conservative views of women’s sexuality (genitals are for pregnancy or for sluttiness and that is all!), I’ll continue to hear such claims as screams from the Dark Ages. Particularly when they promote dismissal of rape victims and think being slutty is (a) automatically a bad thing and (b) is a reason to think maybe this rape wasn’t so bad.

The ethics of animals in captivity

At Big Think, I examine what surrounds the morality of keeping animals in captivity: of course, that’s already a somewhat loaded phrase, but for the sake of brevity I just equated that with anything involving animals being in an enclosed “smaller” area (than the normal habitat), by humans.

I’m not convinced all captivity is always wrong – but that doesn’t mean all are or most. Primarily, I want to untangle automatic assumptions that become definitions: that is, by definition x is wrong, when that is not clearly defined; or where there are instances of “black swans” in terms of these topics.

On mocking people’s physical appearance & the ethics of humour

I wrote a post, for Big Think, about why we should be hesitant about mocking other people’s physical appearance. I’m uncertain whether we should never do it: I think that, maybe, we do it too much or don’t reflect before doing it enough. I certainly know I’m hesitant about laughing at or making jokes about someone’s physical appearance.

Humour isn’t equal in its target, in its approach, in its ethical basis. Humour isn’t something that gets moral immunity just because it makes us or an audience feel good. Perhaps that’s why people sometimes can’t understand why some take jokes as statements of hate or mockery or derision: “Hey, it’s just a joke!”. Describing something as a joke doesn’t dismiss it from its moral impact.

I’m sensitive to claims of offence: I don’t think offence is a sufficient argument for not doing something, nor, indeed, is it even an argument. It’s, at its base, an expression of disgust or dislike. But adults know that disgust isn’t enough to make rulings on: just because we dislike something is no reason to legislate or command others to cease it. I hate celebrity culture and obsession over the minute details of strange people’s lives, but I’d never want a law that says no one ever is allowed to write about it.

However, as I tried to stress in the piece, just because people sound the same when they react to their god being mocked and their face being mocked doesn’t mean that each response is justified the same. I argued it’s myopic and, indeed, bullying to dismiss everyone’s concerns under the banner of “(merely) offended parties” – as if everyone who responds to all forms of mockery is equally wrong just because they seem the same.

And the corollary is the same: Those (like myself) saying be mindful of what you say because it effects people are not on the same moral ground as those demanding we censor all books that offend a few hypersensitive Muslims.

I want to grudgingly highlight two comments which are emblematic of many comments I’ve seen for some time, from Big Think’s Facebook page.

This argument is the same as censorship

Of course, the Internet, as always is intent on proving that people hate reading and are determined to be as nasty, as unreflective about their impact on others, as possible. You know, until the law steps in or something.

For example, this fellow said in response to my article:

Look at that again and allow me to emphasise the hyperbole: “ANYTIME ANYONE is told “You really shouldn’t say that” it STIFLES ANY free expression”.

What does “free expression” mean to this individual? The ability to mock who he wants? Well no one is stopping him, essentially. It’s his choice to do so. My article argues you should choose – you know, utilise your freedom – to pick the moral path (or what I’ve argued is the moral path). You can choose to ignore me, you can choose to make grand declarations about concepts you haven’t defined on Facebook without argument. You can choose all these things.

This individual – as with many – remarkably manage to equate/confuse “please consider your actions, because we’re fallible and we could be wrong and here’s an argument why…” with “I am the Hand of Justice and Thou Art Wrong. If thou Transgress these here Laws, Thou will be Punish’d Most Harsh’dly!”

I don’t know how people manage to read bloggers and opinion writers as being dictatorships. No one forced you to read, no one forced you to choose to ignore. But for goodness’ sake, realise you have merely articulated your free choice – your CHOICE – to ignore the argument I provided.

If anything, it is those who say “arguments equal censorship” who are damaging to free speech; one of the most effective ways to bring about censorship is to declare opinions you don’t like as being antithetical to “freedom” – instead of acknowledging arguments are part of the very thing free expression is meant to defend.

Stop whining and be strong like me

In my piece, I stressed that we are not all equally strong or capable of dealing with criticism. Again: this doesn’t mean we give in just because someone is offended or hurt. But there’s a difference between mocking ideas and god and a harmless person’s face. There are also good reasons to be able to mock god – but I can’t think of any arguing it’s good or moral or a duty to mock harmless people’s physical appearance. Even if they were such arguments, they wouldn’t be the same and I doubt as potent as the one’s arguing for humour as a tool to undermine sanctity.

But, regardless, a Strong Man just can’t understand why others aren’t like him. We’re just a bunch of wussies, you see. As I quote after, please note [sic] for everything.

1. “you make fun of something that is different, its [sic] normal.”

And we all know we just give into what’s normal, hey bubbah? What’s all this reflecting on whether what’s “normal” is also what’s right or what could be “better”? So silly.

2. stop being little baby’s [sic] about it and get over it.

I’m glad I didn’t point out why this statement might sometimes be worse than the initial insult. That would’ve been embarrassing.

3. “oh no some random guy i don’t know who probably smokes and has 2 bastard kids he doesn’t care for just said my nose is big”.. BIG DEAL!! and yet people get offended by the dumbest smallest comment..

Oh no, some random guy on Facebook I don’t know said I should get over “it”!

4. GROW SOME SKIN!! ARE YOU GOING TO CRY YOUR WHILE [sic] LIFE BECAUSE SOMEONE THINKS YOUR NOSE IS BIG?

How do I “grow some skin”? In a jar? Do you have the recipe? I should’ve just made my post a recipe for skin-growth so all those weak fools who spend the whole life feeling and “looking” different can just ignore them because, luckily, we are all equally strong and “manly”, eh?

5. being different you should be proud of your uniqueness and despite having a large nose or a fat ass you should be proud of what you have that others dont. like a good job, or being a good person..

Yes, all people who have deep-seated issues about their appearance have good jobs because psychological problems means it’s easy for them get great jobs… oh wait. No. It’s not. And do good people tell other people to get over themselves? Or do they say, hey, maybe sometimes people have a good reason to not feel insulted? Maybe the world shouldn’t be a shit place with shit people making others feel shit? I don’t know. I haven’t grown that skin yet so I could be seeing things weirdly with my weak eyes and big feet that I’m so proud of.

6. we are creating a pansy world where kids and adults will be offended and cry over being called a stupid head or ugly face.. i mean really.. we’re f*ing adults here.. grow up..

“Pansy”? Well, if I told you that’s not a nice word, would you say I should get over it? Or would you care about combating a world that stigmatises gay people and realise that words have an impact; that showing you don’t care about the words you use means you don’t actually care about making a tiny, small change in your life that means more to others than you? Gods forbid you make a tiny reflective free choice to not use words – a virtual non-effort on your part – because it benefits people who probably are not you, but who face stigma and hatred everyday for just being who they are.

But what do I know, eh? We should be able to say and do whatever we want and people need to get over it, because we live in an equal world  and no one is oppressed and society treats everyone like a heterosexual, married, man who wants kids and is in a successful job. (Hopefully ones that also can spell.)

SO GET OVER IT PANSIES, STOP TRYING TO TAKE AWAY MY FREE SPEECH AND LEARN TO TAKE AN INSULT. WE’RE ADULTS HERE AND, THEREFORE, ALL EQUAL.

Responses to common claims made against childfree people

The Huffington Post helpfully aggregated some common assertions and questions people make against childfree people (in their case, it was women they focused on). Anyway, I wrote a response to each one on Big Think. I added some snark.

Let me know if they’re questions or assertions you’ve got. And, also, how often do you get them, in comparison to men/women companions/friends/lovers.

Update: Love the responses and comments. Please do keep them coming. Fascinating.

Should we stop supporting lostprophets, on streaming services, because of Ian Watkins?

The Welsh band, lostprophets, have essentially disbanded, after lead singer Ian Watkins was found guilty of horrible crimes against children. I stopped listening many years ago, thankfully, but I can imagine my first instinct would be to delete all their albums, destroy their CDs and remove any posters or paraphernalia. People have, obviously, also wondered (or screamed) about stores and streaming music services continuing to host lostprophets.

BBC Wales Arts and Media Correspondent Huw Thomas Tweeted about the music streaming service, Spotify.:

When asked if there’s a precedent for this, Thomas replied:

Major retailer HMV appeared to be one of the few he knew about that had removed the band:

(I can’t tell if lostprophets is still being hosted, as I have no access to Spotify due to living in the Dark Ages, according to the Internet.)

Assuming the band is still being hosted, that the other band members’ knew nothing about Watkins’ crimes, and services like Spotify do provide money to artists/performers, is it right for us to ask for the band’s removal from services providing them (both) with an income?

My first thought is that Watkins’ crimes don’t need to hurt more people; in this case, it would be the other band members who appear innocent. Often in our haste, fuelled by anger, we forget that punishment aimed at the offending individual can sometimes, inadvertently, hurt innocents related to that person.

Justice is meaningless if punishment is only a synonym for revenge. No, we’re not courts or police or whatever: but we too can and do punish (witness the rage and the events of the Justine Sacco incident). So the point is to target the wrong-doer and undermine punishment for those closely related.

Of course, one can say that it’s bigger than band members incomes. These gentlemen aren’t,  as far i know, struggling for money, nor are they completely reliant on streaming music services. Thus, by removing lostprophets, Spotify can show support for abused people by saying “we care more about solidarity with your safety and sense of injustice than [say] making money”.  Better yet, lostprophets could themselves withdraw.

But why only Spotify? Should the band members cease all touring, should hosts cancel the performances? Perhaps there’s less at stake with concerts, since most don’t care who host those concerts – since it’s about the band rather than the organisers. Spotify however has its name everywhere, so you can associate that brand directly with the current awful cloud around lostprophets.

Of course, the band has essentially broken up due to Watkins’ horrid crimes. But there are issues that arise if the other, innocent band members were entirely dependent on the band and income from sales.

In many cases, of course, the point is that I can buy all the albums and just destroy them and they’ll still make something; but what about tours, future listeners, and so on, that generates more and new income? This seems little different to instances to any organisation is brought into the spotlight not for the efficiency of what they do, but because of the horrible crime of one or two members. Investors pull out, clients drop them and so on.

There’s no hard and fast solution; it requires case-by-case analysis but, in response, we must remember not to punish too far and too wide off the mark of who deserves punishment (and even then we must decide what that punishment looks like). If I were a fan, I’d probably no longer be – but I would be hesitant since, if everyone did so, it could unnecessarily harm innocent people who just happened to be making money the same way as Watkins.

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Justine Sacco wasn’t the biggest problem about her Twitter storm UPDATE

Over at Big Think, I argued that Sacco’s apparent racism – or rather, her racist Tweet – was probably the least worrying part of her whole “Twitter storm”. What worried me and continues to worry me are our default responses to people and how we caricature, so we can attack, convey pure bile, and do little to actually advance cause or thought.

I didn’t see evidence of rape or death threats at Sacco, though I did look. If you know of any, please let me know below.

I’d like to see more silence than noise online, especially when something makes us angry. That default to convey that anger publicly should be considered: you don’t get a free pass to say and do what you like just because you’re justifiably angry: I argued this about the Elan Gale case. We should stop this being our default and, if there’s a competition for response, it shouldn’t be about who’s the nastiest or most “hardcore”: it should be who’s the smartest and most effective in combating the mindset causing you (justifiable) anger.

I would be terrified of being the target of a Twitter storm: we mess up in various ways and there’s no one to actually shut off or calm down the masses of the moral march. Even if you said something stupid or idiotic, the response is disproportional as you are one person and they are legion. This is inherently unfair. And that’s another reason I worry.

Updated: Thanks to commenter “oolon” below for links showing threats.

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