Star Wars wars against itself

[cn: mild Star Wars: The Last Jedi spoilers]

I dislike mainstream movies almost categorically. They cost too much to make, which means they need to appeal to broad audiences, and it turns out that broad audiences really like Hero’s Journey stories full of standard archetypes and tropes. The original Star Wars trilogy was a case in point, so you might imagine I don’t care for it.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was okay though. One of the things I liked about it was its clear rejection of the Hero’s Journey. Usually in these stories–and Star Wars stories in particular–you have the hero take a huge risk, and achieve a brilliant victory. The Last Jedi makes nods to this trope, by focusing on characters who take huge risks to strike at the enemy’s critical weakpoint. But the characters fail, and in the process they screw up the more intelligent plans of Vice Admiral Holdo. (Later, Holdo herself takes a huge risk to strike at the enemy’s weakpoint, but I won’t dwell on this bit of thematic incoherence because I’m sure someone in the comments will explain how it all makes sense.)

Because of its rejection of conventional heroism, many critics have argued that The Last Jedi has progressive themes. The Guardian calls it “triumphantly feminist“. Vanity Fair says it offers a “condemnation of mansplaining“. Another critic says “toxic masculinity is the true villain“. Even anti-feminist fans agree, resulting in some backlash.

My reaction is, The Last Jedi sure is rejecting something, but is it really toxic masculinity? The whole idea of small band of heroes taking a huge risk to achieve a linchpin victory, that’s something that mostly happens in fiction (and Star Wars in particular), not in the real world. Neither the rejection nor acceptance of that trope seems to say anything about the real world. It’s just a dispute between works of fiction.  I agree more with the critic who says The Last Jedi doesn’t care what you think about Star Wars.

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Somebody else had it worse

[cn: Non-explicit discussion of sexual violence.]

Last month, I mentioned my past experience with sexual assault and rape. And I said I was fortunate to have never suffered from PTSD, unlike many other victims who have suffered from PTSD. This is my way of saying that other people had it worse than me.

If you’ve heard any number of accounts of victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence, you know that “somebody else had it worse” is a common trope. Saying, “I don’t want to take up space from other people with more extreme stories.” Or, “I don’t want anyone to think I’m making a huge deal over something so little.” Or, “I’m not sure this even belongs in the category of sexual assault.”

In the other extreme, some people argue that we shouldn’t ever compare different experiences of sexual violence at all. We’re told that there is only one kind of rape, all sexual violence is bad, end of story.

I have issues with both of these sides, and wish to find a happy medium.

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Who is #metoo for?

[cn: non-explicit discussion of sexual harassment and assault]

A week ago, there was the #metoo campaign. It called for people who had experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment to say “me too” on social media, so that we might realize how common it is. It swept over Facebook for quite a while, so presumably most readers have already heard of it; I’m just recapping so nobody feels left out.

I didn’t say anything on Facebook, but here I will say, “Me too.” I have been a victim of multiple counts of sexual assault, including rape. It’s not a big deal for me to come out and say this, because I have been open about it for years.

#Metoo was not a helpful campaign to me personally.  I did not desire to participate, and I did not learn anything from it.  I already knew lots of people have experienced sexual assault and harassment.  I mean, I work on the Asexual Community Survey and produce graphs like this one.

A plot of the percentage of people who experience sexual violence, broken down by age. It's around 30% for minors and approaches 70% for people in their 40s.

Please do not take the numbers on this graph literally, and do not duplicate the image without citation to the report that it comes from. There’s a lot of additional context that changes its interpretation.

The plot suggests that about 70% of the ace respondents to our survey will experience sexual violence of some kind in their lifetime.  It will be somewhat smaller in the general population, because the general population has more men and is less queer.  (In our own survey, the straight non-ace people had rates that were about 10% smaller.)  But no matter how we cut it, we’re talking about a very significant fraction of the general population.  And that doesn’t even include sexual harassment!

This is all to say, if you really want to know how widespread sexual assault and harassment is, you can just look those numbers up.  Believe those numbers.  Internalize them.  Now just pretend that X% of your friends said, “Me Too,” and you can save them the trouble of actually having to do it.

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A melondrama

On the topic of celebrity drama, I follow the YouTube channel The Needle Drop, run by music critic Anthony Fantano. Fantano claims to be the most relevant music critic on the planet right now, and given his million subscribers, it may even be true. I have discovered a few great artists through him, and have even linked to him a couple times from here.

Recently, the Fader published an article that claims that Fantano has a lesser known channel that panders to the alt-right. If you want to see a shorter and more neutral article, I also recommend this article on Junkee.

As a follower of Fantano, most of the accusations seem unfair.

First, some background. Anthony Fantano has at least three YouTube channels. theneedledrop, with a million subscribers, publishes music reviews and a few thinkpieces. fantano, with 180k subscribers, publishes mostly reactions to music industry news. thatistheplan, with 400k subscribers, publishes meme stuff.  Or it did, before it was taken down.

I didn’t know what was actually on thatistheplan, because I only followed the other two channels, and blocked thatistheplan practically immediately after it came up in recommendations. I found it exceedingly obnoxious, although that isn’t a strike against it. Plenty of YouTubers make content that I am not interested in. Anyway, Fantano took thatistheplan down, saying YouTube policies were preventing him from monetizing it, and it wasn’t worth the drama.

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Men as sexual objects

There’s this long thread on Tumblr about how men are starved for sexual attention in casual settings. I realize the thread is hard to follow so I’ll summarize.

The argument goes that straight men have very little opportunity to be sexual objects rather than sexual subjects. Most male fashion isn’t geared towards it. There’s some speculation that men send out dick pics because they want any sort of sexual attention even if it’s negative. There’s mention of a journalist who sent out vagina pics on Bumble, and was surprised by the positive reactions from almost all the men. Men have trouble empathizing with women complaining about catcalling, because most men have literally never received a compliment from a stranger, and frankly it sounds like a welcome experience.

By the way, I personally do not want to receive sexual attention in casual settings. I also dislike compliments. So please don’t take this as a request.

Although the discussion is about straight men, I think it’s also key to understanding (western) gay male culture. Gay male culture reacts against these tendencies in straight culture. Many gay male spaces aren’t just places where men can be attracted to men, they are also places where men can draw attention to their own attractiveness.

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The “privilege” framework is weak

1. Allosexual privilege

I can give a lot of reasons why “privilege” is a weak theoretical framework for social justice activism. But as it is for many things, I didn’t come to this conclusion by just working through all the reasons, I came to it via an experience. So I’ll start by sharing that experience.

In fact, it’s an experience shared by most asexuality activists of a certain generation. There was a time, around 2011, that activists tried talking about allosexual privilege. This was widely regarded as a failure, and now we don’t talk about it anymore, except to tell newer activists that it’s a bad idea.

The whole debacle is well-documented. This was around the time that the asexual tumblr community was formed, and asexuality discussion that used to be held internally was for the first time exposed to a much broader audience. A lot of ideas were refined during that time, often by way of flame wars with TERFs.1

One of the biggest flame wars was over the concept of “sexual privilege”. As with many flame wars it was a lot of nonsense, but there were a few substantial critiques that came up.

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A personal style guide on sex vs gender

It’s common to make a distinguish between biological sex (which includes chromosomes, primary and secondary sexual characteristics, hormones, etc.), and gender (which refers to one’s identity, or to patterns of behavior). The thrust of the distinction is to separate social constructs from biological reality.

This distinction isn’t wrong, exactly, but I have some quibbles. Mainly, I think gender is the bigger and more important concept, the one that you should be referring to in most situations. There are several things that people think of as sex, but which are really components of gender.

Here I will develop my thoughts on the distinction between sex and gender. I’m calling it a “personal style guide” because it describes how I use the terms, but I am not trying to impose this usage on anyone else. I realize some people use the words differently, and there can be some good justifications for this.

Woman vs female

Some people say that “woman” refers to gender, while “female” refers to sex. I think this is incorrect, on both the descriptive and prescriptive level.

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