Not at my university!

Yes at my university. Every college has this problem: a subset of students are privileged young men who have been fed a lie by the media, that college is a free-for-all where you get to lose your virginity and meet hot horny girls, and they act on that vision. Then they’re nestled in a domain where college administrators are struggling to keep enrollments up and keep politicians, who are mostly older men, content, and who don’t want the horrible nasty boy-children to make the front page, so they swaddle everything in a bureaucracy and do as little as possible.

They failed at the University of Minnesota, and not only did wretched serial rapist Daniel Drill-Mellum eventually get convicted, but his story got big attention from the news. After years of this jerk preying on women at fraternity parties (shut down all the fraternities, please), after being accused multiple times by multiple women and walking away, he finally got sent to prison for 6 years.

(Warning: Account of one of his rapes below the fold)

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Why I haven’t been able to watch The Handmaid’s Tale

I read the book. I think I watched one and a half episodes of the Hulu series before I couldn’t take it anymore — I knew that this wasn’t ever going to get to a happy place. Kammy has it perfectly pegged, though, that it’s feminist torture porn.

Yeah, I said it. Feminist torture porn. Basically we have two full seasons of the men getting away with every sort of physical, emotional and psychological torture imaginable, with June either blankly staring in resignation or with a barely concealed look of rage on her face. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Elisabeth Moss’s ability to convey emotion with just her eyes is amazing, but for fuck sake it shouldn’t take nearly two seasons for one of those asshole Gileads to get stabbed. I literally cheered when Emily stabbed Lydia and kicked her down those stairs. When Emily stomped that dead guy’s nuts after he raped her was another stand up and cheer moment. All I’m saying is that the writers have shown way to much of these shitheads getting away with it and not enough of the women fighting back.

I’m going to have to recommend some counterprogramming, a guilty pleasure: Afterwar, by Lilith Saintcrow. It’s a rough, brutal, post-apocalyptic war story, so not to everyone’s taste, but the twist is that it takes place in a future America, after an all-too-plausible take-over of a large chunk of the country by fundamentalist Christian fanatics who run concentration camps and death camps and enslave or kill anyone of a different ethnicity than white Anglo-Saxon. The premise is very Handmaid’s Tale-ish. This story starts up, though, with the wars to crush the evil neo-Nazis, and the aftermath as the bad guys are hunted down and their regime demolished. Everyone suffers, and it’s not a happy story either, but at least the right-wing fanatics suffer more.

It’s all about people fighting back, so it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy for those of us watching the current ascendancy of scumbags.

The Atheist Community of Austin has drifted out of sync with FtB

Tracie Harris, Jen Peeples & Clare Wuellner got on YouTube to discuss the right-ward slide of the Atheist Community of Austin, and their experiences with the transphobic takeover of that organization.

You may have noticed that FtB hosts The Atheist Experience, the blog for the call-in show of the ACA. Although I’m sure the blog isn’t a major contributor to their popularity — it’s primarily driven by YouTube traffic — it does get a good number of comments each week.

We’re currently discussing dropping the blog from our network in our backchannel, because it has drifted into incompatibility with our mission statement, which I’ll remind you is:

Freethoughtblogs is an open platform for freethought writers. We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism, and in addition, we recognize that the nonexistence of deities entails a greater commitment to human values, and in particular, an appreciation of human diversity and equality.

We are for feminism, against racism, for diversity, against inequity. Our network of blogs is designed to encourage independent thinking and individual autonomy — is a vehicle for giving vocal secularists a venue for discussion of their values and interests.

Transphobes do not belong here, since we stand for human diversity and equality, and the ACA has abandoned that principle. We’ve just begun the discussion with our bloggers, but we’d also welcome input from our readers, so leave comments here. Write fast because we’ll probably move fast!

Also, to Tracie, Jen, and Clare: it’s also been mentioned that you’d be fully compatible with our values, so if you were looking for a place to blog, let us know.

The inevitable pedantry over Epstein and the false authority of Pornhub

You knew it was coming, because it always does. A man rapes a child, and rather than focusing on the “rape” part of the crime, they fuss over the age of the child, and what specific category the man belongs to. All the focus gets put on the rapist rather than the rape, and the victim is reduced to some kind of perverted scale. The biggest jerk this time around is Katie Herzog, who splits hairs with the worst of them.

Pedophilia is defined by the psychological establishment as a persisent attraction to pre-pubescent children. Obviously, the onset of puberty varies by individual, but it is the prepubescent element that distinguishes pedophila from other paraphilias, or aberrant sexual desires. As far as we know, Epstein’s attraction was to teen girls, and while many of us may find this icky (I do), isn’t actually all that abnormal: “teen,” for instance, was the most popular Pornhub search term in the U.S. in 2016. Plenty of men are attracted to young women. There may even be evolutionary explanations for this, as female reproductive capacity begins to decline in our 20s. The difference is that decent men know better than to act on it.

Oh, fucking hell. Porn sites shape human behavior, you don’t get to use them to justify the normality of a behavior, and you especially don’t get to use them to support “evolutionary” explanations. Herzog may have found a year in which “teen” was most popular, but a different article says the most popular search term was “stepmom” (incest seems to be popular; let’s invent an evo-psych justification for it!), and in 2018 it was “lesbian”, with “teen” in 12th place, well below that evolutionarily significant practice of “anal” at #6.

These declarations from Pornhub about what is most popular come out all the time, and they get gleefully reported by the mainstream media. It’s almost as if a porn company has discovered a great way to get free advertising. But that couldn’t be, could it?

Throwing in the “evolutionary explanation” is also annoying. Humans have plenty of excess reproductive capacity, especially given our ability to limit infant mortality. You don’t need to have babies with 16 year olds to be reproductively successful! The best strategy for our successful reproduction is a stable social environment, fair distribution of resources, economic security, access to health care, and an absence of abuse of women and children. Oh, and peace, rather than war. I guess since “socialism” doesn’t show up as a popular search term on Pornhub, that can’t be true.

Here’s the bottom line, though: Epstein was an abuser who violated the consent of children. I don’t give a flying fuck what borders you stencil in over his victims, he is a child rapist.

“We are all feminists now”?

According to Steven Pinker, at least. I guess he’s never looked at Reddit or YouTube or any online community that fails to expunge the riff-raff, where feminism is equated with cancer. Kate Manne really dismantles his claims and his oblivious arrogance here. He has some weird ideas about rape.

Pinker is also getting chewed out for his contribution to Epstein’s defense.

In other disturbing news, Harvard faculty kept right on meeting with Epstein after his 2008 conviction for raping children. Not only did Acosta give him a generous outcome, the faculty at our most prestigious university continued to treat him as a generous patron.

Pinker speaks up at last about Epstein!

Finally. Pinker has a letter posted on another blog in which he strongly repudiates Jeffrey Epstein. I’m glad to see it.

I’m happy to share my encounters with Epstein.

The annoying irony is that I could never stand the guy, never took research funding from him, and always tried to keep my distance. Friends and colleagues described him to me as a quantitative genius and a scientific sophisticate, and they invited me to salons and coffee klatches at which he held court. But I found him to be a kibitzer and a dilettante — he would abruptly change the subject ADD style, dismiss an observation with an adolescent wisecrack, and privilege his own intuitions over systematic data. I think the dislike was mutual—according to a friend, he “voted me off the island,” presumably because he was sick of me trying to keep the conversation on track and correcting him when he shot off his mouth on topics he knew nothing about. But Epstein had insinuated himself with so many people I intersected with (Alan Dershowitz, Martin Nowak, John Brockman, Steve Kosslyn, Lawrence Krauss) and so many institutions he helped fund (Harvard’s Program in Evolutionary Dynamics, ASU’s Origins Project, even Harvard Hillel) that I often ended up at the same place with him. (Most of these gatherings were prior to the revelation of his sex crimes, such as the 2002 plane trip to TED with Dawkins, Dennett, the Brockmans, and others, but Krauss’s Origins Project Meeting came after he served his sentence.) Since I was often the most recognizable person in the room, someone would snap a picture; some of them resurfaced this past week, circulated by people who disagree with me on various topics and apparently believe that the photos are effective arguments.

In the interests of full disclosure, there was another connection. Alan Dershowitz and I are friends and colleagues, and we taught a course together at Harvard. He often asks me questions about syntax and semantics of laws, most recently the impeachment statute. While he was representing Epstein, he asked me about the natural interpretation of one of the relevant laws, and I offered my opinion; this was cited in a court document. I did it as a favor to a friend and colleague, not as a paid expert witness, but I now regret that I did so. And needless to say I find Epstein’s behavior reprehensible.

Since some of the social-media snark insinuates that I downplay sexual exploitation, it may be worth adding that I have a paper trail of abhorrence of violence against women, have celebrated efforts to stamp it out, and have tried to make my own small contribution to this effort.

My review of the history of rape and battering in The Better Angels of Our Nature begins:

“Rape is one of the prime atrocities in the human repertoire. It combines pain, degradation, terror, trauma, the seizure of a woman’s means of perpetuating life, and an intrusion into the makeup of her progeny. It is also one of the commonest of atrocities.”

The lengthy section lauds feminist writers like Susan Brownmiller who first documented the prevalence of rape and the historic indifference to it, and who called for concerted measures to eliminate it. I then refute the cynical assumption that those measures are idealistic or utopian, that nothing can be done to combat violence against women until some distant day in the future in which the patriarchy is finally dismantled or human nature changes. On the contrary, I show that this campaign has achieved considerable success: rates of sexual assault and domestic violence against women have dropped dramatically since data were first kept by Bureau of Justice Statistics, and societal tolerance has plummeted as well. (I updated the data In Enlightenment Now.) As far as I know I’m the only writer who has documented and celebrated actual progress in reducing violence against women, and argued that this progress shows that the effort is not futile and should embolden us to press for greater reductions still.

Given my longstanding distaste for everything Epstein, it’s galling to be publicly associated with him based on some photos and mutual associates, but I suppose this is one of the dubious perquisites of fame (by academic standards). And it’s a particular hazard in the era of social media — last year I was featured in a New York Times op-ed by Jesse Singal called “Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A”; this year I appear to be Exhibit B.

There’s still a problem. He “disliked” and had a “longstanding distaste” for Epstein, and finds his behavior “reprehensible”, yet still he appeared at multiple events with him, assisted in an indirect way in his defense (which he now regrets), and this is the first time he has openly repudiated him. This is confirmation of what people have found objectionable about Pinker, that he is silent in the face of repulsive behavior, that he let Epstein associate himself with Harvard and took advantage of the Epstein jet, and only now, after he’s finally getting dragged off to his just reward (maybe), does he come out with this stuff. I first publicly criticized Jeffrey Epstein in 2011, and I didn’t even know him and have never met him! What took Pinker so long?

Also repulsive: that Pinker uses this opportunity to plug his book, to argue that somehow describing how violence against women has generally declined is somehow a defense of his failure to address violence against women in a specific case, and most annoyingly, that he is “the only writer who has documented and celebrated actual progress in reducing violence against women”. Right. Because everyone but Steven Pinker has been just fine with the status quo.


By the way, the author of that blog who famously insists on civility and honesty, has allowed a comment to stand in which it is claimed that I have been accused of rape. Not mentioned is that the guy who made the comment, Rich Sanderson, is also the guy who made the accusation, and has an unsavory reputation as an obsessive liar. He is, of course, a longstanding member of the commentariat there, as are several slymepitters.

Totally unsurprising Epsteinism

You just knew that Jeffrey Epstein had to have had this conversation over and over again.

“He hates every story starting with ‘billionaire pervert,’” Mr. Hay said. “Jeffrey had long stories about the difference between pedophilia with very young children and tweens and teens a little older.” He added, “It was his way of trying to talk his way around it.”

“Long stories”? Oh, do tell. Let’s hear them. Was Lawrence Krauss a receptive audience for these stories?

On second thought, no. I don’t have a puke bucket on hand. These may come out in the trial, though, so I think I’m going to have to avoid reading the transcripts.

Here’s something else to avoid reading: the official charges against Epstein. Not safe for work if you move your lips while reading.

I’m not even a sports fan!

Yet here I am, thinking it might be fun to watch a women’s soccer match. I’m not even talking about the women’s national team — a local team. They deserve support, too, and apparently, women’s teams play a better and more exciting game than men’s.

Then, after the USWNT won the world cup this past weekend, listen to the audience. This is amazing. They’re chanting “equal pay!” in response to the victory.

The discrimination has gotten so obvious that crowds of people are screaming about it. Will anything be done?

This also has me wondering “what about the menz?” The differences are glaring: the women’s team is bringing in more money, is empirically better than the men’s team, and are playing more games than the men, yet they’re getting paid a lot less. If I were on the men’s team, the discrepancies would be making me uncomfortable. But their response so far has mostly been silence. How…odd. I guess solidarity with one’s colleagues is just too much to ask.

(Via Skepchick)

Maybe humanity deserves extinction

I guess there’s a market for this:

One of the biggest pornography companies in the world has launched a webseries called Border Patrol Sex that features American border patrol agents catching undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrant women attempting to cross the border, arresting them, handcuffing them, raping them, and then sending them back to Mexico.

The reality of the series is too close for comfort. A recent Fusion investigation revealed that 80 percent of women and girls crossing into the U.S. from Mexico are raped during their journey.

I don’t have a problem with porn — watch it if you’re into it. I do have a problem with exploitation, misogyny, and rape, though, and this webseries is promoting all three.

Also I had no idea there was a capitalist near-monopoly on porn, but here’s who is making this poison.

Border Patrol Sex isn’t the diseased brainchild of random misogynistic nativists with video cameras. The site is operated and owned by MindGeek, a European company that owns most of the biggest porn sites on the Web, including YouPorn, Pornhub, Xtube, RedTube, SpankWire, and dozens of major porn sites.

How frustrating. I already have nothing to do with any of those sites, so I can’t boycott them.

The struggle for equality never “ends”, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

I have a love/hate relationship with The Atlantic. They get good writers and print some excellent long-form essays…and then they publish Jesse Singal and long-from neo-liberal bullshit. For example, they just published The Struggle for Gay Rights is Over. Seriously, dude. It’s just a switch, gay rights are either on or off? Nuts to that. I guess everyone has equal civil rights now, women have nothing left to complain about, black people can quit being uppity, the American Indian reservations have transformed into paradises, the poor are no longer slaves to capitalism? Some guy once said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” The premature declaration of victory is a tool of the status quo, designed to calm the struggle.

Fortunately, we have Tris Mamone to rebut that nonsense. Go read that.