In Part One of a two part article Jocelyn Crawley offers the reader a history and systemic analysis of the harms towards women. Part two will be published the following day.
When I first discovered how widespread acceptance of and/or compliance towards rape, pornography, pedophilia, prostitution, and sex trafficking are, I was enraged. I once viewed a documentary indicating that pimps systematically show little girls videos of women performing fellatio on men to “educate” them on how to provide this “service” to the males they are trafficked to. One thought I had while attempting to process what was transpiring was: this is crazy. In addition to drawing this conclusion, I was filled with unalloyed shock and deep ire. I then reconceptualized the prototypical way I interpreted reality (men and women coexist together in a state of relative peace marked by periodic hiccups, spats, “trouble in paradise,” etc.) and came to understand that patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet with women being reduced to the subordinated class that men systematically subjugate and subject to a wide range of oppressions.
Part of patriarchy’s power is making its perverse rules and regulations for how reality should unfold appear normative and natural while categorizing anyone who challenges these perversions as insane. Insanity is defined as a state of consciousness confluent with mental illness, foolishness, or irrationality. According to patriarchal logic, any individual who attempts to question or quell its nefarious, necrotic systems and regimes is thinking and acting in an illogical manner. To express the same concept with new language to further elucidate this component of material reality under phallocracy: anyone who does not accept patriarchal logic is illogical or insane according to patriarchal logic. For this reason, it is not uncommon for women who challenge men who sexually harass or intimidate them into sex trafficking to be called insane. It is critically important for radical feminists to examine and explore this facet of the patriarchy in order to gain more knowledge about how phallocentrism works and what can and should be done to abrogate and annihilate it.
To fully understand the integral role that accusing women of being insane plays in normative patriarchal society, one should first consider the etymology of the word.
As noted in “Stop Telling Women They’re Crazy” by Amber Madison, the term hysteria entered cultural consciousness “when people didn’t want to pay attention to a woman” . When this happened, the woman was oftentimes taken to a medical facility and was subsequently diagnosed with hysteria. The phrase “hysteria” was an umbrella term meant to reference women who “caused trouble,” experienced irritability or nervousness, or didn’t reflect the level of interest in sexual activity deemed appropriate by men. The word hysteria is derived from the Greek term “hystera,” which means uterus. Thus the etymological history of the word informs us of the attempt to conflate the psychobiological experience of insanity with the material reality of being a biological female.
In recognizing the role that patriarchal societies play in attempting to establish confluence between insanity and the material reality of being a woman, it is important to note that individuals who take the time to carefully scrutinize patriarchy are cognizant of the male attempt to make mental instability a fundamentally female flaw. For example, Elaine Showalter has noted that the primary cultural stereotype of madness construed the condition as a female malady (Showalter, 1985, as cited in MacDonald, 1986). As noted by Julianna Little in her thesis “Frailty, thy name is woman: Depictions of Female Madness,”
“The most significant of cultural constructions that shape our view of madness is gender. Madness has been perceived for centuries metaphorically and symbolically as a feminine illness and continues to be gendered into the twenty-first century” (5).
In the twenty-first century, individuals who have wished to challenge the notion that the thoughts and emotions experienced by women are automatically and inevitably signs of insanity utilize the term “gaslighting” to refer to this insidious mindfuckery.
The history of men accusing women of being insane in response to accusations of sexual abuse is well-documented.
One significant case which should be a part of public consciousness is that of Alice Christiana Abbott. Abbott poisoned her stepfather in 1867 and, upon being questioned, stated that he had had an “improper connection” with her since she was thirteen. After informing others of this, the majority believed that “something was the matter with her head.” However, there was nothing wrong with her head. In fact, I argue that she operated according to a rightness of mind which recognized sexual assault as fundamentally wrong. Abbott’s stepfather threatened to have her put in reform school if she spoke of the abuse, and this was the assertion that prompted her to act. When her case took place in the Suffolk County Grand Jury, Abbott was committed to the Taunton Lunatic Asylum (Carlisle, “What Made Lizzie Borden Kill?”) That the sentence for challenging a man who sexually abuses a woman incorporates classifying her as insane indicates the patriarchy’s ongoing attempt to construe its malevolent, depraved rules and regulations (which include normalizing and in some cases valorizing the sexual abuse of women) as natural and appropriate.
(The historical reality of men accusing women of being insane and utilizing the assertion to severely limit their life choices and thereby sustain patriarchy is not limited to issues of sexual abuse. In fact, men have appropriated the accusation of female insanity against women who committed any acts which challenged their power. This fact becomes plain when one considers the case of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard. Packard married Theophilus Packard and experienced ideological disparities with him pertaining to religious philosophy. Specifically, Packard began demonstrating interest in the spiritual ideologies of perfectionism and spiritualism (Hartog, 79).
Perfectionism is a thought system advocating the notion that individuals could become sin-free through will power and conversion. Packard also assented to the notion of spiritualism, with this religious movement promoting the idea that the souls or spirits of dead individuals continued to exist and were also capable of communicating with living people. Theophilus Packard maintained conservative religious views that stood in diametric opposition to the aforementioned ideologies, with his own perspective including the notion of innate human depravity. After Elizabeth Packard began openly questioning his ideas and exploring her own, their ideological dissonance led to his accusation that she was insane. The accusation was officially made in 1860 and Packard decided to have his wife committed. Elizabeth Packard learned of his decision on June 18, 1860. It’s important to note that the patriarchal nature of this scenario is not limited to the interactions and ideological disparities existing between Elizabeth Packard and Theophilus Packard as two individuals. In fact, state law revealed its own patriarchal proclivity for privileging male interpretations of reality for the purpose of disempowering and dehumanizing women. This is the case as when, in 1851, the state of Illinois opened its first hospital for those who were allegedly mentally ill, the legislature passed a law which enabled husbands to have their wives committed without their consent or a public hearing.)
To be continued . . .
Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her intense antagonism towards all forms of social injustice-including white supremacy-grows with each passing day. Her primary goal for 2020 is to connect with other radicals for the purpose of building community and organizing against oppression.
Showalter, Elaine. The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (New York: Pantheon, 1985). quoted in Macdonald, Michael. “Women and Madness in Tudor and Stuart England.” Social Research, vol. 53, no. 2, 1986, pp. 261–281. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40970416. Accessed 20 Feb. 2021.
Robert Jensen (no relation to Derrick Jensen) is a very important and rare example of a man embracing radical feminism. Originally published in feminist current, you can read the original here!
When a European graduate student emailed to ask if I would participate in an assignment to “do an interview with one of my favourite authors,” I said yes. My books have not exactly been best-sellers, and so I was an easy target for anyone describing me as a “favourite author.”
But beyond my gratitude for someone noticing my writing, I was intrigued by the questions. And when I suggested we might publish the interview, I was even more intrigued by the student’s request to stay anonymous. She wrote that she was “extremely unsure of having my name on anything online. I know I am very strange (probably the strangest person I’ve ever met), but I’m not on Facebook or social media. I actually like the fact that googling my name gets no results about me. I don’t know if I’m ready yet to give up my blissful online non-existence. Is that crazy?”
It didn’t seem crazy to me, but I asked if she might want to describe herself for readers. Here is her self-description:
“I am a classically trained musician (more comfortable playing an instrument than talking in front of people), specializing in linguistics and interested in the meaning and the realities behind words and actions. Born and raised in a communist country, clandestinely listening to Radio Free Europe while growing up, having all civil liberties seriously infringed, yet being raised free by amazing parents (with the help of books and music) who knew how to help us find our identity independently of society’s impositions. I have always been profoundly enraged by any form of injustice or lie, and from a very young age I would routinely get in trouble for standing up for and defending my beliefs and people who were being abused in some way or another (something that has always been puzzling to adults and authority figures, since I am extremely shy and well behaved). I got myself almost expelled in high school for refusing to participate in an event which contradicted who I am. And I do not work on Sundays.
Seeing how the world keeps collapsing and becoming more insane, I began to think that maybe I am insane for wanting a better world than the one that’s become so normalized. Stumbling upon Robert Jensen’s books made me realize I am not the only ‘insane’ person in the world. It takes courage to pursue a path that others ignore or deny, to talk about things that others so politically correctly sweep under the rug, to want to face your fears and the pain that comes with admitting the truth, and to give a voice to the pain, fear, and humiliation of those dehumanized by our lack of humanity.”
Here is the interview, conducted over email, last month:
Who is Robert Jensen? How would you describe yourself?
Robert Jensen: I’m a simple boy from the prairie. That’s how I started describing myself when I found myself in so many places that I would have never imagined when I was growing up. I was born and raised in North Dakota with modest aspirations. I was a good student, in that well-behaved, diligent, and just slightly above average way that made teachers happy. I did what I was told and never caused trouble. I didn’t come from an intellectual or political background, and I wasn’t gifted. So, when I found myself with a Ph.D., teaching at a big university, publishing books, and politically active in feminism and the left — which involved a lot of traveling, including internationally for the first time in my life — it was all a bit hard to comprehend. I used to call a friend when I was on the road and ask, “How did a boy from Fargo, ND, end up here?” I continue to think that “I’m a simple boy from the prairie” is a pretty accurate description of me.
What was your childhood like? Were you a happy child? What are your best and worst memories from that time?
RJ: I am still searching for the words to use in public to describe my childhood. My family life was defined by the trauma of abuse and alcoholism. I spent my early years perpetually terrified and was pretty much alone in dealing with that terror. So, no, I was not a happy child. I don’t have a lot of clear memories of that time, which is one way the human mind deals with trauma, to repress conscious memories of it. I think one reason that a radical feminist critique of men’s violence and sexual exploitation resonated with me was that it provided a coherent framework to understand not only society but also my own experience. I came to see that what happened in my family was not an aberration from an otherwise healthy society but one predictable outcome of a very unhealthy society.
Which authors have been important in helping you understand that?
RJ: I gave a lecture once in which I identified the most important writers in my intellectual and political development: Andrea Dworkin (feminism), James Baldwin (critiques of white supremacy), Noam Chomsky (critiques of capitalism and imperialism), and Wes Jackson (ecological analysis). There are countless other writers who have been crucial in my development, but those are my anchors, the people who first opened up new ways of thinking about the world for me. They helped me understand not only specific issues they wrote about but how it all fits together, a coherent critique of domination.
Radical feminism is central in your writing. What is radical feminism?
RJ: Feminism is both an intellectual and a political enterprise — that is, it is an analysis and critique of patriarchy, and a movement to challenge the illegitimate authority that flows from patriarchy. Most feminist work focuses on men’s domination and exploitation of women, but feminism also should be a consistent rejection of the domination/subordination dynamic that exists in many other realms of life, most notably in white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism. I think radical feminism accomplishes that most fully. Radical feminism identifies the centrality of men’s claim to own or control women’s reproductive power and women’s sexuality, whether through violence or cultural coercion. Radical feminism helped me understand how deeply patriarchy is woven into the fabric of everyday life and how central it is to the domination/subordination that defines the world. Here’s how I put it in a recent article:
“For thousands of years — longer than other systems of oppression have existed—men have claimed the right to own or control women. That does not mean patriarchy creates more suffering today than those other systems — indeed, there is so much suffering that trying to quantify it is impossible — but only that patriarchy has been part of human experience longer. Here is another way to say this: White supremacy has never existed without patriarchy. Capitalism has never existed without patriarchy. Imperialism has never existed without patriarchy.”
What is it like being a male radical feminist in a world dominated by the idea that “men rule,” standing up in front of men and telling them that they should stop being men?
RJ: My message isn’t that men should stop being men. A male human can’t stop being a male human, of course. But we can reject the concept of masculinity in patriarchy, which trains us to seek dominance. When people critique “toxic masculinity,” a popular phrase in the United States these days, I suggest that “masculinity in patriarchy” is more accurate. The most overtly abusive and toxic forms of masculinity should be eliminated, obviously, but so should the “benevolent sexism” that also is prevalent in patriarchy. My argument to men is simple: If we struggle to transcend masculinity in patriarchy, we can shift the obsessive focus on “how to be a man” to the more useful question of how we can be decent human beings.
What is your definition for “human being”? What about “woman,” and “man” (not as constructed by patriarchy)?
RJ: I would say that we all have to struggle to become fully human in societies that so often reward inhumanity. I don’t have a definition so much as a list of things that most of us want — a deep sense of connection to others that doesn’t undermine the exploration of our individuality; outlets for the creativity that is part of being human, which takes many different forms depending on the individual; a secure community that doesn’t demand that we suppress what makes each of us different. In other words, being human is balancing the need for commitment to a community in which we can feel safe and loved, and the equally important need for individual expression. I think that’s pretty much the same for women and men. But in patriarchy, all of that hardens into the categories of masculine (dominant) and feminine (subordinate). In that system, it’s hard for anyone to become fully human.
You speak of the advantages of being a “white man in a heterosexual relationship, holding a job that pays more than a living wage for work I enjoy, living in the United States.” What are the disadvantages of all that?
RJ: I don’t know that I would call it a disadvantage, but I think most of us who have unearned privilege and power — whether we acknowledge it or not — know we don’t deserve it, which generates in many of us a fear that whatever success we’ve had is a sham. And when we fail, the sense of entitlement leads us too often to blame that failure on others. But on the scale of troubles in this world, that doesn’t rate very high. There’s a reactionary argument in the United States that in an age of multiculturalism, somehow it is white men who are the real oppressed minority, which is just silly. My whole life I have had subtle advantages that came because the people who ran the world I lived and worked in typically looked like me and cut me breaks, often in ways I wasn’t even aware of. I have listened to a lot of mediocre white guys whine about how tough it is for them. My response is, “As a mediocre white guy myself, I can testify to how easy we have it.” When I say that I’m mediocre, I’m not being glib. Like anyone, I have various skills, but I am not exceptional in anything. I think by accepting that fact about myself, that I’m pretty average, I have been able to develop the skills I have to the fullest rather than constantly trying to prove that I’m exceptional. I used to tell students that the secret to my success was that I was mediocre, and I knew it, and so I could make the best of it. That makes it easy to be grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had.
Lately I have come across the term “ethical porn,” described as “ethical, stylish and elegant sexual adult entertainment” (“female and couple focused online porn”). Is there such a thing as pornography that is ethical? The descriptions on one of those sites state: “beautiful tasteful… very naughty photographic collections” which “show much more focus on the pleasure of passion and hot-blooded sex. The desire for sensual female arousal, with a balanced and more realistic approach to sexual gratification with more equal pleasure… porn for women that provided real meaningful and beautiful relatable sex.” Yet the whole idea, the action, and the actual techniques are exactly the same as “classic porn.” Isn’t pornography just pornography, anti-human, no matter how you do it?
RJ: We can start by recognizing that pornography produced without abusing women is better than pornography in which such abuse is routine. Pornography that doesn’t present women being degraded for men’s pleasure is better than the mainstream pornography that eroticizes men’s domination of women. But lots of questions remain, as you point out. Why does so much of the so-called ethical or feminist pornography look so similar to mainstream pornography? And, even more important, is it healthy to embrace a patriarchal culture’s obsession with getting sexual pleasure through the mediated objectification of others? In other words, one question is, “What is on the screen in pornography?” and the other is, “Why is the sexuality of so many people so focused on screens?” If through sexuality we seek not only pleasure but intimacy and connection to another person, why do we think explicit pictures will help? Do those images provide the kind of pleasure that we really want? For me, the answer is no. I don’t think graphic sexually explicit images would enhance the kind of connection my partner and I value. I realize other people come to other conclusions, but I think everyone would benefit from reflecting on what we lose when so much of life — including intimacy — is mediated, coming to us through a screen.
What are the most important qualities (virtues) of a human being? What are a person’s flaws/failings that can make you run away as far and fast as possible?
RJ: I think that when we see our own flaws in others, we are the most critical of them. So, I can’t stand people who come to judgment quickly without listening to another person long enough. In other words, I am acutely aware of how often I lack patience. The thing I value most in others, which is probably true for almost all of us, is the capacity for empathy. The older I get, the easier it has been to understand my own failings, and I hope that makes me more empathetic toward others.
What advice would you give children, especially boys, not just about masculinity and femininity but about life more generally today?
RJ: I would start by recognizing that what we do is usually more important than what we say. Adults can tell children what we believe, but kids watch us to see if we act in a way consistent with those statements. For example, I would suggest that kids experience the world directly as often as possible and be wary of letting screens — computers, video games, television — define their lives. That advice is meaningful only if I model the same behavior. It’s important to tell children not to be limited by patriarchal gender norms, but it’s even more important to avoid reinforcing those norms in everyday life.
What advice would you give young adults, or for that matter, any adult?
RJ: When I was teaching, I found myself repeating, over and over again, three things: “Both things are true;” “Reasonable people can disagree;” and “We’re all the same, and there’s a lot of individual variation in the human species.” The first is about recognizing complexity. In my media law class, for example, I would point out that an expansive conception of freedom of speech is essential to democracy, and at the same time it’s crucial that we punish some kinds of speech (libel, harassing speech in certain circumstances, threats) because speech can cause tangible harms that we want to prevent. Both things are true. The second recognizes that in assessing the complexity, we are bound to come to different conclusions and should work to understand why and not assume the other person is an idiot. The third is a reminder that we are one species and all pretty much the same, yet no two of us are exactly alike. None of those three observations are particularly deep; they’re really just truisms. But we need to be reminded of them often.
With all that has happened these past months — all those lives and livelihoods wasted to hate, racism, injustice, COVID-19, with the elections and the surrounding events — does it seem that people have learnt something from all this? Is there more empathy, more understanding, more humanity? Because from everything I see around the world, it looks like we are even more numb, asleep, and unaware, less caring, even more selfish and superficial than before.
RJ: Like always, there’s good news and bad news on that front. It’s not hard to find examples of people turning away from our shared humanity and seeking a sense of superiority and dominance, examples of greed intensifying in the face of so much deprivation. It’s also easy to find people doing exactly the opposite, taking risks to try to bring into existence a society in which empathy is the norm and resources are shared equitably. That’s just a reminder that human nature is variable and plastic — there’s a wide range of expressions of our nature, and individuals can change over time. But at this moment in the United States, it’s hard to be upbeat. Politicians routinely say two things that indicate how deeply in denial as a society we are about all this. One is, in response to the latest horror, “this is not who we are as a nation,” when it is of course a part of who we are as a nation, though some want to ignore that. The other is “there’s nothing we can’t accomplish when we work together,” which is just plain stupid. There are biophysical limits that no society can ignore indefinitely, though the modern consumer capitalist economy encourages us to ignore that reality. The ecological crises we face, including but not limited to rapid climate change, are a result of the species ignoring those limits, with the United States leading the way.
What does the future look like for our planet, for humanity? Is there any hope for us?
RJ: Let’s start with what’s fairly clear: There is no hope that a population of eight billion people with the current level of aggregate consumption today can continue indefinitely. It’s important to recognize that this consumption isn’t equally distributed, and that injustice has to be corrected. But we have to face the reality that high-energy/high-technology societies are unsustainable no matter how things are distributed. The end of the current economic and political systems will likely be in this century, maybe a lot sooner than we expect, and no one knows what will come after that. My summary of the future is “fewer and less.” There will be fewer people consuming a lot less energy and resources, and planning should focus on how to make such a future as humane as possible. Most people — even on the left or in the environmental movement — do not want to face that, at least in part because no one has a plan for how to get from where we are today to a sustainable human population with a sustainable level of consumption. But that’s the challenge. As a species, we likely will fail. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying to figure it out. We’re not going to save the world as we know it, but the intensity of human suffering and ecological destruction can be reduced.
Are the arts important for you in this struggle? Do you have a favourite musician(s)? Movies? Novels?
RJ: For a lot of people, the arts are important in coping with these realities. I am not very artistically inclined, either in talent or interests. I like to watch movies and read novels now and then, and I listen to music. But as I got older, I gravitated toward a focus on more straight-forward political and intellectual work. That said, I have two favourite singer/songwriters. One is John Gorka, whom I first heard decades ago, and I immediately fell in love with the stories in his songs. I own everything he has recorded. The second is Eliza Gilkyson. I heard one of her records in the mid-1980s and liked it but didn’t follow her career. In 2005, I met her at a political event in Austin, TX, where we both lived, and we got to be friends. I started listening to her CDs and was especially struck by the quality of her songwriting, as well as her voice. The friendship turned into a romantic relationship and we’re married now. It turned out that she and John were friends, and lately they have been teaching songwriting workshops together. I’m in the enviable position of knowing my two favourite musicians, both of whom have an incredible gift with words, of making the human experience — both the political and personal sides of life — come alive in songs.
Anything you would like to talk about, but people do not usually ask or do not want to hear.
RJ: In interviews, we tend to focus on what makes us look good. We tell a story that sounds coherent, but real life is messy. I like it when people ask me about mistakes I’ve made, stupid things I’ve done, ideas I once believed in that I now reject. There are lots of examples of that in my personal life, of course. But I’m thinking specifically of how long it took me to come to the critical analysis of the domination/subordination dynamic. In my mid-20s, I had a period of several years in which I was a harsh libertarian and a fan of the writing of Ayn Rand. At one point, I think I owned every book she had written. Looking back, I think I understand why. There’s a lot of attention, positive and negative, paid to Rand’s celebration of greed and wealth, but that was never my attraction to her books. I never wanted to be rich or find a justification for being greedy. I think she’s popular with lots of disaffected young people — the kind of person I was in my 20s — because she promises a life without emotional complexity. Rand constructs the perfect individual as a creature who chooses all relationships rationally, which describes no one who has ever lived, herself included. It’s just not the kind of animals we are. We are born into community and cannot make sense of ourselves as individuals outside of community. Her books offer the illusion that we can, by force of individual will, escape all the messiness of living with others. It’s interesting that Rand’s personal life was a train wreck, I suspect because she believed in those illusions and never really accepted the kind of creatures we human beings are. My assumption is that she was so scared of some aspects of the real world — perhaps the pain of loss and rejection — that she took refuge in the fantasy world she created. I think that’s a good reminder of how fear can drive us all to an irrational place if we let it. Anyway, when I started to understand that, I drifted away from Rand’s writing and started constructing a worldview that allowed me to face not only my own fears but also the collective fears of the culture, instead of running from them.
Trinity La Fey reflects on the ubiquity of child abuse, the links between childhood trauma and addictive behaviors, the brain chemistry of pornography addiction, and the ways in which patriarchy is reproduced and transmitted from generation to generation through children.
by Trinity La Fey
“The first step in resisting exploitation is seeing it and knowing it and not lying about where it is sitting on you. The second step is caring enough about other women that if today you are fine and yesterday you were fine, but your sister, hanging from the tree is not fine, that you will go the distance to cut her down.”
– Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating Right and Left
* * *
During his 1981 interview regarding Boys for Sale, the documentary exposé on child sexual abuse in Huston, Texas, University History Professor Tom Philpott marveled that around the world, sexual predation of children is observed, but it is not accompanied by the “mayhemic violence” that is seen in America.
Dr. Robert Sapolski, in his Behavioral Biology Class at Stanford University, explains tournament species: who are competitive, non-monogamous maters; and pair bonding species: who mate for life. He describes our hyper-plastic human sexuality as being socially and biologically expressed somewhere between these two.
In When God was A Woman, Merlin Stone documents globally reoccurring Neolithic Goddess worship that included practices of priestesses taking youthful lover/son partners that were later ritually sacrificed. Especially in the chapter, “If The King Did Not Weep”, it becomes clear that widespread sexual predation of the opposite sex, in their youth, is an (or perhaps the most) effective way to ensure sex-based social dominion in a culture. As men attained more cultural power, gaining ritual access, especially in Anatolia, they did so by castrating themselves and wearing the long robes of women.
Jeffrey M. Masson related his discoveries of Sigmund Freud’s letters, in the possession of his daughter, Anna Freud, in Freud and the Seduction Theory, A challenge to the foundations of psychoanalysis, and how she had perpetuated her father’s abuse of women, through psychoanalysis, to discredit them further to themselves and society regarding the large-scale father/daughter incest that was occurring and debilitating his patients well past the years of the physical abuse.
Interviewed for the documentary series The Keepers, former student of Seton Keough High School, Jean Hargadon Wehner, wondered how her abusers knew she wouldn’t expose them; why they trusted her silence as completely as they did.
Dr. Gabor Maté said, in the interview with California Healthline: Addiction Rooted In Childhood Trauma, Says Prominent Specialist, “All addictions — alcohol or drugs, sex addiction or internet addiction, gambling or shopping — are attempts to regulate our internal emotional states because we’re not comfortable, and the discomfort originates in childhood. For me, there’s no distinction except in degree between one addiction and another: same brain circuits, same emotional dynamics, same pain and same behaviors of furtiveness, denial and lying.”
Detailing a near compulsory removal of foreskin during infancy, without anesthetic, the documentary American Circumcision explicitly reveals how the first sexual experience of most American males is a mutilating, traumatic abuse, the memories to which, they have no access.
Porn, Pseudoscience and DeltaFosB, published by yourbrainonporn.com, run by Gary Wilson, “lists 41 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal). They provide strong support for the addiction model as their findings mirror the neurological findings reported in substance addiction studies.” A follow up article: Unwiring & Rewiring Your Brain: Sensitization and Hypofrontality, Intro to neuroplasticity, explains the physical results of porn addiction. “Hypofrontailty means the frontal lobes are under performing. Structurally, this manifests as:
Decline in gray matter (the cortex)
Abnormal white matter (the communication pathways)
Decreased metabolism or lowered glucose utilization”
Mohammedraza Esmail, in his article, What Porn Does to Your Brain and How to Quit, displays a common exculpation tactic in his misinterpretation of modern patriarchy as how humanity is (men are) hardwired, even as diagrams from his own article show the pornography addicted brain all but dissolved of frontal cortex: “While a husband and wife commit to being loyal to each other until the end of their days, evolution is laughing in the background. Because evolution doesn’t care about your life-long commitments. Evolution only cares about passing your genetic code to as many females as possible. Therefore, the brain is designed to want no female to be left unfertilized.” he posits, conflating limbic attention to novelty with the mass willingness to be complicit in sex crimes displayed by men.
But, as Sapolski and Maté both point out, only the traumatized, isolated or otherwise epigenetically triggered are disposed to addiction. “Nobody’s saying that every traumatized person becomes addicted. I’m saying that every addicted person was traumatized.” Maté clarifies.
When asked if the sale of children in his city was related to the legacy of trauma in the land on which it stood, Tom Philpot said it best:
“This subject has baffled me, from the time I first became aware of it, until this day. I can’t understand it and I’m trying very hard. As a historian, I know that this society, probably above all in the world and in the history of the world romanticizes childhood, but the historical record, child labor for one thing, indicates this society has not been good to children, has not protected children, and in fact is contemptuous of children, heartless to children, and they’re such helpless victims. Who can they go to? What constituency do they have? Nobody. The heartlessness that goes into it is certainly somehow connected with the heartlessness which ground up the Indians, black people, immigrant laborers, poor people in general, motivating the cuts in social programs today, blindness to the living reality of people’s situation. Yes, it’s connected. It’s about the most hair-raising thing I think I’ve encountered in studying the history of my country: the slaughter of the innocents and it goes on and on and when the public gets a hint of it, nothing happens. There doesn’t seem to be any willingness to make the connections and face them. It’s time we did.”
Trinity La Fey is a smith of many crafts, has been a small business creatrix since 2020; published author; appeared in protests since 2003, poetry performances since 2001; officiated public ceremony since 1999; and participated in theatrical performances since she could get people to sit still in front of her.
Tom Philpott, Boys For Sale Interview, 1981. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6mrC2NabIg.
Rober Sapolski, Behavioral Biology, Human Sexual Behavior I, Stanford University 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOY3QH_jOtE&t=2s.
Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, 1976, p. 149.
Jeffrey M. Masson, Freud and the Seduction Theory, A challenge to the foundations of psychoanalysis The Atlantic, February 1984. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1984/02/freud-and-the-seduction-theory/376313/.
Ryan White, The Keepers, s1:e4, Netflix, 2017.
Dr. Gabor Maté, Addiction Rooted In Childhood Trauma, Says Prominent Specialist, California Healthline, January, 2019. https://californiahealthline.org/news/addiction-rooted-in-childhood-trauma-says-prominent-specialist/.
American Circumcision, Brendon Marotta, 2018.
Gary Wilson, Unwiring & Rewiring Your Brain: Sensitization and Hypofrontality, Your Brain On Porn,
https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/tools-for-change-recovery-from-porn-addiction/rebooting-basics-start-here/unwiring-rewiring-your-brain-sensitization-and-hypofrontality/#hypofrontality, c. 1/5/2020.
Mohammedraza Esmail, What Porn Does to Your Brain and How to Quit, August, 2020, View at Medium.com
In this piece, Max talks about revenge porn and deepfakes as a new form of pornography. Pornography has always been a tool for the subjugation of women by patriarchy. The article further relates subjugation of women to the subjugation of the natural world.
Our culture is a culture of violation, a culture of breaking boundaries: the boundaries of women, of children, of forests, of oceans, of the living planet itself, even of the atom and the gene.
Where does the impulse to violate come from, and how is it encoded and transmitted from generation to generation?
One method of transmission is via pornography, one of a broad set of cultural tools used to inculcate patriarchy and pass it from generation to generation. Susan Griffin, in her book Woman and Nature, writes that “above all, pornography is ritual. It is an enacted drama that is laden with meaning, which imparts a vision of the world. The altar for the ritual is a woman’s body. And the ritual which is carried out on this altar is the desecration of flesh. Here, what is sacred within the body is degraded.”
As Gail Dines and other radical feminists argue, the sadistic brilliance of pornography is that is sexualizes these rituals, hiding them behind a veil of arousal, so that excitement becomes linked to dominance and subordination. Acts that would be anathema to our child selves become normalized, then eroticized.
Revenge Porn and “Deepfakes”
This understanding of pornography as ritualized degradation helps explain two of the newer forms of pornography: revenge porn and “Deepfakes.” As the slow burn of printed pornography exploded with the advent of the internet, now the internet is enabling new forms of ritualized degradation of women and violation of boundaries.
Most people are unfortunately familiar with the phenomenon of “revenge porn“—the practice of men sharing explicit photographs or videos of women online in order to degrade them—which has become all too common over the last decade. “Deepfakes” are newer and make degradation so much easier: computer-generated pornography, often created using AI/Machine Learning technology to swap a woman’s face onto another person’s body.
The technology to create Deepfakes has escalated quickly over the past several years, and now realistic-looking Deepfakes can be created relatively easily, or even automatically. Last month a report exposed that users had uploaded images of more than 680,000 women, without their knowledge or consent, to an automated service on Telegram to create photo-realistic Deepfake pornography. And another expose showed that TikTok stars—often underage teenagers—are ending up on porn websites.
How can we describe this new form of violation? Sophie Maddocks, a PhD candidate at the New School, writes that feminist activists are increasingly seeking to re-name revenge porn and Deepfakes as ‘Non-consensual pornography’, ‘image-based sexual abuse’, and ‘digital rape.’
Like Susan Griffin, Maddocks points towards an understanding of pornography not as sexual expression, art, or the singular act of bitter men, but as what Andrea Dworkin called “the blueprint of male supremacy.”
“Pornography incarnates male supremacy,” Dworkin wrote. “It is the DNA of male dominance. Every rule of sexual abuse, every nuance of sexual sadism, every highway and byway of sexual sadism, is encoded in it. It’s what men want us to be, think we are, make us into; how men use us; not because biologically they are men but because this is how their social power is organized. From the perspective of the political activist, pornography is the blueprint of male supremacy.”
The Ecological Crisis and Patriarchy
As Lierre Keith says, if you could reduce feminism to one word, it would be: “No.” The drawing of boundaries is essential to not just individual bodily and mental health, but to the health of the entire planet. And what is industrial civilization but the cultural urge to violate the entire planet?
Deep Green Resistance is primarily an ecological organization, but we are also a feminist organization, because we recognize the links between patriarchy and the destruction of the planet.
Only to name one of the most obvious, the problem of overpopulation is mainly caused by the subjugation of women—legally, economically, culturally, sexually. And the path to solve overpopulation is simple: educate women, and provide culturally appropriate family planning and healthcare. When this is done, population growth disappears. There is no technical mystery here; the problem is changing the culture and restructuring power.
In Margaret Atwood’s prophetic book Oryx and Crake, global warming wreaks havok on a world falling further into dystopia. The most violent forms of child rape pornography are normalized, and young kids watch the “Nitee-Nite” show for live streams of people committing suicide. Soy-based artificial foods and genetically-engineered creatures fill every plate, and as the world descends further into chaos, well-meaning people spend their money airlifting food to starving polar bears in an ice-free Arctic rather than in confronting or dismantling the systems that are destroying the planet.
This is the world we are heading towards, but it is not inevitable. Our only hope lies in what Dworkin calls organized political resistance. Each day, I read these words and remind myself of our task:
[W]hen I talk about a resistance, I am talking about an organized political resistance. I’m not just talking about something that comes and something that goes. I’m not talking about a feeling. I’m not talking about having in your heart the way things should be and going through a regular day having good, decent, wonderful ideas in your heart.
I’m talking about when you put your body and your mind on the line and you commit yourself to years of struggle in order to change the society in which you live… A political resistance goes on day and night, under cover and over ground, where people can see it and people can’t. It is passed from generation to generation. It is taught. It is encouraged. It is celebrated. It is smart. It is savvy. It is committed. And someday it will win. It will win.
Frenchwoman Maïmouna Doucouré, who wrote and directed ‘Cuties’ (English translation), a film which has sparked an online petition calling for it’s removal from Netflix’s streaming platform, has defended her work against the scrutiny it has come under (largely as a result of the way Netflix chose to represent her film), by asserting that we need to not “blame the girls” in these potentially accurate portrayals of their lives and behaviors.
As one of the many who has not seen the film, I have seen the promotional material: a still image from the film and text provided by an unknown individual describing a girl “who becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew“. The children are eleven years old. The young actors are striking poses that are not hard to see as sexually suggestive. New to social media, my burgeoning role as SJW internet troll is shocking to me, mostly in my quick adaptation to this drug. Perusing the pile-on, there were shades of every argument: from people who had seen the film, explaining that it was about the sexploitation of young females; to people who, enraged, called for it to be removed from the streaming platform altogether.
The alarming normalization of sexualizing children has long been evident in Netflix.
Perhaps not so blatantly as now, but children’s, particularly girl’s, sexualization of themselves (by the age of seven according to Dr. Jessica Taylor) is something that has also long existed in this and other modern, civilized cultures and I would argue, needs to be addressed.
As the creatrix of this soft-core child pornography, Doucouré has here deflected the legitimate question about her responsibility as storyteller to the “sex-worker” argument.
No one said anything about blaming the girls.
The argument against pornography is that real people, in this case eleven year old girls, do the things in real life, in front of a camera. In the case of feature films, often exhaustively with rehearsals, memorization and multiple takes [nearly 700 underage girls auditioned for the lead roles]. It is not just a story anymore. It is perpetuation. Psychically, it is normalization, not a challenge, for participants and audience both.
The shame never belonged to the exploited. To have been exploited is a hard thing to admit in a culture that believes that the shame does belong to the exploited. I think that explains much of the drive toward liberal feminism among young women who do not have direct experience with, or on whose livelihood still depends the pay-for-rape industrial spectrum.
I agree that the film should be taken down, but the story will and must be told.
Disappearing unpleasant or untrue or unwanted theories, arguments or stories transforms them from reasoned, hard “No“s back into question marks.
Trinity La Fey is a smith of many crafts, has been a small business creatrix since 2020; published author; appeared in protests since 2003, poetry performances since 2001; officiated public ceremony since 1999; and participated in theatrical performances since she could get people to sit still in front of her.
Male violence against women is one of the most serious problems in the world. The numbers are staggering. Every year in the US, more than 230,000 sexual assaults are committed. At least 1 out of 6 American women have suffered rape or attempted rape, and 1 out of 3 women worldwide.
Native American women are the most likely targets of sexual violence. 44% of sexual assaults and rapes target children under the age of 18. Almost 2/3 of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes – 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.
Resistance Radio with Wendy Murphy
In this podcast Derrick Jensen interviews Wendy Murphy, who talks about the level of sexual assault experienced by women and girls. She describes how, in our culture, language can be used passively and therefore lead to accepting sexual violence as the norm. Wendy states that how language is used connects with real world experiences and can be translated in the courts as unjust verdicts.
Changing the way we talk about sexual violence can change the way we feel and shift from passive to proactive in relation to harms towards women and girls. Wendy created a multi-disciplinary team – The Judicial Language review – which enabled the team to review decisions in courts and state whether language is appropriate. The project critically analyses discourse, providing alternate phrases and use of language to the courts. Wendy gives real life examples of how language is used in the media and the courts to minimise (brush aside) the harms done towards children and strongly advocates a cultural shift, including the need to challenge passive use of language.