We oppose the published tentative recommendation by the Office of National Statistics to make sex a non-mandatory field in the 2021 Census. We demand that sex remains a mandatory question in the Census and is included in all government demographic data collection in accordance with SDG5 commitments.
Data collection disaggregated by sex gives us vital information for policy making and distribution of resources. If implemented, the ONS recommendation will make widely acceptable that sex becomes a voluntary question. This will render useless equal opportunities monitoring designed to combat sex discrimination. It will influence governments worldwide making difficult the monitoring of imbalances resulting from sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and unequal treatment of girls and women.
Audre Lorde described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. A writer of the 70s and 80s, this month her poetry and prose is published in the UK for the first time in a new anthology: Your Silence Will Not Protect You. Akwugo Emejulu, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick discusses the resurgent interest in Lorde’s work and her importance to contemporary activists
Men with a history of sexual violence and domestic abuse joined Islamic State because of the organisation’s systemic use of rape and slavery as a form of terrorism, according to new analysis.
The promotion and sanctioning of sexual violence by the extremist group was a pivotal means of “attracting, retaining, mobilising and rewarding fighters” as well as punishing kaffir, or disbelievers, says a report to be released by the Henry Jackson Society.
Enshrining a theology of rape, the sexual exploitation of women alongside trafficking helped fund the caliphate and was used to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating prohibited.
In addition, forced inseminations and forced pregnancies – along with forced conversions – were officially endorsed to help secure the next generation of jihadis, a tactic also replicated by Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Analysis of ISIS members from Europe and the US found that a cohort had a history of domestic and sexual violence, suggesting a “relationship between committing terrorist attacks and having a history of physical and/or sexual violence”.
One Briton, Ondogo Ahmed, from north London, was given an eight-year custodial sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl in the UK but fled to Syria while out of prison on licence in 2013.
Another was Siddhartha Dhar, a father of four from London, who has been described as a central player in Isis’s brutal persecution of the Yazidis, a religious minority whose followers the group permitted its members to rape.
Testimony from one victim, Nihad Barakat, 18, revealed how Dhar, a former bouncy castle salesman from Walthamstow, east London, routinely participated in the group’s systemic trafficking and abuse of Yazidi teenage girls and enslaved some himself. “These cases indicate an existence of a type of terrorism that is sexually motivated, in which individuals with prior records of sexual violence are attracted by the sexual brutality carried out by members of Islamic State,” said Nikita Malik, the report’s author.
Although Malik said more work was required to establish a definitive link between an individual’s history of domestic violence and subsequent involvement in terrorism, evidence existed to indicate a potential correlation. One of the men involved in July’s London Bridge attack, Rachid Redouane, 30, was reportedly abusive and controlling, and his girlfriend eventually fled to a unit for victims of domestic violence. The Westminster attacker Khalid Masood, 52, is another who has been described as violent and controlling, this time towards his second wife.
ISIS has repeatedly promoted and attempted to legitimise a theology of rape, occasionally through its Dabiq magazine and Al Hayat media channel. One edition of Dabiq justified the rape of Yazidi women in Iraq by dismissing them as “pagans”. The extremist group also set up a department dedicated to “war spoils” and issued guidelines to codify slavery.
Markets selling sex slaves were relatively common in territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at the calpihate’s height, while the group’s franchise in Libya has also played a role in human trafficking. One account contained in the report describes how Isis members would touch the chests of girls to see whether they had grown breasts. If they had done so they could be raped, according to the report – which will be released in parliament – and if not they would be examined three months later. Among a number of harrowing case studies are accounts of how a 10-year-old Libyan child was raped by traffickers linked to ISIS.
Apart from subjugation and spreading terror, another key reason for Isis exploiting sex trafficking is financial gain. Ransom payments directly linked to the threat or use of sexual violence and paid out by governments and individuals earned, according to the report, between £7.7m and £23m last year, at a time of lowering revenues for the group.
It’s unsurprising to note that the report (or the article on it at least), makes the link to “deeply conservative Muslim societies”, but not to our own, western, misogyny. Hardcore pornography was easily available to any ISIS fighter who grew up in the west, plus bootleg pornography is available throughout the global south.
And as Namia Akhtar reported, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were porn users:
Nonetheless, Sexlamists in their private lives are obsessed with pornography (in a February 17, 2015 article, New York Post reported that Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden found a fairly extensive stash of modern pornography in his possession), they communicate through it (media sources reported that terrorist cells embedded secret coded messages into shared pornography and onto pedophile websites) and justify their own salacious carnal practices on religious grounds. Al-Qaeda leaders, such as Osama Bin Laden and Anwar Al-waki, had also indulged in notorious promiscuity. Adultery and fornication are strictly prohibited in Islam, but in terror groups abhorrent sexual practices reign supreme. Daesh, for instance, has issued fatwas justifying rapes of Yazidi women to make them Muslims. Rape is the mechanism of Daesh to achieve their strategic objectives, since it humiliates and shames respective communities.
The first time Shivangi Choubey missed the curfew at her student hostel was a night in late September. It was not the only rule she broke that day.
Women students at Banaras Hindu University are not supposed to protest. Many are made to sign a contract that spells this out explicitly. Men are not required to sign anything of the kind.
Nor, at many hostels on campus, are women served meat, permitted to speak on the phone after 10pm, or allowed out in the evenings when their male counterparts still roam the tree-lined campus on sputtering two-wheelers or cram into the library to study.
So it was especially shocking – and unprecedented in the university’s 100-year history – when Choubey led 200 women through the gates of their college to join hundreds of others assembled outside Lanka gate, the campus’s bustling entrance. “Nobody ever misses a curfew,” she says, pulling a scarlet shawl around her shoulders. “That’s something very big for us. But we were so agitated, because these things keep happening to us.”
The day before, an undergraduate student walking home from her department said she had been sexually assaulted by two men on a motorbike. Campus security guards had been sitting in plastic chairs about 20 metres away but did nothing, the woman said. She told others that the warden at her college had dismissed the incident, telling her: “They just touched you. They didn’t do anything serious.”
“These comments were a spark on already burning logs,” says Dhriti Dharana, a psychology student living at the same college as the alleged victim. “We thought, to hell with everything. We’re going to protest.”
The days of demonstrations that followed have brought one of India’s most prestigious and conservative universities to its knees. Its vice-chancellor is on indefinite leave. The head of security resigned. Colleges were emptied of students – “evacuated”, one said – days earlier than a scheduled holiday after footage of police using batons against young women went viral, drawing national condemnation.
QotD: “Hefner operated in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech”
On hearing that the pimp and pornographer Hugh Hefner had died this morning, I wished I believed in hell.
“The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous,” said the sadistic pimp in 2010. “Women are sex objects… It’s the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go ‘round. That’s why women wear lipstick and short skirts.”
Hefner was responsible for turning porn into an industry. As Gail Dines writes in her searing expose of the porn industry, he took it from the back street to Wall Street and, thanks in large part to him, it is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. Hefner operated in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech.
He caused immeasurable damage by turning porn – and therefore the buying and selling of women’s bodies – into a legitimate business. Hefner hated women and referred to them as “dogs”.
In 1963, Gloria Steinem (then a freelance journalist) decided to go undercover as a Bunny Girl, spending two weeks in the role at the Playboy Mansion. What Steinem found was that the women working there were treated like dirt. Bunnies had to wear heels at least three inches high and corsets at least two inches too small everywhere except the bust, which came only with D-cups. Steinem described it as a form of torture. A sneeze could break the zip, and when peeled off their torsos were bright red and swollen.
Steinem found grotesque misogyny towards the women, and commented that they were “dehumanised” by the punters – who were, after all, following Hefner’s lead.
“These chicks [feminists] are our natural enemy. It is time to do battle with them,” wrote Hefner in a secret memo leaked to feminists by secretaries at Playboy. “It is time we do battle with them… What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.” As a response, feminists began picketing his businesses.
Admitting that he could only orgasm by masturbating to pornography, Hefner was a sexual predator. The young women who worked at the Playboy Mansion have spoken of their disgust in having sex with him, but said it was, “part of the unspoken rules”. “It was almost as if we had to do it in return for all the things we had,” said one.
Described as “modern, trustworthy, clean, respectable” by Time magazine in March 1963, Hefner has been regularly rebranded as a type of cultural attache rather than the woman-hating sleazebag he was.
To claim that Hefner was a sexual liberationist or free speech idol is like suggesting that Roman Polanski has contributed to child protection.
I would imagine that silk pyjama manufacturers are mourning Hefner, but no feminist anywhere will shed a tear at his death. And the liberal leftists that wax lyrical about how Hefner was a supporter of anti-racist struggles should perhaps ask themselves how such a civil rights champion squared this with the millions he made from selling the most vile racism in much of his pornography.
As I was writing this, a flagship news programme asked if I would take part this evening in an item in Hefner’s legacy. “We’re looking to discuss whether he was a force for good or bad. Did Hefner revolutionise feminine sexuality, or encourage the degradation of women by constructing them merely as objects of desire?”
Now he is dead I would imagine the scores of women he abused will come forward and force his liberal supporters to see him for what he really was – sexist scum of the lowest order.
Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.
It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.
Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to be have been involved. Righty-o.
I don’t really know which women were liberated by Hefner’s fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court – because over the years they have.
The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”
But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James recalls, they had to go to his room and “wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases.”
Hefner – repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation – would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didn’t care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep “Daddy” excited. Is there no end to this glamour?
Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say.
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.
Hefner, who founded the sexually explicit men’s lifestyle magazine in 1953, died at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, the publication announced.
Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement: “My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”
However, others described Hefner as a lecherous pornographer who launched has magazine with a naked centerfold of Marilyn Monroe, taken years earlier and bought for $500. The Playboy mansion also saw a pyjama-clad Hefner attended to by a posse of women clad in bunny ears, all of whom were expected to be sexually available.
In episode 2 of the documentary we see that the children are doing the Tangram puzzles every day, some of the girls are still struggling.
Abdelmoneim talks to Professor Gina Rippon again, who emphasises the plasticity of the human brain, and the different ways boys and girls are treated. Abdelmoneim then looks at toys and clothes aimed at girls and boys, and finds “an overwhelming avalanche” of pink for girls and blue for boys; it’s not just the colour, the pink domestic appliances are obviously ‘meant’ for girls, while the blue construction kits are ‘meant’ for boys.
Abdelmoneim goes to the house of one of the girls in the experimental glass, where an eight-year-old girl’s birthday party is taking place, in a big pink marque tent in the back garden, “an avalanche of pink, sparkles, and feather boas.” The mother of the girl says she loves being ‘pampered’, which means having her nails done – the focus is on looks and appearance.
Abdelmoneim then visits the home of one of the boys, whose toys are all Lego and guns; he also says boys are better than girls because they get better Nerf guns than girls.
Abdelmoneim talks to the boy’s mother, who says she used to believe in nurture over nature until she had a son; she says that she had “a bit of an anti-gun rule, until he stated school, but then he made them out of Lego and sticks and everything and one day he said ‘look mum, I’ve got a handgun [holding her hand up shaped like a gun], you can’t take this one off me’ and I knew about that point I’d probably lost the weaponry argument.”
It’s not clear, from what the mother is saying, if the gun obsession was there before or after the boy started school. Few parents get to raise their children in total isolation from the dominant culture, and children pick up gendered rules from a very young age; also small children have a very black-and-white understanding of the world, and want to fit in.
Abdelmoneim says that children are constantly receiving messages about what it means to be a boy or a girl, so it’s not surprising that they believe it is ‘natural’.
Abdelmoneim then looks at children’s clothing, and is disturbed by the slogans, like ‘forever beautiful’ for girls, and ‘here comes trouble’ for boys, and he wonders about how much the parents think about these slogans. Abdelmoneim then designs t-shirts of his own, and asks some parents to look at them (it takes a while to find some parents who have time to stop after school).
For the girls’ t-shirts, he starts with the bought t-shirt saying ‘forever beautiful’ then moves on to his own slogans: ‘looks are everything’, then ‘boys are better’, then ‘made to be underpaid’.
For the boys’ t-shirts, he starts with ‘here comes trouble’, then ‘boys don’t cry’, then ‘tough guys don’t talk’, then ‘bottled up and ready to burst’.
The parents don’t have a problem with the commercially available t-shirts, but they can then see the progression. It’s interesting to note that one of the boys watching with his father sticks his thumb up at ‘boys don’t cry’, while his father describes it as ‘wrong’ – like I already said, no parent gets to raise their children in isolation. One of the other fathers talks about being raised to be ‘tough’.
There is a clip of one of the girls saying you never see girls doing ‘big’ things like being an astronaut, we then see that a picture has been put up on the wall of the classroom, of a female astronaut, alongside one of a man bottle feeding a baby.
Abdelmoneim says he has to be a bit more direct and get the parents involved, so he creates ‘homework’ for the parents, looking at gendered words and household chore, and plastic sacks to use to remove gendered items from their homes. Abdelmoneim asks the parents to link up what’s positive in the classroom experiments with what they do at home.
One of the parents says children don’t pay any attention at that age, it goes in one ear and out the other, but in reality, the opposite is true, children are learning from what goes on around them all the time.
Abdelmoneim then sets up a unisex toilet experiment (I would challenge his claim here that workplace toilets are increasingly unisex; unisex single-stall facilities may be increasingly common, but multi-stall unisex facilities are not, and the toilets at the school are multi-stall.)
All the children react with horror at first, but then the boys seem more enthusiastic; it is originally a girls’ toilet, so there is a ‘taboo busting’ element for the boys. One boy says he thinks it is a good thing because then the boys will “know what the girls look like”. Since he is only seven I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may believe that girls use an equivalent of urinals, and it is normal for children to be curious. One of the boys and two of the girls say they don’t like it and call it ‘weird’ (we are a society were privacy is the norm).
Abdelmoneim visits one of the parents to see how they are getting on with the homework, she reports that her daughter put all the words (including the word ‘war’) into the ‘both’ column in the word association test (and had a rationale for what she was doing). They bag up all the ‘girls’ toys, including a whole wardrobe of princess dresses – but she does have an R2D2 toy as well.
Abdelmoneim says that even though children choose many of their own toys, it’s not much of a choice if only gendered toys are on offer.
The next experiment involves handing out toys to the children in anonymous brown paper bags (ie no packaging to tell them whether it’s a ‘girls toy’ or a ‘boys toy’); the toys are a marble run, a teddy bear sewing kit, an arts and crafts set, and a robot bug to construct. All the children seem to like their toys, even the ones not normally ‘meant’ for them. (The boy who threw the tantrum over the strength test in episode 1 liked his sewing kit bear).
We return to the unisex toilets experiment, with the girls saying the boys are annoying and dirty, and one girl saying she tries to hold it in all day, and a boy saying he wanted it to go back to normal. Abdelmoneim says he has managed to make the children ‘equally unhappy’ with this experiment (according to this Daily Mail article “the head put the toilets back to normal when the film cameras left”.) I would put this down to the fact that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are two different things, despite the fact that the two terms are used interchangeably (sometimes simply because everyday language usage is vague and people think ‘sex’ is a rude word, other times to deliberately obfuscate that this difference exists), and Abdelmoneim moved from gender differences to sex differences with this particular experiment – it’s telling that the children were enthusiastic about everything else (in spite of their highly gendered upbringing), but not this.
Abdelmoneim then goes back to the parents’ ‘homework’, and finds that in spite of the fact that some of the dads are doing a share of the housework, their children still have a gendered view of household chores (in other words they are picking up ideas from more than just their parents).
The class is then taken on a day trip to the beach. There are two tasks for the children, build a fire pit and make a picnic; the children split themselves fairly evenly between the two tasks, and girls ‘take charge’ of both tasks. But the boys get bored of the picnic preparation quickly, one of them yelling “I’m not a girl!”
Next, they set up a football game. The boys dominate in the playground at school, with some girls wanting to play but feeling that they can’t because it gets too rough. They have to practice in mixed sex teams. When Abdelmoneim asks if they want to play a match in their practice teams, or play boys verses girls, one of the boys (the same one who threw the tantrum in episode 1), suggests mixed teams would be fairer, because the boys have had more practice; Abdelmoneim sees this as improved empathy, working out that it would result in a better match for both girls and boys.
On the last day of term, the children (including the control class) retake the tests they took at the start of the experiment six weeks ago. The results show that in the experimental class the 8% self-esteem difference between girls and boys has dropped to 0.2% (girls being interviewed say they believe they can do anything now), and no girls describe themselves as ‘ugly’ anymore. Boys’ pro-social behaviour is up 10%, and their ability to identify emotions has improved; girls’ self-motivation is up 12%, and they are 40% more accurate when asked to predict their scored before a test (before, they had been seriously underestimating their own abilities); boys observed bad behaviour is down 57%. After two weeks of Tangram puzzles, the top ten pupils are five boys and five girls.
Mr Andre says all the children are more confident now, and challenge the things adults tell them; he jokes that they have been turned into ‘monsters’ and the girls were never like this before (this is done good-naturedly).
In the end of term assembly, the class puts on a performance for the rest of the school and the parents, to show what they have learnt about equality between boys and girls. One of the mothers was moved to tears by how confident her daughter is now.
The head teacher says she is really impressed by the changes, and Mr Andre will be teaching what he has learned to the other teachers. Abdelmoneim says that all of his changes were small, and not ‘rocket science’ and that it would be really easy to roll them out in all schools.
We learn at the end of the documentary that 6 weeks later, Mr Andre has presented these new teaching methods to the Institute of Education.