QotD: “Men often kill wives after lengthy periods of prolonged physical violence accompanied by other forms of abuse and coercion”
Men often kill wives after lengthy periods of prolonged physical violence accompanied by other forms of abuse and coercion; the roles in such cases are seldom if ever reversed. Men perpetrate familial massacres, killing spouse and children together; women do not. Men commonly hunt down and kill wives who have left them; women hardly ever behave similarly. Men kill wives as part of planned murder-suicides; analogous acts by women are almost unheard of. Men kill in response to revelations of wifely infidelity; women almost never respond similarly, though their mates are more often adulterous.
R. Emerson and Russell Dobash, quoted in Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel
(Asked about his stance on pornography, in response to perceived endorsement of Hustler, who had tricked Chomsky into giving an interview for the magazine.)
Pornography is humiliation and degradation of women. It’s a disgraceful activity. I don’t want to be associated with it. Just take a look at the pictures. I mean, women are degraded as vulgar sex objects. That’s not what human beings are. I don’t even see anything to discuss.
(Interviewer: But didn’t performers choose to do the job and get paid?)
The fact that people agree to it and are paid, is about as convincing as the fact that we should be in favour of sweatshops in China, where women are locked into a factory and work fifteen hours a day, and then the factory burns down and they all die. Yeah, they were paid and they consented, but it doesn’t make me in favour of it, so that argument we can’t even talk about.
As for the fact that it’s some people’s erotica, well you know that’s their problem, doesn’t mean I have to contribute to it. If they get enjoyment out of humiliation of women, they have a problem, but it’s nothing I want to contribute to.
(Interviewer: How should we improve the production conditions of pornography?)
By eliminating degradation of women, that would improve it. Just like child abuse, you don’t want to make it better child abuse, you want to stop child abuse.
Suppose there’s a starving child in the slums, and you say “well, I’ll give you food if you’ll let me abuse you.” Suppose—well, there happen to be laws against child abuse, fortunately—but suppose someone were to give you an argument. Well, you know, after all a child’s starving otherwise, so you’re taking away their chance to get some food if you ban abuse. I mean, is that an argument?
The answer to that is stop the conditions in which the child is starving, and the same is true here. Eliminate the conditions in which women can’t get decent jobs, not permit abusive and destructive behaviour.
Noam Chomsky, The Price of Pleasure.
QotD: “What this man had realized is that although individual cases of rape are perpetrated by individuals or groups of individuals, the systematic targeting of women and girls for sexual assault is supported by the imagery and belief systems of our wider culture”
In 2006 I took part in a discussion for men who were attempting to address issues of men’s violence against women. Toward the end of the event, men began sharing why they had been moved to get involved. One young man spoke emotionally of dealing with the rape of his female partner by a mutual friend. Her body and rights, and their trust in a friend, had been savagely violated. He wanted to make sense of the assault without re-creating the cycle of violence. He wanted to support his partner and find support for himself. He wanted, much more broadly, to eradicate rape culture. He began reading widely and thinking deeply as part of these efforts, and he began to realize his own role in perpetuating the problem. He said:
‘I’ve never raped a woman, and I’ve never even been in a fight. I strive to treat women with dignity and respect. But I’ve realized that rape is in me. It’s in the way I look at women walking down the street. It’s in the music I listen to and the movies I watch. It’s in the games that I play. It’s in me. And I don’t want it there.’
What this man had realized is that although individual cases of rape are perpetrated by individuals or groups of individuals, the systematic targeting of women and girls for sexual assault is supported by the imagery and belief systems of our wider culture. That culture is the water we’re swimming in, and he was starting to realize that it was toxic … Rape is in me. That’s a powerful realization.
Matthew B. Ezzell
By the time I was 17, my dad concluded he had failed to humiliate, beat and torture me out of being gay. So he kicked me out of the house. Within two hours of leaving home, I had been targeted by a pimp and was being raped by his customers.
I was marketed as a high-price call-boy for the majority of my years in the sex-trafficking world. My pimps styled me as a “North Shore Boy,” using my upper-middle-class background to attract johns looking to pay for sex with a boy who looked like their neighbors. There was a lot of demand for boys like me, and both my pimps and my johns went to great lengths to psychologically and physically prevent me from leaving.
One of the mainstream myths about the world of escorting is that the industry functions as a legitimate business and does not count as sex trafficking, a.k.a. prostitution. When people do recognize escorting as prostitution, they believe it’s somehow safer than street level prostitution. It isn’t. Far from it. My pimp told me he would cut me open like a fish and throw me in the lake like human garbage. The following day was my first meeting with a “political john.” I took the Metro to the pimp. He blindfolded me and had me hide in the car en route to the hotel. Once we pulled into the parking lot, I was instructed to take the blindfold off and put the seat back. We were met by security at the back of the hotel, and I was delivered to the politician.
My johns were successful, sometimes famous men who had a lot at stake when it came to exploiting me: careers, reputations and marriages. It’s hard to underestimate how much they worried, if I snitched and the lengths they would go to protect themselves. Some of the johns were bitter divorcés; others claimed to be happily married. The common thread between all of the men who paid for sex with me was the way they flaunted their power. These wealthy johns literally enjoyed torturing those they purchased.
One of those political johns took me on a stalking mission in front of the former home he had with his wife. He went off about the divorce and how she took everything from him. After we had a drink in his new living room, he took me to the bedroom he had set aside for his son. He tied me to the bed and proceeded to rape me. I remember him calling me Robby. I looked over at the pictures of his son on the wall and had an anxiety attack. It was a combination of being tied down, him calling me his son’s name, his psychotic behavior and the stalking of his ex-wife. Right before I blacked out, my life was flashing before my eyes. I was sure he was going to murder me. After he finished, he saw my fear and the tears rolling down my face. He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.
These years were filled with psychological warfare, mind control and terror. Money and power drove the game. It wasn’t about sex. It was about control over another human being. By the end, I knew a john would either kill me or I would end up killing one of them.
I escaped that life, but the exiting was hard. There are zero programs to help young men get out of prostitution. I pray someday there will be.
I admit it — the main reason I bought an opening weekend ticket for Mad Max: Fury Road was to, specifically, piss off the various men’s-rights advocates angrily telling me that, as a man, I should boycott it for being feminist propaganda. Continuing my life’s goal of doing pretty much the opposite of whatever the defenders of manliness tell men to do, I of course bought a ticket for an opening weekend 3D showing in order to give as much money to my feminist overlords (ladies?) as possible.
Was it the massive triumph for feminism that would finally break the back of the patriarchy that both its biggest haters and boosters predicted it’d be? Probably not.
But it was, first and foremost and above all else, a Mad Max movie. And the most interesting thing about Fury Road is how it reveals that, contra the wailing of Return of Kings’ “resident economist” Aaron Clarey, the Mad Max franchise has always on some level been a feminist franchise. It’s a franchise about toxic masculinity, and how all of us — including the “good guys” — are infected by it, and how there’s no hope unless we can someday build a world without it, which might mean building a world without ourselves.
One of my own male role models, Kurt Cobain, said, “Women are the only future in rock and roll”; I’d apply that to culture in general. Not that women are genetically or inherently superior, not that there’s nothing wrong with our culture’s idea of femininity — but the most toxic behaviors, the ones that killed the world and continue to kill it? They’re all packaged together in the culturally approved madness we call masculinity. And our best hope might be handing the reins to the half of the population that wasn’t raised to call that madness their birthright.
In Fury Road, Furiosa might be, as her name implies, filled with rage, but she’s not mad the way Max is. She remembers a better way to live, the Green Place, the Land of the Many Mothers; all Max remembers is the screams of the dying. She can be both a hero in war and a leader in peace. A hero is all Max knows how to be.
Far be it for me to compare an armchair Internet warrior like myself to Mad Max (though I’ve already compared myself to the Hulk, so why not). But I’m not the only radical guy I know who instinctively analogizes activism to war, who sees interactions with political opponents as fights, who carries the baggage of toxic masculinity even when trying to fight toxic masculinity, who sees political conflict as a zero-sum Thunderdome where “two men enter, one man leaves.”
And Mad Max, of all places, came out with a message against that nonsense 30 years ago, with Beyond Thunderdome — which is when Clarey should’ve started writing about Miller as a betrayer of manhood, assuming he was old enough to read and write then — when Tina Turner, a strong female leader figure 30 years before Charlize Theron, sang a song that sums up activism, feminism, and the problem with male allies in one line:
On October 16, 2014, The Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy was presented to Cherry Smiley. Her activism and work for Indigenous women and girls and against the sex industry is foundational, in terms of the feminist movement and the work of women across the world to end prostitution. In her talk, “Freedom as controversy: Indigenous women and girls and the abolition of prostitution” (featured in the video below), Smiley says, “Prostitution is a gendered system — an act of male violence against women and girls that both reinforces and expresses patriarchy, colonialism, racism, and capitalism.”
My work has been shaped so deeply by Smiley’s knowledge, analysis, and activism — I quite literally would not do what I do, had I not met her. She has taught me so much about the history of colonialism in Canada, how that history connects to the ongoing exploitation and abuse of Indigenous women and girls today, and how to approach the issue of prostitution in a responsible way, as a feminist, an ally, and a settler.
It is my great honour to call her my sister.
(Categorised as ‘Sex industry survivors’ for the speech by Trisha Baptie, and ‘Male allies’ for the speech by Michael Markwick, both included in this video.)