by Furry Girl

06.21.10

A little background: I grew up as the freakish nonreligious kid in a conservative part of the country.  I'm not one of those people who was raised in a big liberal city or whose parents taught them college-level concepts before the other kids could even read.  I grew up around people who told me that dinosaur bones were put in the ground by Satan to trick us.  I've always been drawn to nature and science, and have spent almost 14 years paying attention to the evolution wars - ever since the subject came up in biology class in seventh grade.  Sexuality activists can learn from the contemporary creationist movement's most successful strategy, and how to not play into it.  I've touched on this topic before, but wanted to write about it in more depth after watching not just anti-sex worker activists, but also supposedly "pro-porn" feminists, using this tactic over the course of this month's re-hashing of the porn wars.

To get a two-hour crash course in the modern creationist movement, I recommend watching Expelled, courtesy of The Pirate Bay, whose motto should be For When You Don't Want Your Money Supporting Something™.  The movie is a "documentary" narrated by conservative actor Ben Stein, aimed at "exposing" the horrifying "bias" within American schools to not teach Christian myths often enough in science classes.  (Unlike other countries with indoor plumbing and electricity, Americans already do have so much creationism in their schools and public life that most of them don't believe in evolution.)  The film clumsily pushes the idea that atheist radicals like biologist Richard Dawkins are taking over science and shutting down any "debate" about creationism.  Stein gives the topic the full loony treatment - which, of course, includes a stroll around Dachau to sensitively remind viewers that a belief in evolution and science invariably leads to Nazi death camps.  Stein never plainly states in the movie that he's a creationist who doesn't believe in evolution.  He argues that anyone who definitively supports evolution is trying to "silence debate about these important issues", playing like he's just a doe-eyed and confused Joe Everyman who thinks we the people have a right to hear "all opinions" on an unresolved matter.

Creationists might be intellectually-stunted to the point of hilarity when it comes to their interpretations of the world around them, but they are a very clever and well-funded bunch when it comes to getting their ideas wedged into American society.  Their most important and successful tactic is a propaganda campaign that they call amongst themselves "teaching the controversy": to not deny evolution outright, but to drum up "debate" and make the public think that the jury's still out about whether or not the world is 6000 years old.  In reality, no credible institution or researcher lends any believability to the idea that there's a "controversy" in the scientific community over whether or not Christian mythology negates everything we know about biology, geology, and physics - but that's just a minor unmentioned pesky detail, like there being no credible studies to suggest any harm in viewing porn or decriminalizing prostitution.

Creationist nutters aren't the only special interest group that is hell-bent on "teaching the controversy".  You see this sort of thing all the time with other areas where a person knows their own religious/moral beliefs have no factual basis, and that there's likely lots of solid evidence against their position, so their only hope is to cloud the issue to make their own position look more tenable.  Such as:

"Oh, I'm not against abortion!  But I do think young women should know that a lot of people have been asking questions about whether women who get abortions are more likely to end up with cancer later in life."

"Oh, I don't hate the gays!  But I think the public should know that there's all sorts of conflicting information about how unhealthy it is for children to be raised by homosexuals."

It's a sort of malicious argument from ignorance - someone posits, "I can't possibly make sense of this terribly confusing issue," - when, of course, they perfectly well do have a side - "so, we all really need to think more about what a grey area we're looking at and not make up our minds so hastily."

In the world of internet debates, this shoddy debate tactic is called concern trolling.  The concern troll is never for or against anything, they've just got "concerns" they need to keep raising.  No matter how many times you keep countering these people, they can keep popping up with some other "concern" that adds further confusion to the issue and makes it harder to discuss using facts.

"I think it's a classic hallmark of psuedoscience - which is that you just keep shifting the goalpost until you get to a hypothesis that's, frankly, untestable".

- Dr. Paul Offit, in Point of Inquiry's "The Costs of Vaccine Denialism" podcast

Lately, I've seen more sex-positive types adding to this problem by reminding everyone that "we" ought to be more respectful of anti-sex worker activist's arguments, and that the sex worker and pornographer community is failing to address these "concerns", such as:

"What about the women who feel insecure about themselves when they see sexy skinny women in porn?" The feminist answer to this is to sell a woman a book telling her that yes, she really ought to feel oppressed and ugly when she sees women's bodies in advertising and entertainment, and to whine a lot about such images being displayed.  My solution is to tell people to own up to their insecurities, and develop positive self-esteem that's not based on comparing themselves to idealized images in the media.  We all choose how we react to the world around us, and a large-chested size two model in a porno isn't forcing any woman to hate her own body.

"What about that study that shows sexually aggressive men look at a lot of pornography?" What about it?  Non-scientific and anti-porn minds take the study to mean looking at porn causes men to behave aggressively, even though such a conclusion is a classic logical fallacy.  I'd respond by telling people to read about the difference between causation and correlation, and to know that there are many more studies from all over the world that show a correlation between increased access to porn and a decrease in sex crimes.  If we're playing the correlation game, there's much more research to suggest that porn makes the world safer and less dangerous.  (Three I have bookmarked are Anthony D'Amato's 2006 study "Porn Up, Rape Down" about porn and rape in the United States, Dr. Milton Diamond's 1999 experience with studying porn and sex crimes in the US and Asia, and economist Todd Kendall's work, including "Pornography, Rape, and the Internet.")

"What about porn companies that don't treat their performers well?" None of us have any real statistics about what percentage of performers feel abused or unhappy with their jobs, and I'm not going to waste my time debating my guesses with other people who are also making guesses.  (My guess, though, is that the porn industry has a higher level of job satisfaction than most other occupations.)  Are some workers in the porn industry mistreated or miserable?  Of course, sadly, but that doesn't make the jiz biz especially evil.  There are exploited workers in every sector in every country in the world.  Further, it is pornographers and performers who are the most likely to know about adult companies that have had complaints from talent.  If you want the real scoop on a given porn company and how well they treat their workers, you don't email a women's studies academic on the other side of the country to ask for a referral.  You ask people in the porn industry.  Sex workers are pretty damn protective of each other and will gladly share if they've ever heard of a company engaging in bad business practices.

It annoys me to live in an age of public discourse where people are coddled and told that every idea is valid and just as likely to be correct as any other idea.  Ideas are not lottery tickets - each with an equal and random chance of winning.  When it's almost unheard of to unapologetically state that a given idea or person is flat-out wrong, the intellectually-lazy public believes that the truth always lies in the middle.  Not everything is a compromise.  Not everything is a debate.  Not everyone's opinion is a beautiful and unique snowflake - sometimes, it's just yellow piss-filled slush.

The sex-positive scene, and the world at large, needs to stop giving concern trolls and those who "teach the controversy" an equal platform with equal consideration.  Their goal is to dump impenetrable grey area paint all over everything so that the well-reasoned text beneath becomes unreadable.  It only encourages them to acknowledge and give legitimacy to their every little whimper and fuss.

As a younger person, I wasted a lot of time and energy line-by-line debating anti-sex worker loonies in front of small internet audiences, and I won't make that mistake again.  I'd rather just make good ethical porn, and occasionally blog about sex work politics to a wider audience.  One of the most powerful political slogans I've ever seen was a Bobby Sands quote on a mural in Belfast that read, "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."  Well, my revenge in the porn wars will be the laughter of the performers I hire to make awesome smut with me - and there have been a lot of genuine smiles and laughs on my shoots.





16 Comments

  1. You know, if I was still in school I would be writing my thesis on the 30 years of Playboy magazines I have stacked up here and how they portray more positive female role models, healthy athletic bodied women, and women smiling than you see in the pages of Cosmo.

    Comment by Roxxie — June 21, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  2. Roxxie: Playboy also has an amazing history of publishing very progressive and intelligent writing, getting such ideas out to a far broader audience than, say, The New Yorker. (Which I am convinced most people just subscribe to because it makes them look smart when it sits on their coffee table.)

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 21, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  3. Maybe it's just intellectual snobbery on my part, but I notice that the anti-porn movement seems to involve a significant number of people with prestigious university appointments, so I find myself forced to take their arguments more seriously than I would take those of creationists. (I haven't found their arguments convincing, but then, feminist apologetics, and for that matter, sociological arguments in general, often lose me to the point where I'm not sure if they basically don't make sense or if I just don't understand them.) Creationism, it appears to me, is a movement that is struggling (with little success except among the ignorant) to legitimize itself; the anti-porn movement legitimized itself long ago and now needs to be de-legitimized. Maybe debating them directly isn't the way to do it. When I think about it, you're probably right to imply that derision is a more effective strategy than engagement. But one can't simply dismiss them.

    Comment by D. Claude Katz — June 21, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  4. Furry Girl and Everyone, I think you would really like an Australian comedian called Tim Minchin - He has all Furrygirls opinions, but in song form, and its hilarious. His revenge is the laughter of everyone.

    The "Are you ready for this?" DVD is the most relgiously political one, but here are a few of excerpts:

    Statistics on american belief in evolution:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9uIMR8yCPg

    The Good Book Song:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxXrTRFVUkQ

    Tim Minchin Interview: Athiesm, Comedy and Religiosity in America:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOiyC8yXQx8&feature=related

    Truly. Watch them, they are fantastic.

    Comment by Alchemy — June 21, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

  5. I hear you, loud and clear. They cherry pick their socio-biology and neuroscience and all manny of evolutionary psychology, presenting the pro-sex worker science as coming from misogynists, whether male or female, and the anti-sex worker science as coming from angels sent from the goddess herself. Liars and disinformationists at best! I'm so sick of them, I moved from blogging to youtube, and there is a rowdy group of mostly out sex workers making vids over there, pushing these bitches back hard - well as hard as we can - every video I have is about sex work, the anti's the conflations of rape, work, slavery and on and on... I'm so pissed, and no, I don't engage the anti's at all... but I keep very, very close tabs on what they are up to. Because they are up to trying to kill me and mine.

    Comment by FeministWhore — June 22, 2010 @ 7:29 am

  6. D: The anti-sex worker movement's use of academics is a double-edged sword, one that I think cuts them more than it cuts me. Sure, they have professors with PhDs presenting their moral and religious beliefs, but I think it just goes to show how completely removed they are from the actual day-to-day issues and concerns of people who are actually impacted by the sex industry. I take anything they say to be from a fairly "let them eat cake" perspective. And, the sex-positive movement isn't comprised of illiterate hillbillies. I'm proud to have a junior-high-level formal education, but if you're into degrees, there's Dr Marty Klein, Dr Carol Queen, Dr Annie Sprinkle, Dr Milton Diamond, to name a few.

    FeministWhore: Agreed. Sex workers are the ones with the matter closest to us because we're the ones with our lives and livelihoods at risk. I've seen a lot of "sex worker allies" obtusely miss that fact lately, as they dole out condescending lectures about what sex workers ought to be doing for their own liberation.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 22, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  7. Attacking your opponents as an out-of-touch elite is one technique that you have in common with the creationists. Admittedly it's a lot more relevant in your case, since the substance of it deals with people rather than fossils. And there's not really anything wrong with it; I'm just finding a certain amusing irony here.

    But I wasn't trying to imply that the antis have a better case because they have more academics than you. (I'm not sure they do have more academics.) I was just saying that, for me, your analogy between antiporn and creationism fails, because creationism doesn't really have any serious academics at all. So there's nothing to stop me from dismissing creationist arguments as nonsense right off the bat. And I can be fairly sure that, if they don't make sense to me, that's because they really are nonsense and not because I don't understand them.

    Comment by D. Claude Katz — June 23, 2010 @ 2:25 am

  8. D: I'm probably going to stop replying to any of your comments soon, since you don't really have anything to say other than trying to troll my blog for someone to fight with you with your "my first day of debating porn"-level comments. First you compare pornography to Nazi propaganda on some post, and now I'm just like a creationist.

    As for my attacking anti-sex worker academics as out-of-touch with the day-to-day lives of sex workers (because they are), I don't see how anyone can debate the truth there. Creationists don't despise Richard Dawkins because he's an "out of touch" academic in regards to he's talking about - he's an evolutionary biologist who talks about evolutionary biology. He's talking the talk and walking the walk. Your comparison makes no sense.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 23, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  9. Excerpt from Furry Girl 6-21-10

    It annoys me to live in an age of public discourse where people are coddled and told that every idea is valid and just as likely to be correct as any other idea. Ideas are not lottery tickets - each with an equal and random chance of winning. When it's almost unheard of to unapologetically state that a given idea or person is flat-out wrong, the intellectually-lazy public believes that the truth always lies in the middle. Not everything is a compromise. Not everything is a debate. Not everyone's opinion is a beautiful and unique snowflake - sometimes, it's just yellow piss-filled slush.

    Very well stated and I completely agree with your comments.

    "concern trolling" I am glad to have a name for that annoying tactic.

    I wish your views could reach a larger audience. I don't know what venue would be the best. I have said before, you are very good.

    Comment by Your old neighbor — June 25, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  10. Thanks, Mr. ex-neighbor!

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 25, 2010 @ 4:01 am

  11. This is probably 99% off-topic, but reading this reminded me somehow of the Suffragettes, and the two camps they generally fell into - Christian Suffragettes and what one might call Equality Suffragettes or Secular Suffragettes or non-religious-fanatic Suffragettes.

    Christian suffragettes wanted to have the right to vote so they could help protect the White race which they believed was in danger of extinction throught race-mixing and lower birth rates. They also wanted to lobby to keep Asian men and other non-whites from voting (at least in Canada; it might have been slightly different in America).

    They were also very, very concerned with the degrading effects of alcohol and drunkenness since they believed it loosened even the purest man's morals and allowed him to commit all sorts of crimes against innocent womenfolk (a proper Lady, of course, simply didn't consume alcohol or get drunk at that time).
    They also argued that alcoholism increased crime (okay, technically true depending on how you look at it).

    They believed the only way to fix this was to abolish, or prohibit it. Hmmm, I wonder how that turned out...

    Also, I'm amazed that in all of the minority rights movements, feminism is the only one where an activist can openly talk about oppressing people from your own minority group while telling people that doing so is actually helping the cause to end oppression for all members of said minority group - and a large portion of activists will actually believe that person...

    Imagine a male gay rights advocate blatantly telling other gay men that feminine men are hurting the cause and must be actively oppressed, and that doing so will reduce homophobic oppression and help the cause - would other activist gay men, even the ones who secretly don't like feminine gay men, think that that makes any logical sense?

    Comment by md — June 28, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  12. md: bizarrely, I think this really does happen within the gay community and the gay rights movement. Infamously so, in fact. Feminism is in general less unique than you might think.

    Comment by makomk — June 30, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  13. Makomk, I know it sort of happens in the way that people in general favour masculinity over femininity, and some assimilationist masculine gays (the types who lack solidarity) are willing to sell out feminine men and the "T" in GLBT (see the humorously named Human Rrights Campaign) - stuff like that happens in every movement. Being a minority in one social class doesn't make you immune from prejudice.

    However,

    You'd need alot of magical thinking to convince an entire movement - from diehard radicals to pure assimilationists - that spending their precious energy, time and resources to oppressing (or at least, not supporting) feminine gay men will actually liberate all gay men everywhere
    (or another example, to oppress black gay men would help to liberate all gay men everywhere... even a white gay racist upon hearing this might see the inherent logical flaw).

    If a gay "activist" who really only cared about masculine gay men's activism tried to openly use this argument, even with some bullshit sprinkled on it most gays would eventually go "huh? how will oppressing the queens liberate me again? aren't they ALSO gay men and a part of the movement?!"

    What makes it work with feminists I think, is that while for most of history, in times of sexual and gender oppression whores and pornographers were the most feminist and sex-positive people around, today the women in those industries are not even really seen as actual women, as feminism deep-throated whole general society's collective anti-sex worker prejudices

    (how many sex-pos. feminists also studied human sexuality enough to understand sexophobia and become sex radicals? probably most of them. I wouldn't be surprised that if you surveyed all self-identified feminists and took out anyone who identified with another anti-oppression movement all you'd have left would be sex-negative "radical" feminists)

    The other problem, is a problem that affects all minority groups and is sort of obvious but I'll state it anyway: most feminists are women. They want to un-learn the oppressive indoctrination they were given. But it's hard; they can't unlearn everything at once. One issue that seriously needs to be addressed (even more so with women than men) is sex-negativity. Feminists as a whole have issues with sex workers because they have issues with sex and sexual behaviour that many of them still need to address.

    Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe some gay "activist" really has some gays convinced that feminine gay men are one of the biggest sources of their oppression. Even if so, it wouldn't seem to be as bad as it is with feminists - if it were you'd see a schism, with feminine gay men, like sex workers (and like lesbians should have done had they known the price to their sexuality to be paid to join the Girls' Club), would form their own independent activist organizations, and would apply feminist/gay lib. principles to help them but would want nothing to do with the gay lib./feminist Movement/Establishement...

    Comment by md — July 1, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  14. When I went to Baptist hellementary school, they had a special guest speaker come in and host a big school-wide assembly, and we learned that the world is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs are a "fraud perpetuated by the vast scientific conspiracy." Afterwards I informed my teacher that the speaker was "full of shit." I was eight. This was frowned upon.

    One of the people in that documentary is actually the wife of one of the ministers from the church I grew up in. Nice lady, incredibly as a matter of fact, very intelligent. I don't know what happened...

    Comment by Morgan — July 13, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

  15. Satire/sarcasm follows:

    Furrygirl, you are just like a creationist, because they have opinions, and you also have opinions. I mean really! Also, you mention science sometimes and they also mention the word science from time to time.

    Comment by Bogo1 — November 21, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  16. Comment by Trackbacks — July 29, 2014 @ 12:42 am

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