The Whole “Men Like Fucking; Women Like Feelings” Sham

20 05 2011

Tonight I had a conversation with my mother about male and female desires. She told me about the recent scandal over the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger had sex with one of his and his wife Maria Shriver’s maids. She paused thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “I don’t think men are supposed to stay monogamous in long-term relationships. I think they’re supposed to play around.” I was already armed and ready with a response. I took out her day-planner and proceeded to draw a simple diagram on one of the pages.

In fact, I want you to do this right now. Seriously. Do it. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Draw three or four Mars signs on one side of the paper, and three or four Venus signs on the other side of the paper. Now, draw a line connecting the first Mars sign to each one of the Venus signs. Then draw a line connecting the second male sign to each one of the Venus signs. Do the same for all subsequent Mars signs. Now, do the same for each Venus sign–draw a line connecting each Venus sign to each Mars sign. Once you are finished, you will see that every single Mars sign connects with every single Venus sign. The point of this exercise is to show that men cannot have sex with lots of women without women also having sex with lots of men. It is basic logic.

My mother is quick. She figured out what I was doing even before I had moved on to the third Mars sign. After recognizing my point, she said, “Yes, I understand what you are saying, but I think that women are more promiscuous in their youth, and more monogamous in their later years.” In other words, she was saying, all the women who were having sex with all the other men were doing it in their youth, whereas men spread it out into their later years. And I value her opinion as a woman–maybe this is what she has observed–but I still have qualms even about this “women are sluttier in youth and more loyal in old age” model. Why should women be more loyal their partner in old age, and men more disloyal to their partner in older age? It creates a disconnect, a conflict, between the man and the woman. And we always say something like, “Oh, well, the woman should understand the man’s desire to have many mates, and she should accept that”, but we never say that the man should respect the woman’s desire for monogamy. It’s always easy for men to say that. And that’s just assuming that women are “supposed” to be more monogamous in later years.

Why should they be? To me it suggests that women should be able to enjoy novelty primarily in youth, and men, evenly throughout their entire adulthood. But this still creates an insoluble and illogical conflict. If women are supposed to be slutty when they’re young (they reach puberty first and have menopause midlife) and men are supposed to be more or less slutty throughout their lives (they can breed until they die), there is a conflict of interest between women and men. We can be like John Gray (the author of Men Are from Mars; Women Are from Venus) and say, “Oh, they should learn to understand and accept one another”, but that’s easier said than done. They can’t be expected to understand and accept one another when their interests are fundamentally opposed to the core. So I provide a novel solution. Women should learn to embrace sexual experimentation later in life, and men, in their youth. We should challenge ourselves to think and act differently according to our present-day needs, and not those of our ancestors on the primordial savanna. And if you tell me that there are innate brain differences, let me tell you this: We are not slaves to our brains–our brains are our servants.

That brings up the whole issue of sex differences in the brain. Lord, god. I could go on a tangent about this, but I won’t. With regard to sexuality, the basic argument is that men have a greater libido than women because men have more testosterone, which contributes to sex drive, and also because in heterosexual men the third interstitial notch of the anterior hypothalamus is both bigger and denser than in women. (In gay men, it has the same rate of neuronal density as in straight men, but it is the same size as in straight women. As usual, they left out lesbians.) My response is: So what? So what if the male brain has been constructed (by whom?) to be more sexually opportunistic? That doesn’t mean that it should be. It only means that it has been. We would not say that white people should avoid tropical climates because their skin lacks melanin; no, we would give them skin-block. Similarly, we would not say that black people should be more susceptible to heart attacks just because in some environments they are more susceptible to high cholesterol levels. And we would not say Native Americans should be more susceptible to liver disease just because they are more sensitive to alcohol. And, finally, we would not say that a man should rape somebody just because he has an overload of testosterone. In all cases we would concoct a medication to correct a condition deemed undesirable. Natural does not equal right, and unnatural does not equal wrong. A thing is not right just because it is real, and it is not wrong just because it is not real. If it is real in the first place.

Why should I care? In a recent news story, a man from Long Island, New York beat his girlfriend’s toddler son to death because he acted like a “girl”. And the man said so in the police statement. That’s right. A man beat a small boy to death because the boy acted like a “girl”. (Whatever that’s supposed to be.) We think that the whole macho “men like sex and things” and “women like people and feelings” thing is so normal, but what is normal is not so palatable when a parent’s little two year-old boy is beaten to death for being too emotional or delicate. It is for such unfortunate reasons that I wake up every day and write the material I do. It is because of such horrors that we should think hard about how we present gender to our very vulnerable children.

Children are so pure and free. Let us launch them up and see where they fly, what they can be.

What Makes A Feminist?

18 05 2011

A heterosexual male friend of mine once told me about a chat he had online with somebody who was offended at the fact that his AOL profile (this was back in the ’90s) included the Gloria Steinem quotation, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”. According to him, the other person argued that he should not include such a quotation in his profile since women did not need the support of men. Some men have tried to avoid such pitfalls by calling themselves “pro-feminist” instead of “feminist”. But what is the difference? Both view men and women as equals. One might find this “men can’t be feminists” attitude to be illogical and sexist, because it presupposes that women, but not men, should support women’s rights.

To determine how such a view can be construed as sexist, let us take a look at the definition of feminism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word feminism denotes “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. If feminism is based on the equality of the sexes, but a person states that female support is superior to male support, that person is technically being sexist. If a person seeks support, he or she should view both male and female support as equal, otherwise he or she is not a feminist, but a sexist. In other words, feminists would ideally seek the support of females and males equally, and not one over the other, because they view females and males as equals. Given this assumption, the Steinem quotation should tacitly read, “Women need men or other women as much as a fish needs a bicycle”, for if females and males are equal, female advocacy is as useful as male advocacy.

Besides, how do you explain intersexuality? If you do not believe that males can be feminists, but that females can, what position should intersexual people take? Some of them are considered sexually ambiguous by the most clinical biological definition–chromosomal ambiguity (XXY, XYY, or even something else). What should their feelings be on this issue? They at least should have a say in the matter.

There are important, very practical, exceptions to this principle. For example, it is understandable that a women’s rape relief centre should deny entry to men. Women who seek the services of these centres are often physically and psychologically traumatised, and the presence of men can exacerbate their stress. We might argue that these women should view men as being as supportive as any woman, and many of them probably are, but such a demand requires an unfair and unrealistic amount of reflection on the part of women who are in an emergency situation. The important thing for these women is to feel safe and secure, and to recover stress-free from their trauma, and if this means the exclusion of a visible threat, I think this is only reasonable.

The most important thing is that everybody seek equality for everybody. If we are all in this together, we should not be splitting hairs over the very differences we are trying to surmount in the first place. That is counter-productive, almost like shooting yourself in the foot. Black people need the support of everybody; gay people need the support of everybody; women need the support of everybody; men need the support of everybody; the disabled need the support of everybody; everybody needs the support of everybody. In that way, we are all equal. We are all inherently equal, and we should all be standing in solidarity as members of the same species and supporting one another. For the most part, we are all in the same boat rocking back and forth on the same stormy ocean, and, consequently, we are all dodging the same capricious waves.

The Inimitable Raja

13 05 2011

Drag is such a random and complex artform. It’s full of desperate freaks with few job skills, larger-than-life personalities, and a universe-ful of unorganised emotions. And there are so many types of drag that we can hardly keep up. As drag becomes more mainstream and acceptable, we can now watch reality television shows about competing drag queens. RuPaul’s Drag Race is by far the most famous (are there any others?), and perhaps the most fascinating creature on Drag Race to fell her opponents and seize the crown is the inimitable Raja, known also by his birth-name, Sutan Amrull.

Since Amrull won Season 3 of Drag Race (and even before his win was certain) people have been buzzing about the queen’s cutting-edge sensibility and unconventional take on drag. (Personally, this is exactly how I’d do drag. Sleek, smooth, and modern.) They’ve pointed out his neglect of traditional feminizing padding, his unapologetically manly voice, and his “thinkiness” about the whole art of drag. After all, his other drag competitors have argued, a real drag queen is supposed to be traditionally girly and talk with a squeaky voice. On top of that, he did a challenge (which he won) in which he very expertly embodied a hardcore punk-rock chick singing to a RuPaul hit. The problem traditional queens have with Amrull is that he has broken the traditional drag mould. Of course, this presupposes that he has rejected traditional ideas of femininity. Wow. We’re now talking about men who imitate women who are not traditionally feminine. Can we get more complex? It’s almost like Victor/Victoria reversed.

I’m confused already. And that’s a good thing.

To give you an idea how challenging Raja’s gender (and cultural) performance can be, let us briefly summarize his outfits from Drag Race. In consecutive order, we have the Native American chief, the Amazonian warrior, a stunningly elegant and edgy take on Marie Antoinette, and, of course, the sister of C3PO, as shown in the initial image at the top. (My favourite. The cold, hard, elegant robot, who does not necessarily follow the orders of her creator).

For me, the most memorable thing RuPaul said during Season 3 was that Amrull took drag to an “intellectual…special place”. It wasn’t his fake tits that mattered (he didn’t have any latex boobs); it wasn’t his showgirl persona that won the day; it wasn’t even his dance moves or voice. It was his creativity. In one episode, when asked by the judges why he wanted to be America’s next drag superstar, he responded with the utmost sincerity that boys should have as much right as girls to be pretty and fashionable. And he’s right.

I think Amrull won not just because of his technical skill, but also because he genuinely values drag as an instrument for social change–but with an unusual, almost alien panache. Men could be women. Or men could simply be men and do the same things as women–wear dresses and makeup. And women could be rulers, warriors, scientists, and other powerful figures, as depicted in so many of Amrull’s drag archetypes. It is that kind of challenge to the status quo that is so valuable, and so important, and the fact that it is packaged so prettily and daintily doesn’t hurt either.

Beth Ditto Slaps My Ass with Her Sequin Handbag

12 05 2011

I was so excited when I found out that Beth Ditto, frontwoman of the alternative/indie/dance band Gossip, had released her very own solo EP, titled, “Queen of the Homosexuals”. No. Just kidding. It’s called Beth Ditto. I love Ditto’s rich, mellifluous voice, so I was excited to see what style of music she’d pair it with on her own release, without the traditional band set-up she has relied on up until now.

And it’s been two months since its release, so I thought I should probably write about it already.

The chief track off the EP is “I Wrote the Book”, a dark, sexy, beat-laden romp reminiscent of late ’80s and early ’90s house music. As the 2000s come to a close and the 2010s emerge, we are, of course, wondering where the ’80s revival will take us. Well, apparently, it has taken us to the edge of the decade, back to the time when the clubs were filled with vogue dancers and the sounds of Chicago and New York were just beginning to hit the radio waves–if they ever did hit the radio waves. Dance music never hit the mainstream in America for some reason. At the same time, however, the interpretation of the house style and the technique sounds refreshingly modern, like the way house music would have been made if they had the technology back in the ’80s.

The video depicts Ditto frolicking around in a bathtub with thick, ominous make-up accentuating her catlike eyes, fixing herself up at a dressing table, and proceeding to dance around with a bunch of vogue dancers providing back-up behind her. Watching it is kind of like watching Madonna’s “Vogue” video, except Ditto has a haunting edginess and irresistible cynicism about her–plus the high glamour. Now that diva commands the stage.

If you like dark, punchy, edgy dance music buoyed by the smooth, luscious voice of a true, bad-ass diva with a seductively no-nonsense attitude, you really should buy this EP. It is a pleasure to see Ditto depart from her usual blue/rock sound and explore her more contemporary, synth-based dance-club sensibility. And it is such a relief to watch somebody who is just being herself, and not filling some sugary, prefabricated mould of what a female pop star is supposed to be.

This EP is all caprice, darkness, glamour, dance moves, and fashion, darling. Listening to it is like bathing in a pool of jewels, make-up compacts, lipstick tubes, high-heels, curling irons, stockings, old club music vinyls, and spilt glasses of Cristal. Gorgeous, darling. Gorgeous.

My Problem with Christian Theology

11 05 2011

I’m not an atheist. I know. I’m sorry. Maybe a pantheist? A theistic-agnostic? An apatheist? A Gnostic? A mystic? A pagan-feminist? An explorer? A miscreant? Maybe I’m a permutation of the above. But I’m not religious either. For me, religion and spirituality are two separate things entirely; to confound the two constitutes a false equivalency. Spirituality is the practice of learning about and communing with the dead, the afterlife, and the nature of the universe from a personal and largely but not exclusively intuitive perspective; it is mysticism. Religion is the organized governmental or ecclesiastical control of these tendencies for a base, mundane purpose, such as social control, wealth, or power. Religion is the exploitation of spirituality.

Based upon my readings a posteriori, reflections a priori, and personal experiences, I consider the theory of life after death plausible–even reasonable (cf. Susan Blackmore vs. Pim van Lommel). I also believe strongly in the theory of evolution. So, there you go. Try to wrap your heads around that clusterfuck, bitches.

That disclaimer aside, there is a long list of problems I have with Judeo-Christian theology. This is already so obvious to the average free-thinker that I almost feel silly saying it, but I shall forge ahead nevertheless.

I had problems with Christianity very early on. I remember getting a paper-back edition of the New International Version (contemporary retard version) of the Bible for my birthday in 1986 (I would have preferred a dusty old volume commissioned by King James himself—but, unfortunately, it probably would have been made of vellum and leather, and I am pescatarian going on vegetarian). To the delight of my keen and lustful child’s eye, it came with tiny little gold stickers with which to mark noteworthy Bible verses. After playing around with the stickers (I loved stickers and even had a sticker-book with unicorns in it), I quickly grew disturbed by the things I read about in this most revered of tomes. I began to annotate the margins with statements showing my contempt for and indignation over the commandments made therein. How dare they! There was no way I was going to demand that women submit to me just because I had a penis. I was irate. How arrogant! That is the last man on earth I want to be. (I like to think I was rather precocious for an eight year-old boy.)

But that’s not all. As I grew older and developed more sophisticated thinking skills, I centred my attention on the core doctrine of evangelical Protestantism–salvation through blood sacrifice. Yes. You heard me right. Blood sacrifice. Basically, like the Jews, Protestants believe that Yahweh (God) requires blood to be drawn in order to forgive humans their sins. Originally, the Israelites had to slaughter animals in order to propitiate Yahweh and mollify his wrath, because recompense had to be made somehow. After a couple of millennia, Yahweh decided to incarnate as a human being named Yeshua, or Jesus, and have himself sacrificed instead of an animal. Humans would go to heaven if they accepted this sacrifice, and they would go to hell if they rejected it. And there were no good deeds other than this deed that one could perform to please God, no matter how hard one tried. One had to accept the sacrifice of the Christ-avatar. And, ooooh, you HAD to believe this, everybody at church said. You HAD to!

Put in these terms, the doctrine just plain sounds barbaric, and the attitude of its defenders primitive, desperate, anti-rational, and cult-like. But let us deal one-by-one with the problems underlying this doctrine.

The first problem is with the whole idea of blood sacrifice. Christianity is inextricably intertwined with it. Whether the sacrificial victim is an animal or an avatar (god-turned-human), it is still a victim of blood sacrifice. Only once the Hebrew war-god Yahweh’s appetite for blood is sated will he overlook the human transgression for which the slaughter was performed. It doesn’t matter to Yahweh that the animal being slaughtered is totally innocent, and that the sinner gets away scot-free. Indeed, the fact that the victim is innocent pleases him even more– the whole idea is that the victim has to be faultless and perfect for the sacrifice to have any currency. In essence, Yahweh is a vengeful and blood-thirsty sadist who gets a kick out of seeing innocent things slaughtered. But even if the sinner is guilty, why require of them a sacrifice rather than a reform in their behaviour? Oh, that’s right, because blood, pain, and fear are more exciting for sadistic Bronze Age war-gods. Why did we ever give up the whole blood sacrifice thing? Oh, wait, that’s right. Christians still require it–it’s just that the deed has already been done for them.

If you think that is twisted beyond imagining, consider the whole trinity thing. For most Christians, God and Jesus are literally the same being, along with the Holy Spirit (which is supposed to be some kind of entity that is active in people’s daily lives). God simply became Jesus to perform his earthly duty and get sacrificed so that the Jews wouldn’t have to keep slaughtering goats. (The only difference is that the victim is now a human. Wow. What an improvement.) But if God is Jesus, and God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then God basically committed suicide when Jesus was sacrificed on the cross. But isn’t suicide wrong for Christians? And don’t their Ten Commandments teach them that killing is wrong? If so, God isn’t setting a very good example by committing suicide to redeem humans. On top of that, Jesus is constantly referring to God his “Father” as if God is somebody else. But if Jesus and God are the same entity, wouldn’t this mean that Jesus is slightly schizophrenic? And yet Jesus, or God, is supposed to be perfect. So, basically, God had himself tortured to death so humans would pity him, so that he would thereby propitiate himself (???) and satisfy himself that those who lavished him with attention should go to heaven.

Doesn’t that seem childish and manipulative? Like throwing a temper tantrum? It’s a bit anthropomorphic—like a sublimated expression of human insecurities. But I thought God was supposed to be better than that. Oh. Wait. That’s right. We are all made in God’s image. Which suggests God is a petty war-god just like us. So what is the point in believing in him?

On top of that, we have the whole doctrine of grace thing, which states that God accepts redemption not through good deeds, but through his own charity, so long as the individual accepts the blood sacrifice. Belief in that sacrifice is the only deed the individual can perform to appease Yahweh. Nothing else they ever do–no matter how noble–will match in value the acceptance of a blood sacrifice of an innocent being, and good deeds are only a by-product, or the “fruits”, of the ultimate good deed—propitiating Yahweh’s bloodthirst. But, if we think about it, this is not exactly charity, is it? If God requires a blood sacrifice, he still requires payment of some sort, so he is not exactly showing the sinner clemency. He is still stipulating a condition for redemption. What of true magnanimity? In addition, why shouldn’t God require the sinner to pay for their sins by performing good deeds? Of what use to anybody is a slaughtered goat or man? The most logical way of repaying a transgression is by performing its opposite act, thereby replacing what has been lost. For example, if I steal something from somebody, I can correct that wrong by replacing the stolen item or performing some act which returns things to their better state. And this does not happen when one does something totally irrelevant and slaughters a goat or tortures a Jewish spiritual teacher on a cross.

On top of this, just to bring the bile to the very tip of your tongue, the Roman Catholics still cling to a rite that recalls cannibalism and vampirism. It’s called the doctrine of transubstantiation. While the Protestants believe you get to heaven solely by accepting the blood sacrifice of the Christ-avatar, the Catholics believe you can get to heaven by this as well as several other rites, called sacraments. One of these sacraments is the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the parishioner consumes a piece of bread and some wine. For Catholics, during this ritual the bread literally turns into the flesh of Christ, and the wine, the blood of Christ. The logical conclusion is that the parishioner is consuming the flesh and blood of a human being—the sacrificial lamb, which is Christ, who is God. So, for them, God became a human being whose flesh and blood one could consume to gain eternal life (go to heaven and escape hell). Does this not seem savage and bizarre?

I won’t mince words. Christian theology, as it is normally taught, is based on bloodlust, violence, misogyny, slavery, animal cruelty, death, and torture. (And the only way Christ miraculously rises from the dead, as Christians often point out he does, is by being tortured to death in the first place.) Christianity devalues altruism and extols as the only good deed the validation of blood sacrifice, for its god is appeased only through the performance or acceptance of such sacrifice, and not through anything like feeding the hungry or giving to the poor. These are merely subsidiary to the prime act—to shed blood in order to appease an angry, sadistic god. In addition, it requires the subordination of females to males, to which I can never assent. Certainly there are Christians who believe this is hogwash, and who emphasise all of the good things Jesus did and taught, but for the most part, the prevailing doctrine of this religion is the acceptance of the tortured death of their leader to pay for their sins. I don’t know about you, but I cannot be a part of such a religion. I find it abominable.

I believe in life, love, beauty, happiness, liberty, equality, pleasure, gentleness, empathy, and compassion. It is this constellation of virtues that should be the common denominator for every act we perform. I hope I can find other people who hold these values for their own sake.