Of Voyeurism, Athletics and Sex


It’s Saturday morning.  I’m in my office. On the way in to school I listened to NPR as I do every morning during the 45 minute drive to my university. During the week I hear the news on Morning Edition, but on Saturday, a show called “Only a Game” airs on my local NPR station. It’s about sports. It seems incongruous to me that the NPR listeners, who ostensibly care about real things like foreign policy or social issues, care anything about Tiger Woods or the NCAA basketball tournament.  Yet, even on the venerable “All Things Considered” news show this week there has been serious discussion about the college basketball.  No it was not about, not the fact that only 67% NCAA basketball players who are provided full ride scholarships leave school with a degree or  how black players are far less likely to graduate than white players.; but on who wins a silly game.  

That got me thinking about sports fans. Sports fans simply voyeurs.  They get personal enjoyment out of watching others, with more gifts than their own, do things they would like to be able to do.  They vicariously feel the joy of victory and the misery of defeat.  

Then I began to think about how our entire society is wrapped up in voyeurism of one sort or another; and, the performers are our greatest heroes.  The piece on Tiger Wood pointed out that when Tiger wins tournaments, more people watch golf on TV and buy golf equipment.   But is not the entire entertainment industry about voyeurism. I don’t just mean reality TV and People Magazine.  But even serious drama is about imaging ourselves in the shoes of the people on the screen or stage.   When I watched Les Misérables, I identified with Valjean; but I also identified with him when I read the book in 1987 while in the Army. And did I not act as a voyeur when as a junior high student I first read Lord of the Rings?

  So, it’s not just sports and trashy reality TV, but all of literate that feeds our need to experiences life though the experiences of others.   From the days when a group of young men gathered around the fire to hear the old Viking tell tales of his exploits to the latest crazy story of Lindsey Lohan; from Hamlet to NASCAR, humans routinely gain part of their identity and their joy of life from voyeurism, vicariously getting joy from others actions.  

So, I ask, why is watching people get brain injury inducing hits playing football, or beating the snot out of a person in boxing or MMA more reputable than watching attractive people make love.    We heard basketball commentators expound over the beauty of watching Michel Jordan bounce a ball and stuff it in a hoop. No one even pretends that part of that beauty was that Jordan was the embodiment of the attractive virile male.  Yet, what would happen if I brought up in “polite” company the fact that the people at xart.com consistently produce the most beautiful images of beautiful people making love?  Well here at my university, I’d be labeled a misogynist and oppressor of women at the least. In my circle of ”Christian” friends I’d be labeled a sinful pervert.

The argument from both groups of critics would be that the models were paid to have sex which is exploitive. Yet, compare that to the fact that we pay kids with tuition to public colleges to engage in sporting activities that leave many of them with lifelong scars and permanent debilitating injuries. Just the other day I was in an eatery next to campus and three of the universities’ start football players were chatting after their meal (One was the 2011 NCAA football freshman player of the year).  The discussion was on their off season surgeries to repair damage to their joints. So, the fact these kids have paid with serious bodily injury to entertain others is OK, but for a couple to have sex to entertain is not?  What makes football more wholesome than sex? And what makes the connoisseur of golf more sophisticated than the connoisseur of erotica?

In my case, not only am I the connoisseur or erotica, I am also the artist. I am (among other things) a professional glamour/erotica photographer.  My portfolio includes stylish nudes of both professional models and everyday women, as well as beautiful artistic photos of couples making love. Showing off my portfolio at my  public university I would surely be brought up on some sort of harassment charge; however, I brought in photos  of  our college football team in the mists of violent competition, I would only get praise.

In the end we humans are all voyeurs, the only question is what to we imagine doing.  And make no mistake the things we vicariously enjoy many people try to enjoy in real life.  Remember, Tiger Woods winning drives grown men to go out and golf.

We in the US are asking why young men are going on violent rampages, perhaps it’s because we encourage them to engage in voyeuristic violence in sports, movies and other entertainments. We teach these young men vicarious joy of physically controlling and hurting other people.  While it is very infrequent that a young man guns down a group of people; it is all routine that young men to put try out modeling controlling and violent behavior on those around them.  Why do so many young men want to use physical aggression on their girlfriends? Perhaps, we have taught them to idolize the guy who is the most physically aggressive on the basketball court? 

A recent study of teenage girls found that those who watch the most reality TV come to believe that the hurtful bullying behaviors are the normal way girls interact.  What we live though our voyeurism we come to believe is normal and desirable. How did the old Viking’s tales of adventure and plunder affect the young Norse boys? Why, they sought to replicate the predations of their forefathers of course. 

The sex-negative crusaders, from the right and the left, claim that sexual imagery leads to sexual abuse.   Well, let me ask how often do you see positive loving sex between two people portrayed in movies and TV?  Compared that with how often sex shown to as a form of exploitation (i.e. using sex as a tool or weapon), or being paired with self-destructive behavior (being drunk or stoned), or illicit like (covert affairs).  See my point?

Voyeuristic enjoyment of sex is so looked down upon that portrayal of sex ends up being “justified” in almost all entertainments by being coupled to negative behaviors most of the time. Then the fact that young people link sex with negative behaviors is blamed on ….you got it the fact that sex is being shown in entertainment.

Recently two movies were sent to the MPAA for ratings. One had a woman’s breasts being violently cut off and the other had two women kissing and suckling one other’s breasts.  Guess which one got the “R” rating (which allowed for wide distribution) and which one got the “NC-17 rating” that effectively killed theatrical release.  You got it, the MPAA banned loving use of breasts and allowed the violent one.

THEREFORE:

I propose that we as a society would be better if we at least allowed (or even encouraged) the portrayal of positive, life affirming sexual behavior in our culture.  People will live voyeuristically through the actions of others. That is just a fact. People will emulate what they enjoy seeing others doing.  

Therefore positive physical portrayals of lovemaking should be readily available and to both adults and teens AND be treated as a positive experience.     I would rather teens play a virtual sex game like this www.redlightcenter.com than the violent games that dominate the market. Yet, this game is not available to teens while games like Grand Theft Auto where rape is rewarded is.

I would content that it is the very illicit nature of sexual entertainment that gives rise to the trashy nature of commercial porn and the serious exploitation that still goes on in the sex entertainment industry.

I will go one final step.  I propose there is nothing bad for children to grow up in a world where people express love and affection with their genitals.  Simple nudity and positive portrayal of sexuality should not generate a rating more than PG; however, when sexuality is linked with negative behavior, especially violence, more restrictive ratings should be imposed.  

Of all the Silliness and Hype of the Gun Control Debate


The vitriol has now reached a pitch so high as to likely preclude any sort of reasonable discussion and both sides are 100% at fault.

We have long known that counter to  what seems reasonable, that the more people are forced to defend their own position on an issue the more (rather than less) they become committed to their position.

So every time a story headline on CNN reads “NRA’s paranoid fantasy flouts democracy” everyone who is at all in sympathy with the NRA and even many “neutral” gun owners feel attacked and will resist any sort of dialogue. 

I looked for a similarly problematic headline on Foxnews.com, but couldn’t find one. Over the last week it has been the left who have been on the offensive to brand gun owners as morally deficient….which of course only has the effect of making 47% of Americans who have a gun at home more unwilling to consider any sort of new gun control legislation.

Then both sides dredge up the fringe crazies who threaten civil war or create a video game where the player murders the leaders of the NRA.

Symptomatic of the lack of thought being put forth in the debate is the NRA’s proposal to have all schools have “armed guards” in all schools. MSNBC lead the charge in calling for “more guns in schools” a terrible idea and anyone who says it isn’t’ is deranged. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it “a shameful evasion of the gun crisis, devoid of soul-searching” and that the suggestion “offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.”

HOLD ON!   New York City schools have an entire school police division of over 5,000 “armed guards for its 1,700 schools. That’s way more than one each. So why the shocked rhetoric?  I’ve been in many schools as a school social worker. I worked for a public school district for 12 years and all middle and high schools I’ve been in have resource officers, i.e. armed guards, as do some elementary schools. So is that deranged? 

But, the NRA doesn’t get a pass; they didn’t propose who was to pay for resource officers in all elementary schools.  If they had proposed paying with them with a gun & ammo tax they would have been credible, but I guess they think we should shift funds from paying teachers to paying police officers. Then the NRA puts out a stupid ad using the president’s kids as a foil asking why do his kids get armed protection and others don’t? Now it’s always inappropriate to use the children like that but that’s not the real hypocrisy. The real hypocrisy is that the same conservatives who fight gun control, typically also fight against the transfer of tax money from their rich schools to the poor…i.e. yes rich schools can afford a resource officer. The president’s answer was actually quite good, he said he refused to believe that armed guards are the ONLY answer. It was a hopeful answer, but one that left open the door to that as a possibility.

The politicians are no better. The entire debate about assault weapons is just silly. Both sides are quite right. The advocates of a ban say that military weapons have no place in civil society and a ban of assault weapons is not an infringement on the 2nd Amendment. The opponents say that the cosmetic things that make a gun an assault weapon (like a pistol grip or bayonet mount) do not make those weapons any more dangerous than those without them and the ban is just a symbolic gesture. They are also quite right.  So why is either side fighting this silly fight? . Here is the link to the definition of an assault weapon, take a look and see if I’m right. http://www.jud.ct.gov/JI/criminal/glossary/assaultweapon.htm    Why not let the other side have a hollow victory?  The reason is that for activist and their political allies, this isn’t’ really about what will make a real difference; it is about winning. A hollow victory is still a victory and a hallow loss is still a loss.

 

If we are going to have an ugly national debate, I say we debate banning all self-loading weapons (in rifles they are called semi-auto and in pistols they are called autos).  That is a meaningful debate worth having.  Prior to the early 1980’s self-loading weapons were very rare in the civilian world.  Self-loading weapons are what make mass shootings possible.  One can change a 15 round magazine in 9mm Glock or an AR-15 in seconds, none of the prosed gun law changes will make these weapons less leather in a mass shooting setting. On the other hand, unless a person’s home is being assaulted by paratroopers, a .45 revolver or a pump shotgun is a more than adequate home defense.  This country has long required federal licensure for sub-machine guns, machineguns, cannons & tanks. This law is unquestionably constitutional.  The only difference between a self-loading rifle or pistol and an sub-machinegun is an inhibitor that reduces time it takes to empty a magazine from 6 seconds to 16 seconds and there is no barrier from simply changing that law to include all self-loading weapons.  Such a law would have a huge impact on the ability for deranged people to shoot up a school or movie theater.   

There are two reasons why law abiding people resist such logic. One is self-loading weapons are cool and fun.   I’ll be candid. I own a WW2 vintage M1 Carbine that I bought when I was in the US Army Reserve so as to keep my shooting skills up to par using military type peep sites. Shooting it is cool even though it jams ever 4th round and is so inaccurate I would hate to ever think my life depended on it. I also inherited an 1800’s vintage Belgian made black-powder double barrel shotgun that I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to load, let alone fire.  I would not be quick to give up these two pieces of history.

The other reason gun owners are so obstinate is the rhetoric of some of the anti-gun lobby as mentioned before. Every time the anti-gun forces portray gun owners as morally deficient it convinces gun owners that their real intent is to confiscate all guns.  There are some on the far left who truly do believe in an all-powerful government that controls every facet of life; however, that Marxian fringe does not represent the mainstream of gun control advocate, but they do disproportionally impact the rhetoric.  President Obama has made it much worse with his claim that his administration has the right to kill American citizens that he deems a potential threat via drones without resorting to the niceties of trials or even warrants.  In this way the advocates of gun control ensure there will be no gun control.  If enacting real consensus gun control were the goal, the gun control advocates would need to condemn the radicals in their own ranks as well as the radicals on the right and build a centrist coalition. This is not happening.

If I were to put on my cynical hat, I’d say the gun-control “industry” and their political allies are not so stupid as to not know they are, by their actions, stymieing gun control. I would say the whole thing is a charade to benefit themselves with no intent in actually passing meaningful laws that would put them out of business. The NRA is shameless in the way it does this very thing, but by doing so they both get to be rich and powerful, but they also get what they want, no regulation.   In that way the NRA and the gun-control groups are a symbiotic system, enriching and empowering themselves at public expense.

But of course, I’m not that cynical so I won’t say that.

I will say that it is time for a “REAL” gun control debate. I say a debate on the requiring federal licensure of all self-loading weapons has legitimate arguments on both sides and needs to be debated on a national scale.  

In such a debate, no one is a villain for making arguments for or against. Civil society can only exist when we have civil debate.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Of the Supreme Court and Gay Marriage


Well the voices of alarm are at full throat this week.   The Supreme Court will unveil its decisions on two cases dealing with gay marriage. To the pressure groups and much of the media, these two cases are essentially the same; however, that is because to them messaging is more important than substance.

One case Hollingsworth v. Perry the plaintiffs are seeking to have California’s ban on same-sex marriage overturned.  The other case U.S. v. Windsor,  there is a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  

Among think tanks these cases have created some very odd bedfellows.  For instance the libertarian Cato institute and a number of conservative legal scholars have declared DOMA as being unconstitutional social engineering and that it should be overturned. Thus allying them with the Obama administration and the gay rights organizations.  

The CATO institute also has come out to oppose Proposition 8 taking the libertarian position that the equal protection clause does apply and that proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage,  is an unacceptable intrusion into private affairs.

Of course the loudest voices are those political pros who make their living making a lot of noise.  The Christian Taliban are out in force promising God’s judgment on the US is  the court overturns these two laws.   This morning I as late to work, so I turned on local talk radio (rather than NPR’s Morning Edition as I usually do) and heard the vitriol.   The callers universally believe that the US is a “Christian” nation and that it is the government’s job to keep everyone acting in a righteous way (as they define it) and thus, these two laws are justified to keep God’s favor by condemning homosexuality.   On one hand I found these people laughably provincial, since they seem to think all of the US is just like the rural South.  On the other hand they are scary because this is a core belief that the job of government is to enforce “God’s law”, as they see it, on everyone (hence I call them the Christian Talban).

The other group is not nearly as crazy, but they speak in their own hyperbole.  To liken California’s Proposition 8 to the Jim Crow laws is laughable if it weren’t used with such good effect.  California has very comprehensive domestic partnership laws, so comprehensive as to make domestic partnerships virtually indistinguishable from marriage.  Yes, there are some rights not afforded, but mostly this very bitter fight over Proposition 8 is about symbolism over substance (for both sides).

What is most interesting in California is that if the Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8 as a proper exercise of the citizens to enact their own laws (which I think they will do); and strikes down DOMA as an improper usurpation of federal authority over the states (which I think they will also do, then the difference between domestic partnerships and marriage will be very meaningful.   So, in California there will be an immediate drive to repeal Prop. 8.   In such a case I have no doubt that Prop. 8 will be repealed.

I’ll say right here, that I think Prop. 8 should be upheld.  The integrity of the democratic process outweighs the right to use the word “marriage”.  This is not like the Civil Rights Act.  Gay and Lesbian American’s not only have equal political rights, it can be fairly argued that their political influence greatly exceeds the 1.7% of the population which they represent.  If they want the right to marry, the road map is laid out already. Just  get the voters on board as has been done in several states already.  I would suggest that Prop. 8 and  DOMA were both reactions to courts getting ahead of the people on this and in the end, activist courts who try to impose their will over the population do the GLBT community a disservice.  There is little doubt that demographics will resolve this issue in many states in the next few years.

DOMA will likely be overturned (and correctly so) by a large majority of the Supreme Court; but, with different opinions being written as to why it is unconstitutional.  The effect will be that states and the federal government will have to recognize the marriages of each and every state.  This, in fact, is not new, the Constitution requires state afford full credit of all  “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state”, thus every state will have to recognize the marriages of same sex couples, even if they do not permit such marriages in their own state.   So, if South Carolina doesn’t permit same-sex marriage anytime in the next century, then same sex couples can go get married in Oregon, or in D.C., and come home married.   This is the significance of DOMA; DOMA gave protection for states that do not recognize same sex marriages performed in states that permit them. Striking down DOMA will (should) force all states to recognize the legality of all marriages performed in any state.

So, a win on DOMA and a loss on Prop.  8, will still be a big win for marriage equality.

Of Successfully Changings Social Norms for Sexual Freedom


sexual%20rightsI was walking between the building in which my office is housed and the Student Union and noticed a young guy smoking between the buildings.

Smoking on a college campus when I began college in 1981 was nothing of note, and a generation before that it was the rule.  But even here in the deep-south, smoking is so rare as to get my attention.  After thinking about it I could not remember ever seeing a student smoking since I began this program nearly 2 years ago.

In terms of social norms, 25 years is not a long time, even 50 years is barely consequential, yet, tobacco use has gone from being ubiquitous to so rare it garners attention. A steady progression of social norms has remade how Tabaco use is perceived.

At the university at which I both work and attend, students of African heritage were not allowed to attend until 1963. A short 50 years ago. Yet today one would be hard pressed to find anyone on this campus who would suggest that segregation was anything less than unmitigated evil;  again a complete transition from one norm of right and normal to another.

When my mother went to college in the 1950’s “moral” character (a euphemism for sexual abstinence) was expected as a prerequisite for both attendance at the college and for gaining employment after graduation.  As late as the mid 1980’s courts were upholding moral (sexual) rules on female teacher’s in their private life.  Pregnancy out of marriage was the end of a teaching career as was “a public reputation of moral turpitude”

Today, public school’s moral codes are exclusively tied to issues of criminal activity, academic ethics and sexual contact with students.   Even in the rural southern school district where I worked prior to this year I had a friend who was an unmarried female kindergarten teacher have a baby and then return after her maternity leave.  This would not have happened a generation ago.

And certainly one can look to the normalization of same-sex relationships as a sea change in cultural norms. US society has come thought the phase of tolerating these relationships to treating them as normal in most of society (under age 50 or so). National legalization of same sex marriage is only a matter of time, currently within the next decade or so.

What’s the point?

I began blogging for three reasons. One was to help me organize my thoughts in a coherent form, and writing makes me do so, a public journal of sorts. The second was to provide myself with a soap box for the oft neglected moderate position in the public sphere.  It has been said that traditional liberalism is all but dead in the US and has been since the mid 1970’s.   I contend most Americans believe in the enlightenment vision of political liberalism espoused by Locke, Rousseau and Jefferson, and so I try to voice those views. And finally I sought to preach the gospel of what I call “The Final Freedom”.

I believe that freedom to express ones sexuality is basic to ones humanity that all other freedoms that it deserves a place right next to freedom of conscience and religion.  The final freedom refers to the right to express ones sexual nature openly in the community. The GLBT community pushes this for their members; however, even if they are successful, that still leaves around 95% of the population in the closet, forced to hide their sexuality in private.  Would it be freedom of speech if you could say whatever you wanted, but only in the privacy of a closed room? No it would not. Would it be freedom of religion if I could not ever talk about it or express my religious life in public? No it would not.  Similarly, we do not have freedom of sexual expression while it is shuttered behind closed doors.

Nudity and consensual sexual activities are more prevent in the media than ever; however, it is still ghettoized and kept safely behind the screen. In a truly free society our bodies and our sexuality is only limited by our infringement on others; and just being in someone’s sight is not infringing on their liberty.

No one claims the right to demand a freedom from seeing others joyful, silly, or even rude in public by banning such behavior to one’s home.  Just because someone’s behavior makes me uncomfortable about myself or violates my personal moral code, does not inherently give me the right to stop their behavior. I don’t automatically have the right to demand they “get a room” to do what annoys me in some other place.

If they are naked or engaged in sexual behavior in a closed environment where the passage of pathogens is likely, then the society has a just reason to act to ensure public health. However; that is not the case with current societal restrictions on nudity and sexual expression.

There are powerful forces on both the right and left who collude to prevent sexual freedoms, but I believe that if the vast center had the courage to stand up and challenge the extremists this freedom is possible.

This is an interesting video, by a George Mason Law School expressing the horror that sexuality and sexual expression is considered a human right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wlXUSfkwcY She is openly espousing the Catholic position that sex should not be about self-actualization, but solely about procreation and that birth control is evil because it separates sex and babies.   Sexualityism is the word now given to this concept and a search on the word clearly shows this concept has strong support in the Catholic press.

I however, do not believe such a position is where most Americans live.  Most Americans, even religious Americans, even Catholic Americans, see sexuality as a intrinsic part of their everyday life and have sex to make children is the very rare exception. That is the true mainstream, or center,  of American culture. However, I think that many people who live their lives in this manner are easily bullied by powerful figures into publicly espousing something different than what they actually do.

Thus we find many, many people who would like to live their sexuality openly and honestly, live a life of secrecy and hypocrisy.  They do not do this willingly, but do so out of fear of being attacked, and being attached will find no allies because their friends and allies are also afraid of being “outed”.

Thus the minority of true believers in the sex-negative position, act as a kind of mafia, using fear to keep the majority silent. Why were the moral white people of the south not coming to the aid of the civil rights movement? They saw the blood on the faces of the white kids who marched. They knew they would be outcasts if they acted on their convictions. Just like we see on the news how people’s lives are destroyed by a leaked nude photo or do you recall how a young Barach Obama ran virtually unopposed for the US Senate after someone leaked that his opponent had once suggested to his ex-wife they go to a sex club in Holland?  The mere suggestion of attending a sex club ended that man’s political career.  So, yes, the sex-negative forces are powerful, but their power only comes from the majority who live sex-positive, but publicly espouse sex-negative.

Thus we, the majority, must provide one another the mutual support and defense so that we might all own our true beliefs in the face of the threats.

I also believe that we in the majority must make ourselves as accepting of other’s sexuality as we are of our own.  It is too easy to define “normal” sexual behavior by what I do (or what the media presents as normal), but human sexual expression is a broad canvas and as with freedom of religion or speech, my freedom to do what I think is normal and right is contingent on my willingness to defend my neighbor’s freedom to practice what he/she believes is normal or right.

I write this to suggest that over the next 50 years, societal change of the magnitude we have seen in smoking or race relations is entirely possible in the arena of sexual freedom. It is just a question of when will we begin the journey and who will lead?

My hope would be someone who reads this little blog of mine will take up the cause of the Final Freedom.

Of Our Sex Negative World


Note: I’m posting this to coincide with the prior link.

Conventional wisdom would say that the world is on a path toward ever greater sexual liberation.  One would look at the acceptance of homosexuality and the sexual relations between unmarried people, and that conclusion would appear warranted. However, if one looks closer, one will see that we are still a long way from real sexual liberation.

I recently did a little research into the current literature being published on topic of human sexuality. I was a bit surprised that, with the notable exception of male homosexuals, the currently academia sees sexuality in a very negative light.  As I reviewed the literature, I found that sex, particularly recreational sex, was inevitably linked with drug use, exportation and disease.  I could not find a single recent study that linked recreational sex with any positive trait.  Why? Because the researcher’s weren’t looking for it!  All of these studies all started with the premise of ‘what are the bad effects of sex for fun?’

The current literature on pornography was mixed, especially noteworthy that those with a more positive view of porn were written in the Scandinavian countries, while those from the US were more negative (surprise, surprise).  The majority of the research into porn was dealing with links between violence and child sexual abuse.  It is good that at least there were a few studies that considered positive outcomes, but on the whole porn is still approached with hostility in the academic community.

The books were even aggressively anti sex and anti porn, though the number of volumes taking a positive view of homosexual activities far outnumbered those dealing positively with non-monogamous heterosexual activities. Why is it that when 90% of the US population say they are exclusively heterosexual (though there is some good research that suggests that far more adults do have occasional same sex contact than is reported in surveys).   The point is that while the sex-positives have been focusing on the effort to legitimize homosexual relationships and sexual activity, the sex-negative forces have moved in to delegitimize recreational heterosexual relationships. Thus the well justified drive to ensure homo-sexual rights has eclipsed the larger drive for “sexual-rights”.  In the end, unless the basic principle of sexual rights for all is successfully defended, the successes of GLBT rights will be short lived.

Who are the anti-sex forces and why are they trying turning back the clock to sexual liberation?

The most obvious group is the religious right.  They have been sex negative for 1,700 years.  There opposition is to be expected. The worldwide cabal of Christian and Muslim sex-negative clerics have backed up by use of force over the past millennium and a half their very narrow view of human sexuality. They have effectively created a worldwide norm of sex negativity. However, this group does not control academia. This group is not capable of maintaining the current sex-negative environment in an increasingly secular world. They certainly aren’t’ the ones behind the move in the EU to censor the net to eliminate erotic images.   

The real force behind the current sex negative movement is an unholy alliance between the religious right and secular left. More particularly they, the religious forces have allied with  followers of critical feminist theory.  These new sex-negatives, who are significantly overrepresented in academia and the news media, are the new “Anti-sex League”. These ideologues are waging a holy war on recreational heterosexual and bi-sexual sex and its pornographic cousin.   This movement could also be correctly called one of Marxist-Feminism, which should not be confused with mainstream feminism.  They have simply replaced the capitalist as the center of world oppression to men being the great oppressor.  Men, in their view are in a constant battle to oppress and harm women and heterosexual sex is a violent act of conquest of the female.  It is from this group you hear the idea that all heterosexual sex is rape and marriage is prostitution.  They don’t object to any form of male-male sex because that is just the act of one oppressor fucking another oppressor.  Hence, there is an acceptance of BDSM homosexual behaviors that they rapidly condemn in heterosexual or bi-sexual liaisons.   

It has been correctly said that the far right and the far left have far more in common than they have differences.  Here the Christian and Muslim fundamentalists have a common goal with the Marxists to control the sexual behavior of everyone.  They both believe they are the moral guardians of all the rest of us.  Neither group is nearly as committed to personal freedom as they are to their ideology and their need to stamp out dissent.   Both groups are highly sex negative. Both groups define “moral sex” as their own and “immoral sex” as everyone else’s.

I work at a major university and the climate of fear for saying the wrong thing about sex or sexuality is as real here as it was when I went to a Christian fundamentalist University twenty five years ago.

It is sad but clearly true.

MEPs to vote on EU ‘ban on all forms of pornography’


MEPs to vote on EU ‘ban on all forms of pornography’

Well, the anti-sex, anti-liberty forces are alive and well.

This chilling article not only cites EU efforts to censor ….well everything, the article also cites an EU call for curbs on press freedom when such liberty is deemed to be bad for society. 

The article cites that Iceland, under the guise of protecting women and children is considering importing Chinese style government internet filtering.

Make no mistake about it. The forces of Marxian totalitarianism are once more on the move and to efforts to control all thought and behavior did not go away when the Berlin wall fell.  Here at a my   university in the deep south of the US, I was taught in an international development course that individual human rights are a hindrance to progress and explicitly that the people in China can’t have full civil rights because there are just too many of them.  In a politics in education course I was explicitly told that the US Constitution’s grantee of individual rights of speech and assembly should be abolished so that the greater good can be accomplished. The forces of totalitarianism, “for the greater good” have many allies here in the US.

Don’t think for a second that this is all so removed your world. A stand against censorship and the erosion of individual rights must be taken by every generation lest it become the last to have such rights.

Of the Left’s Intolerant Religion


I spent over a decade deeply immersed in the fundamentalist Christian community. I have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from flagship institutions in two different wings of the movement.   As such I know what religion is. I’ve seen it up close.

Religion is founded on the concept of “the greater good”, the idea that all must sacrifice something in order to reach a higher level of existence, justice and happiness. Religion rejects the scientific method because their beliefs trump what appears to be measurable fact.  They see the world as an illusion hiding the underlying supernatural truths that lie beneath.  And, religion, specifically religious institutions, are self-serving.  When push comes to shove, religious institutions (like all institutions) act in their own self-interest rather than the interests they publicly espouse.

          The political left in the US and in Europe have pilloried religion since the enlightenment; however, in the past half century, the left have embraced an all-encompassing religion of their own. Their religion is non-theistic, but it has all the hallmarks of fundamentalist religion. The name of that religion is Critical Theory. And it this short paper, drawn from research from my ongoing doctoral dissertation I shall lay out why I am concerned the religions aims to supplant democracy liberalism with a totalitarian quasi-theocracy.

However; addressing critical theory is not a simple matter because “Critical Theory is not a theory of society, or a wholly homogenous school of thinkers or a method. Critical theory, rather, is a tradition of social thought that, in part at least, takes its cue from its opposition to the wrongs and ills of modern society’s on the one hand, and the forms of theorizing that simply go along with or seek to legitimize those society on the other hand”. (Bernstein, 1995, p. 11).

          The term critical theory was coined by Max Horkeimer in a 1947 article which was primarily an attack on what he believed to be the misplaced belief in the in the scientific method, and in specific, he attacked the Cartesian dichotomy of separating the object and the observer (Bernstein, 1995; Thomassen, 2010). Additionally, as a member of the Frankfort School, Horkeimer combined this constructivist view of reality with Marxian conceptions of economics, materialism and class domination.  Horkeimer said “the [critical] theory never aims simply at an increase in knowledge as such. Its goal is man’s emancipation from slavery” (Thomassen, 2010, p. 20) . The essential difference, between traditional Marxism and critical theory however, is not just that the proletariat is replaced by other groups; but, that identity formation of the new sorts of groups does not require direct action (i.e. revolution), rather, the new group identity requires action in the political arena. (Bernstein, 1995p. 20).

          Other German philosophers, chief among them Jürgen Habermas built on the foundation laid by Horkeimer to continue to develop the critical theory.

One particular challenge the Marxist in Western Europe in the 1950 & 60’s was the need to update Marx’s vision of the inevitability of a proletariat uprising which by the 1950’s was clearly not going to happen.  The predicted collapse of capitalism just didn’t and wasn’t going to happen in a world of growing affluence for the working class.  How were they going to tell a bunch of factory workers who lived in nice homes, had cars and TV’s that they were oppressed?

One approach was to say their wealth and leisure oppressed them. Habermas wrote how wealth and consumerism has led to what he called alienated leisure, and even a welfare state, like France, can be a dehumanizing force as it exercises control over the individual (Edgar, 2005, p. 6-8).  That approach didn’t get very much attention. A more productive line of thought lay in finding new reasons people were oppressed.

The success of critical theory lies in its focuses on unmasking hidden structures and meanings that lead to oppressions of other new social groupings using the tradition political theory of Marx blended with the psychoanalytic theory of Freud (Thomassen, 2010, p 27-28). Habermas, extended and clarified, adding to Marx, the ideas psychoanalytic ideas of Freud to reenergize discredited Marxism. In this he changed Freud’s efforts to uncover repressed feeling of a single person, to encompass society as a whole. Habermas, sought to put whole nations under “on the couch” to understand how society is driven by meanings that are hidden from every day view (Thomassen, 2010, p. 25), that only the analyst (i.e. the critical theorist) can divine. Thus, critical theorists seek to find new groups who are oppressed, tell them they are so in an effort to purge their oppression. So, why do we suddenly have a hundred different groups claiming to be oppressed minorities?  Because the critical theorist is on a religious mission to find as many groups as possible, and convince them they are oppressed. 

          Thus, modern critical theory has many faces and focuses but all look so very much like religion. The two core beliefs have defined the philosophy (quasi-religion) from the outset: a rejection of scientific proof, in favor or a belief system (i.e. faith) and the duty to seek to uncover hidden oppression (i.e. sin) and tell those who do not know they are oppressed that they are indeed slaves (preaching and evangelism) (Carspecken, 1996).

 

For illustration I will, based on classical liberalism, specifically address my concerns based on two very popular incarnations of critical theory: critical race theory and critical feminist theory.

The first precept of critical race theory is “Critical race theory recognizes that racism is endemic to American life”. (Dixson & Rousseau, 2005, p. 9).  This is not presented as a possibility, but as an indisputable fact. As constructivist, critical race theorists legitimize such unequivocal “fact” statements based on their constructed reality based on finding hidden agendas visible only to critical theorist (McKnight & Chandler, 2012).  This core belief justifies critical race theorist, Gloria Ladson-Billing, to use her position as President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), to proclaim that there is not just an achievement gap, but an education debt owed by European-Americans to be paid to African and Latino Americas (Ladson-Billings, 2006b). In her address to the AERA, she makes a case that race and race alone drives achievement and never considers other factors. The justice, or even factual truth, of suggesting, as she does, that African-American children cannot succeed because “racism is normal not aberrant in American society.” (Ladson-Billings, 2006a) is simply not considered in her address. Thus, in her vision of critical theory justice the white population, including the children in schools today, owe what she specifies as economic, sociopolitical and moral debt to every child of color, no matter their particular circumstances (Ladson-Billings, 2006) .

Schouten (2012) strenuously objects to the whole notion that there is a moral debt owed for education as suggested by Ladson-Billings.  Rather she counters with a very Rawlsian answer that there is a moral obligation to those who are disadvantaged. She acknowledges that the disproportionate number of low performing African-Americans is certainly rooted in historical bias, and that disproportionate resources are required to remedy the statistical inequity is consistent with the Rawlsian liberal position. However, the assistance should not be geared to groups based on past injustices, but to individuals based on current need. She wrote, “They therefore have a claim to be benefited, as they are themselves victims of an injustice; the injustice of being badly off.”(Schouten, 2012).

There is a  significant case to be made that poverty, not race is the driving factor in the difference between races in school success; however, this runs counter to the critical race theory “treats race as a defining principle rather than a variable within research” (Leonardo, 2012, p. 430).  When income is addressed by critical race theory, it is often in the context of Bourdieu’s Marxian tradition rather than income, i.e. those who qualify for free lunches. 

Nowhere is CRT’s relationship with class analysis more clear than its uptake of Bourdieu’s (1977a) concept of cultural capital. It is one of the most frequently used and critiqued class-oriented concept in the CRT literature on education. There are several species of the appropriation. First, in an endorsement of Bourdieu’s concept, cultural capital is used to explain school biases against more or less essential(ist) cultures of color, their family value systems and priorities. Consistent with Bourdieu’s ideas about class stratification but applied to race, CRT scholars indict the White standards of learning in schools, from the English forms that are recognized to the behaviors that are punished or rewarded and the historical contributions that are valorized or omitted. (Leonardo, 2012, p.438)

I find it significant that in the current US Department Of Education figures,  African-American’s comprise the exact same percentage in the U.S. undergraduate colleges and universities (15%) as they do in K-12 and nearly the same rate for graduate education (14%) (Aud, Hussar, Kena, & Roth, 2012). The data indicate a more complicated situation with Latino students in the 2011 DOE report (Aud et al., 2011) notes that the dropout rate for immigrant Latino’s is over three times that of native born Latino’s and further notes that the Asian immigrants also have the same disproportionate dropout rate. This would indicate that the issue may well be surrounding the process of immigration rather than race. Even still the Hispanic college undergraduate population is 14% of the total.  I’m sure you have not heard that African-Americas are no longer underrepresented minorities in colleges and universities.   Why? Because the criticalists control the academic press and most of the popular press and to them this is bad news, not good news.

I have presented this line of argumentation about critical race theory to highlight the underlying problem with the use of critical theory. They give themselves, carte blanch to assigning negative motives to others and when one says “I’m not a racist” they just respond with their belief system, “Your denial is proof you are a racist.” This is very similar to a Baptist telling someone “You’re a sinner going to Hell”, when the accused says they don’t belive in Hell, the Baptist says “Ah, your denial is proof you’re going to Hell.” See how this is basicly religious in nature.

This approach leads to a huge body of “research” that shows little but the prior beliefs of the researchers.  Typical for the articles I read for this project was a new peer reviewed article on how young African-American college men worked out race in predominantly white colleges(Wilkins, 2012) .  Throughout, the researcher made motive claims with no evident connection to the subject’s statements. When her subjects made statements that did not conform to the tenants of critical race theory, the author again assigned negative motive.  Thus successful behaviors by the subjects were negatively labeled and the author condemned her subjects as being oppressors themselves.  The conclusion is brazen in its condemnation of the subjects refusal of specific agendas the authors believes are required based on race; “But more, by dismissing both black women and, often, black organizations, as immoderate spaces, black men abandon their collective responsibility to fight racial inequality, focusing instead on individual strategies of mobility and leaving the work of fighting racism up to women.” (Wilkins, 2012, p. 57). My readings in preparation for this project indicate that this type of approach is not an anomaly, but common practice.

This is not to suggest that the profound achievement gap is not important, nor does it not suggest that there are not differences in life circumstance for children that are correlated with race. What this does suggest is that there is a fatal weakness in the argument for using critical race theory as the core tool to measure educational justice.

Critical race theory is closely related to critical feminist theory in philosophy and method with sex being substituted for race when presenting oppression in schools (Hannan, 1995; Okin, 1994); The intersection of race and feminist theory is common such as in the Wilkins article above, yet it shows a willingness to choose interpretations of the subjects statements to prioritize the researchers agenda. It becomes apparent that critical feminist choose ideology over objective statistical measures on inequality, which the do use when convenient to support their beliefs. Despite the long term trends, show previously, that females as the dominant class in education, critical feminist continue to search for evidence that girls are disadvantaged in education, and to seek programs to promote girls performance (Bianco, Harris, Garrison-Wade, & Leech, 2011; Kafer, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Overall the critical feminist response is to downplay this significant and growing achievement gap (Froses-Gremain, 2006) and, at least in certain segments of the critical feminist community, there is resentment at the idea of addressing the growing male achievement gap (Mills & Keddie, 2010; Zyngier, 2009). 

I think, if you made it this far into my rather dense essay, that you can see how critical theory acts just like a religion, based not on facts or evidence, but firmly on a belief system.  Marx is Moses, Das Capital is the holy writ, with Freud as a co-prophet, and Habermas as the apostle John making sense to the old region to a new world.  Across the land, primary in Colleges and Universities this religion is enforced with an iron hand.  Eighteen year old undergrads not only aren’t told the core of this religion, but are crushed and belittled if they resist. As a doctoral student, older than most of the professors expounding on this I had to fight tooth and nail to get a draw.  When confronted with the Marxist core of critical theory, most professors simply lie and say that’s not true as they desperately  want to hide the underpinnings of what their teaching. 

 

So next time you hear, something from the left that doesn’t make sense, think of this essay.

References

Aud, S., Hussar, W. :., F., Kena, G., & Roth, E. (2012). The condition of education 2012. ( No. 2012-045). Washington DC: US Dept. of Education Center for Educational Statistics.

Bernstein, J. M. (1995). Recovering ethical life: Jürgen habermas and the future of critical theory. New York: Routledge.

Bianco, M., Harris, B., Garrison-Wade, D., & Leech, N. (2011). Gifted girls: Gender bias in gifted referrals. Roeper Review, 33(3), 170-181. doi: 10.1080/02783193.2011.580500

Carspecken, P. F. (1996). Critical ethnography in educational research: A theoretical and practical guide. New York: Routledge.

Dixson, A., & Rousseau, C. (2005).
And we are still not saved: Critical race
theory in education ten years later. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 7-27. doi: 10.1080/1361332052000340971

Edgar, A. (2005). The philosophy of habermas. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Froses-Gremain, B. (2006). Educating boys: Tempering rhetoric with research. Mc Glill Journal of Education, 41(2), 145-154.

Hannan, D. J. (1995). Gender equity in the american classroom: Where are the women? English Journal, 84(6), 103. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9510172609&site=ehost-live

Kafer, K. (2011). Wasting education dollars: The women’s educational equity act. ( No. Backgrounder #1490). Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in U.S. schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3-12. doi: 10.3102/0013189X035007003

Leonardo, Z. (2012). The race for class: Reflections on a critical raceclass theory of education. Educational Studies, 48(5), 427-449. doi: 10.1080/00131946.2012.715831

McKnight, D., & Chandler, P. (2012). The complicated conversation of class and race in social and curricular analysis: An examination of pierre bourdieu’s interpretative framework in relation to race. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44, 74-97. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ962318&site=ehost-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00555.x

Mills, M., & Keddie, A. (2010). Gender justice and education: Constructions of boys within discourses of resentment, neo-liberalism and security. Educational Review, 62(4), 407-420. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2010.482202

Okin, S. M. (1994). Gender inequality and cultural differences. Political Theory, 22(1), 5. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9407053853&site=ehost-live

Thomassen, L. (2010). Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. London: Continuum.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Women’s educational equity. Retrieved 9-19, 2012, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/equity/index.html

Wilkins, A. (2012). “Not out to start a revolution”: Race, gender, and emotional restraint among black university men. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 41(1), 34-65. doi: 10.1177/0891241611433053

Zyngier, D. (2009). Doing it to (for) boys (again): Do we really need more books telling us there is a problem with boys’ underachievement in education? Gender and Education, 21(1), 111-118. doi: 10.1080/09540250802580844