Friday, February 24, 2012

An Example of Hypocrisy

Here's an example of the kind of hypocrisy that is rampant in modern society. Tumblr isn't a particularly egregious example of this kind of hypocrisy, they're actually pretty decent in my [admittedly limited] experience (hey, at least they allow porn!). But this statement is a perfect example of how hypocrisy creeps into people's lives, and I think that sometimes these people don't even realize it:

"We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr." (source)

Look, I won't argue that Tumblr isn't entirely justified in censoring the content that goes up on their website, I'm not even going to argue that it would be a good idea if it wasn't. I just wish they wouldn't pretend like they care about freedom of speech, in the same breath as wielding the ban hammer. You see this a lot. People - businesses, especially - see that they have to censor, and they know that censorship is unpopular, so they issue an idiotic statement saying that they are "deeply" committed to free speech. It's doublespeak, pure and simple, and saying it doesn't make it so (and I worry about how many people are stupid enough to believe it when it's so obviously untrue). "We support free speech, but we do censor some things". I've written before that speech is either free or it isn't, it can't be free just for the things you like. That's the very definition of censorship. It's the unpopular ideas that need to be defended for free speech to be meaningful.

I'm not complaining about the fact that Tumblr doesn't like people who engage in self-harm, and they don't want content on their site that encourages suicide or eating disorders. What bugs me is their asinine claim that censorship is compatible with a free speech approach (and I'm not sure which is more egregious, the lie, or the idea that they may actually believe it themselves). I mean, they didn't just say they are committed to free speech, they said they are deeply committed to free speech. I could let them off the hook if they were only somewhat (i.e., half-assed) committed to free speech, because that's something I could believe. But a company that is deeply committed to free speech is the kind that actively defends the very unpopular content Tumblr is announcing they want to censor - all in the name of playing nanny to their user base and being able to wash their hands of the idea that their site could be used to host content they don't personally agree with.

If I were to start a business dedicated to free speech, it wouldn't just be for the content I like. If I claimed to defend the free speech of my users, then I'd allow content I disagreed with. And there's no reason why Tumblr has to defend its users' free speech - that's up to them, their consciences, and their business model. And it doesn't necessarily make them bad if they don't defend free speech (clearly, truly free speech is an exceedingly rare commodity in this world). It's just this attitude of hypocrisy that drives me crazy. You can't support free speech and censorship at the same time. You can choose one or the other - and while I don't like censorship, I will concede that we do not live in a perfect world, and sometimes have to make compromises, especially on a business rather than a personal level - I just wish you would be honest about it, and not lie (either to us or yourselves) to protect your image. 95% of the world's population may be stupid enough to fall for it, but to me it just makes you look stupid.

Or maybe that's just closer to the truth...

Further ruminations:

It's clear that Tumblr is concerned about suicide and eating disorders as a social issue. But silencing these people's voices isn't going to help anyone. This is a feel-good measure designed to ease one's conscience and promote a good public image, but without any real positive effect. It comes from a 'rescue' desire to control other people's behaviors that you don't like. I think it's tragic that people commit suicide (although sometimes I believe it's justified), and suffer from eating disorders. But the cure is not to attack the speech that we may view as encouraging that behavior. People are going to do things we don't like one way or another, and the solution is not to try to control both behaviors and speech to prevent that from happening.

Life is a journey of self-discovery - not forced discovery. You can't teach someone who isn't willing to learn. If we are really concerned about people who commit suicide and suffer from eating disorders, what we need to do is not silence them and criticize them. We should open up to them and be there for them. We should listen to them, and that means accepting the reasons they have for doing what they do - as good reasons, sometimes. And then we can work WITH them, not against them, to help them better their lives. But ultimately, it has to be on their terms, and we can't expect everyone to come over to our way of seeing things.

That's life, that's diversity, that's freedom. Not control, freedom. Freedom to let people make bad decisions - in our opinion. And there is the crux: it is highly arrogant to assume that one's own morality is universal, even on seemingly objective issues like suicide and eating disorders, which some people believe are "just wrong". God, how I hate that phrase - it's specifically designed to close down debate, advocating a sort of blind, religious faith in a particular moral stance. Nothing - I repeat, nothing - in the world is "just wrong" from an objective standpoint. Things are either wrong for a reason (a subjective, debatable reason) or they're not. Geez, is that not obvious?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Male Guilt

Decades of feminism in the public consciousness has had a peculiar effect - whether intended or not - on the sexuality of sensitive males. These are the type of men who do NOT oppress women but treat them with respect. Yet they are also male, and in many cases have a healthy sex drive. But feminist thought (or at least one extreme end of the spectrum of feminist thought) has constructed this world view of women disempowered by a patriarchal system, which manifests in the sexual realm as follows: women are vulnerable (as opposed to empowered agents) to the naturally aggressive sexual advances of men. For a man to 'get off' in the traditional way, it is believed that he must oppress or degrade a woman. Anything else would be unsatisfying. This dovetails nicely with the puritan attitude towards sexuality, that it is a disgusting (rather than beautiful or sublime) human activity.

The result is that you have men being shamed for their sexual feelings towards women. Maybe there are advantages to this trend, maybe it's just tipping the balance to hold men in contempt for the way they've, traditionally, been treating women, by scaring them straight. But the men who are dicks aren't going to be swayed by male guilt - it's the sensitive ones, the ones who don't want to hurt women, who are being subjected to shame for their sexual feelings towards women. These are the men who don't deserve the brunt of feminist ire. But they are afflicted when sexuality - particularly when construed as a male activity used to denigrate females (as if women can't enjoy sex, or enjoy being sexually desirable) is demonized.

It's really more to do with our sexual attitudes than feminism, but the feminism is where the guilt comes in. I feel guilty for the way women are mistreated, and I don't want to contribute to that. Yet if feminist thought dictates that my natural sexual appetite is harmful to women, what choice do I have? I can ignore the plight of females, and just indulge in my sexual appetite without shame, but I don't want to become one of the oppressive dicks who don't treat women with respect. Or I could shun my sexuality and toe the sex-negative feminist line. Well as PC as that might be, I refuse to denounce my sexuality. It just means too much to me.

The result I choose is to try to inform the public about sexuality. "Sex is gross" usually arises from an ignorant position on sex - one devoid of experience or even basic knowledge about human sexuality, and usually also inspired by pointed 'education' attempts that are really ignorance campaigns designed to misinform the public about sexuality (regardless of which conservative fundamentalist agenda is behind it). Hell, I'm sexually liberated and I still think sex is gross - but that doesn't mean I can't find the appeal in it, and it doesn't mean that I'm quick to call anyone who likes sex a disgusting pervert.

Because that's the problem. You have girls who are educated to shun sexuality, and so when guys appreciate their sexual desirability, they get all defensive and icked out. They throw out insults. Because they see "you're attractive" as an insult instead of the compliment it's intended to be (because they view sex as ugly instead of beautiful), they believe it's fair to counter with an insult of their own ("you're disgusting"). And the great rift between the sexes grows ever deeper and wider, and our attitudes toward sexuality - a fundamental human experience - remain as unhealthy as ever. Some men - the aggressive type - actively decide to treat women with the disrespect they've been shown, while others - the more sensitive ones - are wracked with guilt and recede into the shadows, which unfortunately lends more visibility to the jerks, and reduces women's contact with the men who are more likely to treat them with respect.

Come on, people. I've learned it. I know, not everyone is comfortable with receiving sexual compliments. But you can learn, just as I have, and there are polite and impolite ways to deal with the compliments you receive. "You're sexy" is a compliment (although it comes in many different forms, some more polite than others). Are people really that concerned about being considered sexually attractive? I thought that was something most people strive for? What's the point of advertising your beauty if you're going to bite someone's head off the instant they admit that they like what they see? Or are you so caught up in appearances that you think there are right ways and wrong ways to tell a person they're pretty? Am I a bad person because I find an erotic quality to your beauty, compared to someone who thinks your beauty is purely aesthetic, purely asexual (usually involving some level of denial or personal discretion, a.k.a. hypocrisy: the antithesis of honesty and truth)? Are people who shun sex, like you, inherently better than those that embrace it? Is the measure of a person's worth dependent on their approach to sex? Will you always be treated better by prudes than you will by perverts?

Don't fool yourself.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Re: Video Voyeurism

Yesterday I discovered a naked vlogger on YouTube, who goes by the name of Deja Nude, who is a nudist, and has a series of videos discussing nudist issues. I watched a few of her videos (and am looking forward to watching the rest), and I was very impressed both with her views on nudism, as well as her courage to post naked vlogs on YouTube. In fact, she's quite an inspiration, and I've begun to wonder if it wouldn't be a fantastic idea for me to do some naked vlogs of my own. The only problem is, despite my familiarity with being in front of the camera, I am far less comfortable recording videos, specifically ones in which I talk. I'm a pretty good writer, I think (at least that's what people tell me), but giving speeches is not one of my talents. Still, maybe, just maybe, it's worth a shot.

I'll tell you, I was this close to recording a naked vlog with my response to Deja Nude's video titled "Video Voyeurism", but I just wasn't comfortable with it, so you'll have to get this written speech instead. However, I did take a snapshot from my webcam so you at least have something to look at! :p

Anyway, in Video Voyeurism, Deja Nude talks about people who take other people's nudist images and submit them to sexual websites, in effect "exploiting" their nude image for sexual purposes. I agree that this is a problem, but I have a minor (maybe not so minor) quibble with the addressing of why this is a problem. (See, also, my post on sexy pictures, which covers the topic of picture trading on the internet).

I think it's important to emphasize that this is a crime of nonconsent, not a crime of sexual deviance. The motivation may be sexual in nature, but it's wrong not because it's perverted, but because these people are taking images and using them in ways that the owners haven't authorized, and may well object to. Focusing on the sexual component, rather than the violation of consent, has a tendency to conflate perversion with nonconsent. Notice how contemporary sexual mores threaten to reframe basic male desire (the pleasure in seeing chicks naked) as criminal intent.

Particularly, the concept of "voyeurism" is so tied up with a notion of clandestine spying, that it gives a bad name to people who might get a thrill out of looking, but only want to do it to people that don't have a problem with it (see my post on consensual voyeurism). The existence of the voyeuristic desire itself does not necessarily entail a corresponding lack of concern for the rights and consent of others (in other words, perversion is not synonymous with, or a direct cause of, sociopathy). Naturally, there are going to be people - voyeurs - who have this desire and don't care about other people's consent, and that's a problem. But again, by focusing on the voyeurism, as if that were the problem, and not specifically the violation of consent, you're giving a bad name to voyeurs who are conscientious and concerned about consent.

And then people who receive these messages (about how voyeurism always seems to involve nonconsent) in the social media environment, who might have these voyeuristic desires, start wondering if they, too, are capable of violating another person's consent for their sexual gratification. What we really need, on the other hand, is a positive model of sexuality that demonstrates that people can have these sexual desires - and all sorts of sexual desires - and engage in them in ways that are not criminal, and are not destructive to the social order. The only way to do that is to focus on what exactly is wrong when people commit sex crimes, instead of writing them off as perversion - as if perversion were a crime. Perversion is not a crime. I'm a pervert. I know perverts. They're good people. They're also fun people.

And in response to Deja Nude's comment that she doesn't want to be a "freakin' sex object" - I can respect that, but as for me, I enjoy being a freakin' sex object. Granted, my opinion is that sexual pleasure is a virtue, not a vice. But if the image of my naked body makes people feel good, then that's great. I'm not concerned about the sexualization of society, or the perversion of morality, or the misguided concepts of degradation and objectification. People who are tend to have either a warped or very narrow view of sexuality and exactly how it works.

Even as a nudist - and this is inevitably a point of contention - I don't mind if people interpret nonsexual nudity (mine or anyone else's) in a sexual context. That's their prerogative. I'm not so concerned about my "image" as a nudist. If someone thinks I look sexy without my clothes on, that doesn't automatically translate my naked body into a sex act, whereby I would therefore be engaging in a "sex act" (being naked) every time I enter a nudist environment - just because someone else might interpret it that way. It doesn't matter who or how many people think nudity is sexy, that doesn't change the truth of the fact that nudists take their clothes off for nonsexual reasons.

We're so afraid of who might be getting turned on in the world (why?), that we become paranoid about policing our images in society, lest somebody should think perverted thoughts about us. On the one hand, I want to say, who cares? But on the other, if people are getting off, then that's great! Isn't that better than people dying of starvation, being shipped off to pointless wars, and such? It's not just that sex isn't the worst problem that society faces, it's not even a problem. Sex is good.

P.S. Deja Nude, I still think you're awesome!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On the topic of free speech

On the topic of free speech, there's a distinction between allowing a person to voice an unpopular opinion, and then criticizing them for it, and respecting a person's dissenting voice, even as you disagree with it. The former case is not really freedom of speech at all. Even under a regime of censorship, opinions that are disallowed can still be voiced, short of some means that can directly and preemptively prevent people from saying certain types of things. People will be discouraged (strongly) from voicing such opinions, but they still maintain the freedom of choice to voice those opinions, provided they are prepared for the repercussions of doing so. This, however, is not freedom of speech.

It's akin to saying, "you can say anything you want, but you better prepare yourself for the consequences". Giving somebody the opportunity to speak, and then throwing them in jail or executing them (or what have you) for doing so, does not reflect a respect for freedom of speech. Discriminating against a person for their opinions in other, less extreme ways (like personal criticism, ostracization, severing of business ties, etc.), may not be as severe, but it is still a form of punishment for having dissenting views. Freedom of speech does not mean that everyone's views are "right" or should be adopted, but that their ability to speak up about those views ought to be respected (not just tolerated but respected); and where disagreement occurs, as it inevitably will (and should!), the focus should be on debating the topic, and not attacking the person whose opinion you disagree with. That shows a true respect for the principle - and the fundamental importance - of free speech.

Modeling after the Lowest Common Denominator

I don't believe the few should be punished for the crimes of the many. Does that make me a privilege-ist? Well, if a person deserves privilege, he should have it. We live in a culture of appropriation and amalgamation, where, in spite of (or perhaps as a reaction to) all the diversity in human life, we try to regulate human behavior according to sweeping generalizations. It's a curious symptom of the equality mindset, that everyone should be treated the same, and have to follow the same rules. Even if it means putting extra pressure on the underachievers and pulling back the overachievers. It occurs when you mistake equal opportunity for mathematical equality. People are not the same. Fairness (and thus, justice) is not predicated upon treating everyone the same. We're all different. We have different abilities, and we have different sensibilities. Equality means that we all deserve to be treated as having equal worth - that no one of us deserves to be overlooked, discriminated against, or have our basic fundamental rights violated. Especially if we're not like everyone else. That we're different doesn't mean we don't deserve to be treated with the same humanity. But that doesn't mean we must or even want to be treated in exactly the same way. A man in a wheelchair should not be expected to take the stairs, but his inability to do so does not reflect a lesser worth or humanity. He is not equal to anyone else in the world, he is different. But just as worthwhile as anyone else. Just as deserving of dignity and his basic human rights.

In law, we have a tendency to want to legislate across the board, because it's easier than taking individual factors into consideration. And yet, this is precisely what the courts are designed to do. And they're designed that way for a reason - to protect each individual's human rights. Because a man in a wheelchair is not a handicapped man, he is an individual. A man of color is not a black man but an individual. A female is not a woman but an individual. A youth is not a child but an individual. There are, unfortunately, persons in our midst that go about committing crimes against law and humanity - raping, stealing, murdering, etc. - but this is no justification for the limitation of the basic human rights of the individual. To legislate "safety" to the extent that it violates the freedom of the innocent is not justice. We do not have a responsibility, as citizens of a social order, to give up our rights and freedoms for "protections", nor for the excessive punishment of those who break the social order (criminals). On the contrary, it is our responsibility to stand up for our rights and our freedoms against this kind of legislative and social protectionism. That one man might steal a gun and use it to commit murder is not reason to restrict another from purchasing a gun for self-defense. The honest citizen should never be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a criminal. It is not just to punish a person for someone else's bad decisions.