Although, now that I think of it…

With the previous post in mind, I now have the idea for my next post-apocalyptic novel. Women of Earth get sick of men’s bullshit, so they reduce the world’s population by slightly less than half! They start with the police and military, move on to their own husbands/boyfriends/sugardaddies, then their minor sons, and…I’ll figure out the rest later. The point is, women organize a rebellion and massacre all the men. They don’t need to worry about reproduction because, as Greg Hampikian pointed out, there’s plenty of frozen sperm to go around. I think it would be a little more interesting if they kept a small percentage of hand-picked men alive and in cages, in case they need some more genetic diversity.

And once that’s all squared away, women don’t just drown all their sons at birth. They still raise boys! Only they struggle with the question of how to raise their boys so that they don’t grow up to be another generation of violently insecure, evidence-free mansplainers. The thrust of the story will be mostly sociological, rather than genetic or logistic.

What should I call it?

(Seriously, though, if you want to see an example of a man who is a member of society without being the Strong Protective Hunter, look at Charlinder. His lady-friends don’t keep him around because they need him to lift heavy stuff. They just like him.)

It gets so much worse than that, Dr. Hampikian.

In a random fit of “What brought that on?”, the New York Times has run an op-ed from Greg Hampikian about how the entire male sex is becoming increasingly irrelevant to human life. Being a professor of both Biology and Criminal Justice, Dr. Hampikian gives us both the physiological:

Then, at some point, your father spent a few minutes close by, but then left. A little while later, you encountered some very odd tiny cells that he had shed. They did not merge with you, or give you any cell membranes or nutrients — just an infinitesimally small packet of DNA, less than one-millionth of your mass.

Over the next nine months, you stole minerals from your mother’s bones and oxygen from her blood, and you received all your nutrition, energy and immune protection from her. By the time you were born your mother had contributed six to eight pounds of your weight. Then as a parting gift, she swathed you in billions of bacteria from her birth canal and groin that continue to protect your skin, digestive system and general health. In contrast, your father’s 3.3 picograms of DNA comes out to less than one pound of male contribution since the beginning of Homo sapiens 107 billion babies ago.

The hand-wringing about infinitesimal mass is a red herring; no matter how tiny in terms of body weight contributed, children nevertheless walk around with approximately 50% of their fathers’ DNA. The irony to that figure is that, since the X chromosome is bigger than the Y, boys actually get fewer genes from their fathers than do girls, but I digress. We might as well be talking about how much my Lion OS weighs down my MacBook.

That said, his point is taken, and his perspective is appreciated, that once the sperm has been procured, all the biological work of making a human being falls on the mother. And since we now have frozen sperm and other ARTs, women don’t really need to deal with men if our goal is to make more of ourselves. This is not exactly a new idea, and yet somehow, most women are still actively heterosexual.

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Breaking news: guys would also like to control their fertility.

Irin Carmon tells us of the Internet activity of men who advocate for male birth control such as Vasalgel. Short version: there are plenty of guys who would like to have options in the middle ground between condoms and vasectomy. On their side is Elaine Lissner, who…

runs the site Male Contraception Information Project (MCIP) and started a foundation, Parsemus, to support the work that foundations and pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to do out of a disbelief that there is a market, either in the developing world or domestically.

And I’m sure glad she’s doing the work to fill in the gaps, because this, folks? It is ridiculous that we are only now at this stage:

The potential method that’s probably furthest along is also the most high-profile, the aforementioned Vasalgel, subject of a Wired feature last year. (It, too, took note of the ferocious enthusiasm of male contraceptive aspirants, including the Florida man who memorably wrote a researcher, “I’d gladly put my balls on the chopping block for the benefit of mankind.”) It’s described as “a polymer gel that goes in the vas deferens and kills sperm for more than 10 years.” Lissner’s foundation just began rabbit trials this week and hopes to start on humans next year.

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

Really, America? Rabbit trials just this week?

The procedure has already been tested on humans, and had excellent results, in India. I get that there is red tape to be navigated, and standards are not always consistent across the world, but, rabbit trials only now? I’m pretty sure that American men ejaculate the same way as Indians. Just sayin’.


Wisconsin state Rep. Don Pridemore hates women. Hates ’em.

The background is that a couple of state legislators in Wisconsin are sponsoring a bill that would focus on single parents in educational campaigns about child abuse. It does not, as the headline says, “label single parenthood as child abuse,” but it does take a good idea (public awareness of child abuse) and turn it into an offensive waste of public funds by dragging the communication in a direction that will do nothing to decrease child abuse but quite a lot to increase demonization of single parents.

This is what we’re dealing with:

Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Puah Institute, what is that I don’t even.

You may have heard about the medical conference in Israel that’s banning women from speaking at the event? Specifically, the gynecology-focused conference where women aren’t allowed to speak on stage?

The annual Innovations in Gynecology and Halacha conference of the Puah Institute for Medicine and Halacha is scheduled for Wednesday. Some 1,000 men and women are expected to attend the conference, which is geared to the Modern Orthodox and haredi Orthodox communities. Male and female participants are separated by dividers in the conference hall.

The conference has been held for the last 12 years, but this marks the first time that the absence of female speakers has become an issue. Women do not serve as speakers, according to the organization, in order to insure the participation of the haredi Orthodox, who are generally wary of medical advancements in fertility treatments.

Their rationale is this:

1. Haredi don’t like to see women speak to male audiences.

2. Haredi are ambivalent about fertility treatments.

3. The Puah Institute wants Haredi doctors to attend this conference and learn about advancements in fertility treatments, therefore,

4. Women must be strictly separated from men at the Gynecology & Halacha Conference.

Notice that no one is trying to keep women from seeing men speak on stage. It’s fine for female doctors to sit in the audience while men make presentations. It’s the question of male doctors watching presentations by female doctors on stage that’s a problem.

Am I missing something here? If letting women show themselves in public is such a problem for Haredi men, then…maybe, Haredi men should not be gynecologists? Think about this for a second: if it’s “immodest” for a man to see a woman speaking on stage about medical advancements, then how is it the least bit acceptable for a man to put his hands on the private parts of a woman whom he may have just met that day?

It occurs to me that if Haredi men followed through on their “modesty” requirements and just left gynecology to female doctors, this conference wouldn’t be an issue.

(Yes, I know: when they talk about “modesty,” they’re really talking about keeping women in the kitchen, which means female doctors are only tolerated because of secular pressures.)

All that said, though, the controversy is totally worth the trouble, owing to this hilarious fauxpology from Puah:

“We are sorry that instead of appreciating the great advances we have merited to see in women’s health in general, and in particular within the religious sector, as a result of our conferences, there are cynical, aggressive elements who try to block us by using the prevailing public ambience,” the organization said on its website. “These elements are riding on the back of the Puah Institute in order to advance their personal agenda.”

Shorter version: “You bitches are just JEALOUS! Waaaaah!”


Perhaps it’s because sex scenes are “feminine tosh.”

While it was fun to do a little yawn-and-snort at V.S. Naipaul for his “I’m so much better than all those stupid girls” posturing, today Douglas Barry points something out about the Literary Review’s nominees for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award: they’re a sausagefest.

Severely underrepresented in this year’s nominations? Women. Only Jean M. Auel and Dori Ostermiller made the illustrious list and if you’re thinking, “Well, the ladies can’t get all the best awards every year,” consider that, since the ‘Bad Sex’ award’s inaugural winner Melvyn Bragg, only two women — Wendy Perriam and Rachel Johnson — have ever taken home the top prize.

From the overwhelming preponderance of male authors in the ranks of Worst Sex Writers as designated by Literary Review, Barry derives the premise of his article, which is that male authors are overwhelmingly less adept than female authors at putting sexytimes in prose form. To explain the disparity, Barry offers the following hypotheses:

A clue to the dearth of women winners might have something to do with the fact that men still outnumber women at both commercial and academic publishing houses, according to The New Republic’s Ruth Franklin. In 2010, of the 13 large houses that TNR examined, Penguin’s Riverhead imprint came the closest to closing the gender gap between male authors, who accounted for 55% of books published, and female authors (45 %). And the house with the lowest percentage of female authors? That would be Harvard University Press, with a paltry 15%.

This is the first thing that came to my mind, but perhaps the publishing gap isn’t wide enough to explain the percentage of male authors on the Bad Sex list. It could be argued that male authors dominate the Bad Sex list to a degree that far exceeds their industry presence, and I think this is the theory that Barry really wanted to articulate when he wrote the piece:

I’d like to think that the overwhelming presence of male authors on the lists of winners and nominees has more to do with the fact that, since women had (and often still have) to actively wrest control of their own sexuality away from a patriarchy that often determines how the female body is used and represented, they are able to speak with greater comfort and authority about sex when they achieve sexual autonomy.

I don’t dismiss this idea, but as much as I love to see a male writer who can theorize in those terms, I think there are other, less ambitious factors that may explain the gulf between male authors getting attention for bad sex scenes and female authors escaping scrutiny.

It takes a brave man to put on a veil.

My first thought about this is that it’s not that much of a leap. It’s no accident that the veil is such a gendered custom. The idea that women must be covered up while men’s bodies are allowed free rein is a feature, not a bug, of cultures that expect women to cover their heads. It’s rooted in the idea that men see, while women are seen, and therefore need to conceal themselves ostensibly to control the terms on which men see them.

So, it doesn’t take a very radical mind to look at that asymmetry and say, “well, guys, if the veil is not a problem for women to wear, why don’t you try it on?” It’s not as unhealthy as four-inch heels or as uncomfortable as a push-up bra or as tedious as eyeliner—although one of the guys pictured is also wearing eyeliner!—but it is nonetheless sexist. It doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in Gender Studies to notice the double standard.

What really gets my attention, though, is that the guys who are posting their pictures here must have some serious guts. They’re not covering their faces in those photos. They’re easily identifiable, and that could make them extremely vulnerable.

Personhood USA insecure about America’s manhood

Anna North at Jezebel shares with us this charming quote from Gualberto Garcia Jones, director of Personhood USA:

Increasingly, the American people are being treated paternalistically by a government, media and public sector elite that stands in direct opposition to our traditional American values.

Using the courts as its instrument, this American elite has emasculated a once independent America.

The “American people” here apparently does not include women who are or may become pregnant, or pro-choicers of any description. “Traditional American values” means women must live and die at the mercy of sperm-meets-egg. The distinction between “the American people,” meaning those who oppose reproductive freedom, and the “American elite,” referring to those who trust women to plan their own families, is useful in parsing the “emasculated” bit.

If masculinity is defined as having a certain relationship to women, specifically as being in control of them, them it makes perfect sense to view reproductive rights as emasculation. The right to effective contraceptives and safe abortion gives women a degree of control over their lives that allows them to approach their relationships with men on their own terms. It helps women finish their education, travel, work as many hours as they need, advance their careers, and put money in savings. It gives women the autonomy to make plans for the future, which may or may not include any particular partner. It means a woman can date, or not, sleep around, or not, and enter a committed relationship, or not. While leaving an abusive relationship tends to be complicated no matter what, it is far more feasible for a woman who isn’t pregnant or caring for a small child. It won’t protect her from rape, but it prevents a rapist from forcing her into motherhood.

Ergo, yes, contraceptives and abortion do reduce men’s ability to keep women under control. If “manhood” means the females are at your mercy and “independence” means you can force them to bear your children, then, yes, birth control is emasculation.

What a harsh, joyless view of life that is, to say a man isn’t really a man unless he gets to push a woman around.

I’m hearing on Twitter right now that the Personhood Initiative is losing in Mississippi. I guess a whole lot of MS men are more secure in their masculinity than the dudes at Personhood USA.


Sperm from stem cells! The sky is falling!

I am telling you, this story is just…asking for the fertility-controls-you crowd to start losing their shit. More than usual, I mean.

Caroline Parkinson at BBC reports that Japanese scientists have successfully bred mice using sperm made from embryonic stem cells:

Japanese researchers successfully implanted early sperm cells, made from the stem cells, into infertile mice.

The working sperm which they made was then used to father healthy, and crucially fertile, pups, Cell journal reports.

A UK expert said it was a significant step forward in infertility research.

If you’re now thinking, “this is just begging for jumping to conclusions,” you’d be right.

But he said the Kyoto paper was “quite a large step forward” in developing a process by which sperm could be made for infertile men, perhaps by taking as a starting point a cell from their skin or from something like bone marrow.

He added: “Clearly more work needs to be done to refine this process, but it’s hugely exciting.”

That much is fine, but somehow, the comments on the Jezebel story are all about how this means men are about to become obsolete.

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The etiquette of respecting boundaries

There is a shitstorm going on, and it might be sort of winding down, but there’s no time like the present. The sheer willful ignorance and hostility is so pervasive, and so repetitive that I almost don’t have the energy to wade in. Since pretty much every possible angle of the matter has already been discussed and explained, at length, hundreds of times, and some people still don’t see what the problem is, I can’t very well expect them to listen to me. If they didn’t hear it the first 3000 times, I’d be frankly the most arrogant piece of work on the Internet to think they’ll finally get it the 3001st time if it happens to be coming from my keyboard.

In truth, though, I do have something to add to the discussion, which I’m not sure has already been addressed in the extant arguments. It has to do with a general point of good manners which has been sorely neglected on more than one level.

Since the purpose of good manners is essentially to make everyone feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible, personal boundaries should be respected in terms of unnecessary, consciously decided behavior towards other individuals. This sounds awfully generalized and unhelpful, does it? I’ll be more specific.

If you’re unsure of how to act towards a person, and that person establishes a boundary, the polite thing to do—in fact, the only decent thing to do—is to respect that boundary, and not make decisions on that individual that would violate the stated boundary. See what I’m getting at? You want to know how a given person likes to be treated, and that person gives you an example of a boundary which she holds, by telling you about a recent experience in which that boundary was violated, and concludes with the advice of, “and it made me really uncomfortable, so please don’t do that”?

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