Friday, 5 September 2014

Gaming and Troll Maths

One of the real issues regarding aggressive hate-filled trolling and how it can be made to reflect on entire communities is simply the numbers involved.

If I showed you a page of hate, taken at face value the response of PZ Myers - "I'm beyond embarassed to be male" may seem reasonable. However, where Myers gets it so spectacularly wrong is to fail to appreciate the numbers involved here.

If you take time to have a look at Anita Sarkeesian's latest video you will see it has now attracted over 500,000 views.

Now let me say, I have a pretty low opinion of humanity. I will lay it out there: my view is that there will always be more than enough rotten apples to jeopardise the rest of the barrel.

Let me suspend that negativity for a second. Let us be spectacularly optimistic and say that only 1 in 10,000 who viewed that video would be motivated to try and respond with something really nasty. Imagine a world where only 1 in 10,000 were motivated to bad things! Let us try -

1 in 10,000 of 500,000 viewers is 50 hate-filled trolls. Imagine, for one moment, what 50 hate-filled trolls each spewing multiple aggressive and abusive comments/tweets (she blocks comments!) looks like for a second. There is your page of hate and much much more besides.

To tar 99.9% of gamers as misogynists (yes, gamers must *hate* women) worthy of nothing but our scorn (the kinds of people PZ Myers is embarassed to share a species with) on the actions of what need amount to nothing more than a tiny fraction is both naive and unwarranted.

I can truly understand the anger the gaming community feel over the way they are being labelled here.

NP99

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Criticism of Anita Sarkeesian's "Women as Background Decoration: Part 2"

So, having made a couple of comments regarding Anita Sarkeesian and her "tropes vs women" video series, consisting of very expensively spliced gaming footage coupled with her research conclusions (which very fortuitously happen to match the conclusions she intented to reach prior to carrying it out), I wanted to just clarify the kinds of things I felt were left hanging in the footage I watched. I offer this largely because a number of people have asked me to clear up my statement that there were things she said I agreed with and things I took issue with. Hopefully this example (in some part copied from a comment I left on my recent video Sarkeesian, Quinn and the Mindless Idiocy of Trolling) will give some idea of the issues I had.

The following comments relate to 17:30 onwards on Sarkeesian's latest video Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

One of the issues I had with Anita's last video; one of those issues I felt she left hanging, was when she remarked that often sexual violence against women (the male sexual trope in games of men as rapists and abusers of women, if we are to play the tropes card) is there to give the protagonist a reason to justify their violence because such abuse (by the male npc's) demonstrates to us how bad they are: they are the worst of the worst and our killing them violently is thereby justified.

I happen to agree with Anita on that. In much the same way that we are explicitly expected to be repulsed by King Joffrey (in Game of Thrones) for his ultra violence against prostitutes, the same mechanism most definitely IS used in games to signify truly evil male individuals and raise our hatred of them.

But where that was left hanging is that, for Anita, that seemed to be somehow a negative. I found that strange in the extreme. If there had been one area I would have thought she would have undeniably felt compelled to congratulate the developers on I'd have thought it was this. Thinking on, had the opposite been the case (ie, we were expected to cheer on and side with the rapist/assaulter) then I'd understand where she was coming from. As it stood, both the expectation of the developers AND the content so created seemed the polar opposite of "rape culture" and something I'd have expected her to applaud.

As it stands then:
i) Portraying rapists as bad generates criticism (from her video). However (one assumes, with good reason) that-
ii) Portraying rapists as good would generate criticism.
So the inescapable conclusion to draw from this is:
iii) Portraying rape and sexual assault in video games is simply unacceptable (either way).
However, one of the fundamental claims of the social justice crowd is that downplaying the prevalence of rape and carrying on as if sexual crimes do not occur (and occur often) are sure signs of rape culture and things to be confronted. So on that basis I can only conclude that
iv) NOT portraying rape and sexual assaults in games would be regarded as pretending these crimes do not occur, sure signs we live in a rape culture and, therefore, unacceptable.

I have said it before. If you can spin your argument to make the same case, whichever way round the facts, that is usually a sign that it is somewhat of a tenuous case you are making.

Of course, that is not to say that Sarkeesian does not try and provide some context and conclusion to these findings of hers, apart from that particular issue that was left hanging. She made the following points:

1) Portraying sexual violence in video games normalises and trivialises it.
2) The perpetrators are caricatures, comedy villains, which gives a false perspective on the perpetrators and perpetration of sexual crimes in real life.
3) The player gets a false idea that sexual crime can be dealt with by brave heroes going out bringing evil Dick-Dastardly style rapists to task with brave violent retributive justice.

Of course all of these three points may well be true (I think they are). Where I was lost in this analysis of Sarkeesian's was how this differentiated sexual crimes in any way whatsoever with the non-sexual violent crime that occurs infinitely more often in video games? The whole thrust of her argument was to show sexual violence as some special case whereas all her analysis really amounted to was a version of "all of the arguments that apply to the portrayal of non-sexual violence apply equally well to the portrayal of sexual violence in video games" (albeit in lesser measure given that sexual crimes are grossly underrepresented in this medium).

I suppose this is a conclusion of sorts. I just feel that, at that point, Sarkeesian needs to actually woman-up and admit she objects to the prevalence and handling of violence in video games generally or go a whole lot further in giving us grounds as to why sexual violence (already treated in the gaming media with kid gloves relative to the astonishingly concern-free gorging on non-sexual violence) requires even more exclusory special treatment.


Thank you for reading

NP99

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Slow Descent Of Pharyngula: Why I'd Take A "Dawkins" Over A "Myers" Any Day

I freely admit to finding PZ Myers blog, along with his radical commenters (known as The Horde), fascinating.

His entire blog reminds me of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her book Infidel, describing how muslim communities can end up in the grip of radical scholars. Each scholar, in turn, denouncing any less radical to create an inexorable purge towards ever more hardline and intolerant perspectives.

In some ways the saving grace for the blog has been a steady stream of outsiders, the cathartic process of outgroup derogation sparing the fate of the more tolerant regulars from the savage inflexibility and hyper-intolerance of the ideological nutjobs and socio-conspiracy theorists. It seems to me that, starved of a sufficient number of such foolhardy interlopers, there becomes a constant attrition as the most conciliatory and reasonable 10% get verbally and intellectually savaged. Then another 10%. And another.
Eventually, perhaps like some kind of ideological black hole, all that may be left is one ultra-ultra-hardline commenter, so intolerant and full of rage, that reality may not quite chime with their expectations, that they can't even tolerate their own comments and they pop out of online existence! .........I can but hope :)

On a serious note, the blog seems to be on a path along which it is now long since past the point of no return. Even if Myers was to suddenly have a Damascene converion, as all but the most socially radical and intellectually intolerant have gone, the residual horde would be no more likely to offer him even the slightest intellectual wiggleroom as they would anyone else.

So this brings us to the latest installment of the ongoing Myers vs Dawkins saga.

This is such an interesting little battle with so many subplots, so much posturing and things hinted at (yet never quite said) in choice of phrase. What is clear is that these two gentlemen, once friends, now regard one another as absolute cunts: pure and simple.

What the left-wing liberal Dawkins must think to be held in such utter contempt by Myers and his Horde for not being socio-politically radical enough I can only guess. I dare say, if you go back just a handful of years, he could never have believed for one second that his major detractors would be from the political left. He must constantly have to pinch himself at how radicalised and intolerant things have become.

So, the latest disagreement concerns abortion, once more, and specifically an impossible hypothetical dreamt up by Myers involving an unborn baby in the womb:

We can make all the philosophical and scientific arguments that anyone might want, but ultimately what it all reduces to is a simple question: do women have autonomous control of their bodies or not? Even if I thought embryos were conscious, aware beings writing poetry in the womb (I don’t, and they’re not), I’d have to bow out of any say in the decision the woman bearing responsibility has to make.

To which Dawkins responded in 2 tweets:

 Blogger said woman's rights over own body extend to abortion even if fetus conscious & writing poetry in womb. I profoundly disagree. 1/2

That really would be murder most foul. I'm pro-choice precisely because (to the extent that) the fetus has no brain to be conscious with.
As a result of those tweets PZ Myers responded to Dawkins in a blog A logical thought experiment about abortion

The comments section is the usual mess, lightened only by Beatrice (comment 22) who amusingly failed to notice that it was Myers, not Dawkins, who initially raised the hypothetical, leaving her raging at the idea that anyone would trivialise and sidetrack issues with such examples, clearly not realising that her volley was hitting Myers not Dawkins. If only she had realised the true origin of the hypothetical then the issue would have melted away: hypocrisy is always justified when you wield the true sword of righteous justice (the blade wielded by thousands, each the one true sword).

For my part, I agree with Dawkins. A foetus of the hypothetical kind described by Myers clearly would have cognitive faculties that far outstrip a newborn baby (maybe a mental age of a 5-10 year old, or more). I don't find that an inconsequential fact and I don't see any reason to be any more cavalier with such a conscious thinking (and capable of pleading for us to spare its life, the same as any child could) human being as I would had it already been born.
True enough, birth is a very useful discontinuity for how we treat and regard human life on the developmental process but, as things stand, we already grant late-term foetuses many legal rights because we recognise their cognitive development. Clearly Myers and his Horde are no great fans of this, one assumes by their statements that they would have no issue with pregnant women deciding to abort at any time up until they go into labour. After all, the life they would be terminating would have but a fraction of the cognitive awareness of Myers' hypothetical and they give no truck whatsoever towards any factors outside of their ideological mantra:

A woman's right to bodily autonomy is all.

The scary part about the comments on the blog is the number of references to the foetus as simply a parasite*, seemingly (as in Myers awful analogy, more on that later) qualitatively no different in origin as if it had been unknowingly injected by an alien species. No recognition is given of the fact that the foetus is as a result of a consenting sexual act presumably undertaken by people who are aware of how babies are made.

No, the mantra is all; the mantra trumps everything. That is the thing about ideologs.

I've long contended that an ideology should be something that describes your position, the summation of your views having been so arrived at by taking all factors into account - every nuance, complexity and situational specific. Ideologs are people who don't do that. They set out their ideological stall and apply it to everything regardless of how gross or wrong-headed the results seem. For them, ideology is the starting point: it does not describe their position it mandates it.

You see a lot of Ideologs online, less so in real life where they are drowned out (thank fuck) by the vast majority of sane normal people who accept that different situations require different approaches. Online, I have spoken to Capitalist ideologs who are so wedded to the model that anyone who doesn't accept a competitive, marker-driven privatised model for anything and everything are not true Capitalists; Libertarian Ideologs who demand everything, even the road outside your front door, outside the scope of government and taxation. These are people who take ideological positions that have merit in context and in the right measure and determinedly apply them to everything with levels of justification that would make a biblical literalist blush.

So it is with abortion.

That the right to bodily autonomy is an aspirational right fundamental to the debate is not in question. Of course it is. In most circumstances most reading this blog will agree with me that it trumps the other factors. The problem with the Ideologs is that it becomes the only issue with the debate surrounding abortion becoming effectively reduced to a function of just one variable (an ironic mirroring of the Christian right they so despise who, again for ideological reasons, deem the rights of the foetus everything and of the mother irrelevant):

The life (in this hypothetical) of a conscious human being with a mental age approaching that of an adult? Irrelevant. Responsibility for your actions? Irrelevant.

One wonders if they'd get similarly angry if Dawkins had claimed it immoral for a pregnant woman to take up heavy drinking and injecting heroin half way through pregnancy? It is her body after all. Her autonomy that is the issue. Nothing else matters, apparently.

The worrying thing on Myers' blog, to get back to the start of this rant, is not so much that Ideologs exist there or that they are so inflexible with their own thinking. No, the worrying thing is how intolerant they are for anyone else who is not also an ideolog. Not only do they limit their own thinking to the level of nuance of a simpleton but they have nothing but bile, vitriol and absolute intolerance for anyone who doesn't follow suit.


Lastly, I must give quick mention to just what a fucking awful analogy PZ Myers chose with which to respond to Dawkins. Here is Myers in his own words:

"How about a thought experiment? Scientists are supposed to like that sort of thing. Imagine that an alien species envelops the earth in a cloud of infectious DNA, and little needles carrying embryos rain down on us. If you’re struck by one, you’ll start growing an alien cyst in your body; it will fester for a bit less than a year, draining you of energy and making movement awkward, before rupturing and releasing a semi-autonomous intelligent creature. This process kills roughly 20 in 100,000 infected individuals, so it only has a small but very real chance of being lethal. The released creature is also going to demand approximately 20 years of full time care from its host."

The analogy rambles on a little longer but you get the gist.

As someone who likes a good analogy and has probably made far more than most, I think I probably have some idea of what not to do and this analogy is almost an object lesson in how to completely fuck things up. One of the most important things to do when analogising a contentious issue is not to use an example which confounds our thinking by adding something additional (and irrelevant) which is equally as contentious....... such as the granting of rights comparable to human rights to non-human sentient agents of comparable cognitive abilities. Should we care equally about the fate of a clever Martian as we do for one of our own species? Maybe, maybe not, but this is hardly the fucking place to start adding that issue into the mix! Next is the bizarre fact that PZ's example is analogous to rape, not to a consensual sexual act that results in pregnancy. Perhaps that alone tells you something about where Myers' state of mind is right now. So very many blog posts on rape and rape culture that he clean forgot that most sex is not actually rape and most pregnancies, unwanted or otherwise, are not the result of the bad that men do. This is highly problematic for the analogy because the parasite, in this instance, is not as a result of an action (or act of omission) committed willingly by the host but something entirely outside of their control and it is not something the host themselves has created (it is another organisms embryo ffs).

If Myers hadn't wanted to be a total prick he could have, instead, asked Dawkins what he would do if he had sex with his wife and, miraculously, ended up pregnant himself with this hypothetically super-intelligent foetus. I think we know why he never presented Dawkins with that much more useful example: because Dawkins would have had no hesitation whatsoever in giving Myers the answer he didn't want - he'd declare it morally wrong to kill this fully aware human entity he'd created.  

So instead Myers shoehorns in this awful dishonest analogy.

So this is why I'd take a Dawkins over a Myers any day. Dawkins may occasionally appear clumsy and unempathetic - I disagreed with him over the Down's syndrome tweets, after all - but he is intellectually honest; led by situational specifics not ideological dogma; and (most importantly of all) he clearly realises the world is a messy place requiring messy conclusions. Myers, radically and inflexibly ideological; viewing the world in simplistic monochrome (not even greyscale); and willing and able to distort and mislead. He is truly the atheistic equivalent of the worst the church has to offer. Freethoughblogs and his rabid Horde are welcome to him.


Thanks for reading,NP99

*Of course, technically, a foetus IS parasitic and dependent on its host (the mother) for its survival. However, to then talk about it as if it is scarcely different to the larva of some parasitic wasp I find deeply disturbing in how detached it is from what is an integral part of what makes us human.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

PZ Myers' Manipulative Misrepresentation of Dawkins

I think it is a fair rule, that if the only way you can make your point is by twisting, lying and manipulating what was said out of all recognition then it doesn't say much for your argument.

So it is with PZ Myers cynical misrepresentation of Richard Dawkins' latest tweets on abortion.

Earlier today, via YouTube, I gave my thoughts on what Dawkins had said and on one particular response he had received.  I don't intend to go over that ground again, instead let me remind you what Dawkins had said and then have a look at the games Myers played in his blog response.

InYourFaceNewYorker ‏@InYourFaceNYer
@RichardDawkins @AidanMcCourt I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
 So this was what brought on the whole shitstorm.

What is 100% crystal beyond a shadow of even the smallest scintilla of doubt is that Dawkins is IN NO WAY arguing that the choice to abort or not abort should be taken away from the mother. His point is that to not abort, in this circumstance, he regards as immoral. Saying something is immoral is not the same as saying you think it ought to be legislated against (I gave the example of having affairs / cheating on partners in my video).

So whilst many may, perhaps legitimately, criticise Dawkins for aspects of this tweet (as I did), one thing he cannot be accused of is being anything other than still resolutely pro-choice in both his opinions and in the content of his tweets. In fact, he is being SO pro-choice he is saying you should STILL have that choice even IF one of the options is, in his view, immoral.

So PZ Myers blogs about it and this was the title:
Saying you should abort is as wrong as saying you may not abort
 Notice what PZ does here. He doesn't compare should abort with should not abort (which would have been an entirely legitimate comparison). Instead, he conflates a moral standpoint that recognises choice (Dawkins' should abort) with the pro-life position of prohibiting choice. See the game he has played here? He knows his personal entourage of ideologically addled nodding dogs are fiercely pro-choice, so he likens Dawkins equally pro-choice position with an anti-choice (pro-life) position because that makes it seem a thousand times worse.

He then goes on to show the first time wasn't just a fluke and that he can repeatedly be a total manipulative prick:

it is not immoral to have a child with Downs. It is immoral to insist that a fetus with Down Syndrome should be aborted.

I'd happen to agree with Myers if anyone actually WAS insisting the fate of Down's syndrome foetuses but no-one has done that. I will say it again, in the tweet that Myers actually showed on his own blog, Dawkin's says that he believes not aborting would be immoral, nowhere does he insist anything other than that the final decision remains with the mother (regardless of whether he agrees with the decision she makes).

As I said at the very beginning, if the only way you can make your point is by twisting, lying and manipulating what was said out of all recognition then it doesn't say much for your argument. The only thing that surprises me here is that Myers is so far down the path he is even using these shoddy political tactics against his old mate Dawkins.

Myers is a clever man. You can be sure that when he manipulates what someone says it is deliberate and calculating. But hey, he has the sword of moral superiority on his side so any tactic is justified when you fight the good fight, right? Just ask the religious zealots, they will back him up here.


Thanks for reading and bye for now,
NP99

Monday, 11 August 2014

So Everything Equals Rape Culture Then? Another response to Oolon.


So Oolon graciously responded to my last blog, ending with the following glorious salvo:

Thanks for the laughs anyway, as “takedown” posts of my challenge go this has set a very very low bar for anyone else taking it up

Setting a very very low bar is something I have specialised in for many years (usually in the spheres of religion and philosophy) and hardly worthy of note. What is worthy of note is the ease with which Oolon managed to limbo underneath it. Inches to spare.
Oolon goes on to say: 

What a brave hero you are, risking being called a rape apologist. I’m sure rape victims around the world will be appreciative of your dispensation of THE TRUTH in the face of such potential adversity.

A shamefully low blow Oolon, that one is right in the balls. Nothing I have written has taken one iota away from any victim of rape, nor any other crime against the person. "Either accept rape culture exists or stick a knife through the heart of all rape victims" may impress the radical crackpot social justice wankers you spend most of your time bleating with but out in the real world it just shows as the political trickery that it is. I think this is the lowest I have seen you stoop.

Ok, I plan to address Oolon's criticisms and comments in the following order

1) Criticisms pertaining to definitions of normalisation and rape culture used in my response
2) Criticism that I lacked citations and didn't debunk statistics he feels I need to debunk before questioning the usage and appropriateness of the term rape culture to describe our societies.
3) Some rather cryptic responses he made to the couple of my points he actually bothered to address.


Issues of definition

Normalisation


So one of Oolon's primary concerns was of my use of the term "normalisation". This was part of what he had to say: 

I guess I’ll have to do some work for you. Now how hard would it have been to just Google some feminist arguments for what “normalisation” means, in context here. Not even academic ones. Then actually address those not your Wikipedia definition alone? Such as …
(confusingly Oolon then goes on to quote an example that uses the word "normalisation" to describe rape culture, rather than actually defining the word)

So there you have it.
The definition I linked to was http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normalization_(sociology). What I was most happy about was that, for once, the definition used in the academic field (sociology) mirrored our everyday understanding the word. Happy days.... or so I thought.

But we have been here before, haven't we Oolon? It was over a year ago now I asked for a source other than a feminist (or mra) source for the definition of sexism as prejudice plus power. Still waiting on that.
So here we are again. Another word to add to sexism and misogyny that has some special feminist definition as an aid to political gamesmanship. The only difference this time is that you don't even tell me what that definition is! What is this definition of normalisation that is so different from common usage and general usage within sociology as to render my comments without foundation?

.....Or perhaps that was not your point? Perhaps, instead, your issue was with what I expect to be normalised within something called a rape culture? Perhaps that was your issue with the wikipedia definition too (to which I will turn to in due course)? Perhaps we need to rewrite (from wikipedia's definition):

Rape culture is a phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized .......
to  
Rape culture is a phrase used to describe a culture in which rape isn't pervasive and normalized but lots of sundry tenuously related shit is.....

Is that the issue Oolon? That I was applying the idea of normalisation to attitudes to rape itself? That I am making rape culture too much about rape and not enough about bikini clad women being used to advertise exotic cruises and brickies wolf-whistling at passing women?

If that is the case Oolon then I call bullshit. That society normalises men as more sexually aggressive and women as sexually passive may well be true but that is as far away from demonstrating societal acceptance of rape as the acceptance of juvenile males greater physical aggression and strength is from demonstrating societal acceptance of murder. Not close at all: not even the sniff of a cigar there.

Rape culture

So here we have an interesting little set of circumstances. In Oolon's original piece he criticised some arguments against rape culture on the grounds that they were arguing against a straw-definition (…hypothesis of a systematically-endemic effort to rape women native to the culture…). He then demonstrated that this definition was false by showing wikipedia's definition. At the time he wrote this about the wikipedia entry:

Please, find me a definition of rape culture that comes close to this! I guess taking the top Google search result will suffice, even if it is Wikipedia and not necessarily what feminists themselves actually say


Okay, so it is not *necessarily* what feminists say. That was his criticism. He must have thought the definition was pretty good, however, because his challenge to critics of the idea, at the end of his blog, was based on this wikipedia definition!

So given that this was the definition he used and the definition he based his challenge on, this was the definition I worked with. Sounds reasonable? Apparently not, silly me - Oolon again:

Nope, oh dear, failed to follow my instructions then? I thought they were pretty clear … I pointed at the Wikipedia definition and criticised it as *not* matching what feminists say about rape culture. So you decide to use Wikipedia, seems legit, which is actually just defining the word there in very general sociological terms not in context of rape culture. Skeptic fail
Something of a change of heart, then, from Oolon. So this is what we now have to believe:

1) Oolon wanted to criticise someone for using an inaccurate definition of rape culture so-
2) Oolon attempts to demonstrate the inaccuracy of the individual's definition by contrasting it with another definition which he acknowledges isn't accurate either (yes, really).
3) Oolon then carries on throughout his blog based on this definition he himself says is inaccurate.

You really couldn't make this shit up, could you?

What I really love is the nonsensical part in the quote above. Yes, Oolon objects to me using wikipedia on the grounds it defines rape culture in general terms and not in the context of rape culture. Is it just me, or is that one of the most bullshit marinaded sentences known to humankind?

Maybe Oolon has been at the sherry again? (Sherry fail?)

Confused yet? Prepare to be!

So if we are looking to unearth one of these secret feminist definitions we don't have to look far. Oolon links to one (then totally ignores it) in his original blog piece. The piece is by "Shakesville" (Melissa McEwan), a feminist and promoter of fat acceptance (occasionally bordering on morbid-obesity advocacy on the bits i've read) so shall we take a look at what Shakesville has to say?

Frequently, I receive requests to provide a definition of the term "rape culture." I've referred people to the Wikipedia entry on rape culture, which is pretty good, and I like the definition provided in Transforming a Rape Culture:

Wait, so Melissa thinks the wikipedia entry is pretty good? Hmm, so the wikipedia entry is NOT what feminists in general mean by rape culture (according to Ool's) but Oolon's chosen example of a typical feminist likes it.

Confused now surely? Incredibly, it gets worse:

Whilst Shakesville's Melissa likes the wikipedia definition she also likes another definition and this is where we run into more than a bit of an issue. Here is that other definition:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.


Interestingly, according to this definition, rape culture need not actually be about rape at all. A bit like murder culture only requiring a good kicking, rape culture could conceivably be about as little as 'sexual remarks' it seems.

This is also a definition that, to its discredit, seems to rely heavily on equivocation. That we see "violence as sexy" is undoubtedly true. However, the sexy violence of the Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels variety is decidedly of the non-sexual variety and the usage of the word sexy here clearly means something more akin to cool and glamorous than anything related to the levels of tumescence going on in one's pants. Contrast that to the portrayal of King Joffrey (Game of Thrones) being shown getting his sexual thrills murdering a tied up prostitute by shooting crossbow bolts into her - a scene we are shown in the very expectation we will recoil in disgust and hate his (already hated) character even more (number 2 on this list). Sexy does not mean "sexually stimulating" and nine out of ten times the sexy violence is resolutely non-sexual in its nature. Another example of equivocation is between "inevitability" as an understanding of likelihood as things stand versus "inevitability" as something which is simply a fact of the universe outside of our influence. That we accept rape (feel free to insert any other well known crime here) as an inevitability in no way implies anything other than a rational analysis of the statistics: crimes DO happen. In no way does it suggest a passive acceptance that nothing can, or should, be done about it; in no way does it demonstrate an endorsement of the status quo.

However, the real issue at hand is how different this definition is to the wikipedia definition. To be working by two such disparate definitions makes the whole concept so woolly and ill defined that it becomes worthless. I worry about anyone who so happily accepts both as definitions of the same thing and doesn't find that bothersome. It is deeply unscientific. It should bother Oolon too. It bothers me it doesn't bother him. It should bother everyone.


Issues of Citations and Statistics


So the major bone of contention Oolon had with my response to him was that I didn't cite enough feminist statistics and tackle them.

I had hoped I'd made my stance sufficiently clear in the last blog. Statistics require tackling when they are relevant. If your case is that the statistics are not germane to what is under consideration then what is to be gained here? My primary contention was that many of the things listed as forming "part of rape culture" are nonsensical or obviously wrong-headed. My argument was NEVER with the existence of sexual objectification, for example, but that the presence or absence of objectification (sexual AND otherwise) tells us precisely nothing about whether our culture has accepted and normalised rape any more than it informs us about the price of fish.

However, Oolon, bless him, really wants to trade a few stats and sources so I'll humour him.

How about we kick off with an example of really objectionable and cynical misuse of statistics?

So, in 2010 Neil M Malamuth published "Rape Proclivity Amongst Males" in the Journal of Social Issues. You can download it here. Bear in mind, this is a study which Oolon cites via an intermediary "very good post on rape culture".

So Malamuth quote various studies he and his colleagues carried out, almost exclusively on (male) college students, around 1980-81. In these studies the students were asked to rank their perceived likelihood that they might rape were they to know in advance they would not get caught. The subjects were expected to rank the likelihood on a scale of 1-5, 1 equating to a zero likelihood all the way up to 5. Mahamuth reports that 35% of the subjects gave scores 2-5, ie non-zero likelihoods (in other words, they didn't feel able to totally rule out the possibility that they would rape).(As an aside, given the way people quite openly admit they would murder person x or y, were they assured to get away with it; given that 36% of young british muslims, in a survey, agreed with the statement that the penalty for apostasy from Islam should be death - given these things, I find the statistic unremarkable in the extreme.)

So how did Oolon report this statistic? Here he is demonstrating just how capable he is of limbo'ing under the very lowest of bars:

Highlights (?) include “1 in 3 (30-35%) of men would rape if they knew they’d get away with it.


You see, it is very hard to discuss statistics at the best of times, especially with people who so willfully misreport them. In this case reporting any expression of possibility, however fractional, as copper-bottomed certainty (as if all those who put a 2-4's had put 5's) whilst simultaneously assuming north american college students = all men (SJW's would call this 'erasing' middle-aged and elderly men).


Oolon asked me to view a specific piece entitled:
“Normalizing Sexual Violence, Young Women Account for Harassment and Abuse”

Some very interesting material in the link and I can see why Oolon feels this is some kind of killer blow..... but only because he seems to have forgotten what exactly it is that we are discussing here. Recall: we are discussing a concept called RAPE culture.

I am sure if I tried to demonstrate murder culture by citing analyses of societies views of macho posturing and/or a bop on the nose people would, quite rightly, point out that neither of those things say a damned thing about how we view murder. Murder is not either of those things.

Throughout the vast majority of the study Oolon waves in my face it doesn't say a damned thing about rape. It says much about societal acceptance to many things, a great many of them potentially problematic in their own right, but only towards the end, in the confused accounts of a number of minors, do we actually talk about rape. Even then, the study, by treating crimes of sexual violence entirely apart from other crimes of violence, seems to infer things which may simply not be true. How many young boys fail to correctly attribute a punch in the face from a peer as a serious, potentially criminal, physical assault? Instead, just regarding it as part and parcel of growing up as a young man (as we all did at school). In other words, what is the evidence that these problematic phenomena are exclusive to the realm of sexual assaults (which always seems to be the implication of these studies that only ever seem to concern themselves with sexual crimes) as opposed to simply reflecting attitudes that span the whole gamut of assaults and violent behaviours?
Perhaps I am being really radical here Oolon but surely if you'd quoted me a report looking at how seriously we regard rape that may have been ever so slightly more relevant to any claim that ours is a rape culture? A report such as this one perhaps, where rape ranks as the second worst crime in the perception of those questioned. Hell, almost 18% of respondents even ranked it as worse than murder!

Of course, if your goal from the outset is to make the case that our society is rape cultured then you are far better off skirting round the periphery and looking at societal attitudes to anything BUT rape. Make the same tenuous linkages that we heard earlier (violence is sexy) and claim that as somehow implicating society as accepting of rape and rapists but, whatever you do.......


Or how about this very recent submission by RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), the largest organisation tackling these issues in the USA. Recommendations to the White House Task Force (pdf)
From the submission (highlighting is mine):

In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming 'rape culture' for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime. 


While that may seem an obvious point, it has tended to get lost in recent debates. This has led to an inclination to focus on particular segments of the student population (eg athletes), particular aspects of campus culture (eg, the Greek system), or traits that are common in millions of law-abiding Americans (eg, masculinity), raher than on the sub-population at fault: those who choose to commit rape. This trend has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates responsibility for his or her own actions.

By the time they reach college, most students have been exposed to 18 years of prevention messages, in one form or another. Thanks to repeated messages from parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, the media and, yes, culture at large, the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category.

Research supports the view that to focus solely on certain social groups or “types” of students in the effort to end campus sexual violence is a mistake. Dr. David Lisak estimates that three percent of college men are responsible for more than 90% of rapes. Other studies suggest that between 3-7% of college men have committed an act of sexual violence or would consider doing so. It is this relatively small percentage of the population, which has proven itself immune to years of prevention messages, that we must address in other ways. (Unfortunately, we are not aware of reliable research on female college perpetrators.)

(As you can well imagine, this submission led to a significant amount of defensiveness and doubling down by a number of feminist writers. Obviously RAINN, previously seen as an 'ally', has suddenly been hi-jacked entirely by misogynistic dudebros high-fiving one another at striking a blow against the womynz or something.... anyway, back in reality...) 

Firstly, note, I will try and be consistent. I won't start waving around the 3% commit 90% figure because, as interesting as that figure may be, like so many other figures mentioned, I don't see that it is relevant to societal attitudes to rape and rape perpetrators. See that Oolon? If it isn't relevant it doesn't have to be debunked nor can it be lauded as prima facie evidence.
What I think is relevant is the highlighted portions. That culture is not what is responsible for these sexual assaults and that culture, by and large (both generally and through the specific instruments listed here, amongst others) consistently and repeatedly affirms that rape and sexual violence are amongst the worst of crimes to which one person can subject another.

I will leave that one with you Oolon.


The Points Oolon Actually Addressed

This has taken some getting to.

.......your Lara Croft controversy, stirred up by a feminist! What irony, feminists fight rape culture and in your eyes that means it doesn’t exist. This would be funny if not so tragically, obviously, fractally wrong.

I will be honest, I can't really parse Oolon's response here and work out what his point is. I thought mine was clear enough. In video games acts of non-sexual violence occur by the truckload - and they are well and truly normalised within the context of the medium - but acts of sexual violence are seen as taboo and steered clear of the vast majority of the time.
I mentioned the huge amounts of non-sexual violence in Lara Croft/ Tomb Raider games and the controversy stirred up at the prospect of one solitary act of sexual violence amongst the entire series. Oolon's response appears to be that clearly one act of sexual violence would be evidence of rape culture to such an extent that he cannot comprehend how my knowledge of the Lara Croft controversy has not thoroughly convinced me that rape culture exists. I suppose if rape culture was defined as "a culture that treats rape and sexual crimes very seriously and trivialises non-sexual violent crimes" then I'd take his point.

A question for Oolon: In the game "Skyrim" your charcter is able to perpetrate almost every crime ever devised on the poor unsuspecting npc's. Feel free to rob them, burgle them, punch them, disembowel them, murder them...... anything you like as long as there is no sexual aspect to the crime. So my question is whether you regard this as evidence for, or against, rape culture? And why?

You really think your “murder culture”, “theft culture” etc stuff is a killah argument, don’t you? Does it even occur that if you were correct, so what? Observing some of the same attitudes and behaviours serve to minimise other crimes doesn’t in any way detract from the observation that in rape culture they work to minimise rape sometimes too.

I want to make a general suggestion. It is that if you want to talk about x culture, regardless of what that x may be, there should be some expectation of something anomolous, different or outside of the general scope of things. Every society eats food, lots of it, but would that then make it sensible to label every single culture a food culture, or would it make more sense to reserve that term purely for cultures that went over and above the gastronomic norms? I suggest to you, the latter.
So my suggestion here is that for the label rape culture to have any meaning it needs to be applied to cultures whose attitudes to and prevalence of rape and sexual violence are markedly different in one of three ways:
i) different, in ways we would regard as negative, to the majority of contemporary cultures.
ii) different, in ways we would regard as negative, to how that society had operated generally throughout history.
iii) different, in ways we would regard as negative, to how that society regards and deals with other crimes, especially crimes of violence.

It is with respect to (iii) above that I contend my argument, whilst not necessarily a killer argument, is one worthy of consideration. If these factors trumpeted as evidence of rape culture apply equally (or to an even greater extent) across the spectrum of crimes then that removes one of the three ways that we could suggest that the treatment of rape and sexual violence, by that culture, is in any way out of the ordinary (in terms of permissivemness or pervasiveness).

By your statement you think differently. You clearly think that a society that minimises ALL crimes is best labelled a rape culture, though it isn't immediately obvious to me why. Wouldn't crime culture be a better term in this instance?


Oh, two last things:

I’ve seen this myself (he refers to arguments that men cannot control themselves and so are absolved of blame), the ever popular Evolutionary Psychology argument that rape is “natural”, men cannot help themselves.

Not sure whether this is deliberate dishonesty on your your part or whether I should cut you some slack and assume scientific ignorance? 
- Firstly, you are either implying a fallacious appeal to nature on the part of the evo-psych proponents or mischeviously conflating the evo-psych arguments of genetic predisposition with the idea of biological determinism. Either way, it is a cunt's trick you are trying to pull.
- Secondly, what is of greater relevance to the accusation of rape culture is societal attitudes to rape not individual predisposition to offend. So how come you are happy to mention that some evo-psych proponents make evolutionary arguments showing how rape my be an effective genetic strategy (for some) but don't mention the corollary they make which is their evo-psych argument for why cultures, societies and individuals hold rapists in such contempt and hold rape to be such a serious crime?  

Ignorance on your part Oolon or intellectual dishonesty? 

I am starting to suspect the latter.

it’s much easier to opine about what a brave hero you are for standing up to the feminazis 

Fuck you for putting words in my mouth Oolon. In 42 years I have never used the term Feminazis in either my written exchanges nor my verbal ones. If using such terminology is bad (as per the Dawkins/Benson accord, perhaps) then surely such false attributions are equally unacceptable.

Thanks for reading,
NP99 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Rape Culture, Normalisation and Oolon.

I have already given some of my thoughts on the assertion that we live in a rape culture last year (the conclusion drawn that we do only so much as we also live in a non-sexual violence culture, a fraud culture, a theft culture, a murder culture etc etc).

So over a year later I thought I'd have a look at my old 'friend' Oolon's blog and what do I find? Yes that is right: a nice juicy entry bemoaning the individuals (the embodiments of rape culture) who take issue with the idea.

So here I am running the very real risk (for which read, copper-bottomed certainty) of, once again, being labelled a rape apologist by daring to question this particular mantra. Part of me would like to be all bullish at this point and claim that such comments are simply water off a ducks back. They are not. They do hurt. Notwithstanding that I will press on, those that want to hate through mischaracterisation and misrepresentation have enough to dislike me for already.

One of the most ironic aspects of Oolon's blog is the level of hypocrisy. He criticises rape culture theory critics for picking weak arguments or strawmanning the arguments of its proponents. The problem is, at what point in HIS deconstruction of the critics arguments does he do anything other than go after the weakest and least relevant? Funnier still was the way in which the one commenter on the blog demonstrated very ably how both sides are equally capable of playing this same game. Let me share the humour with you:

This was Oolon's decrying of such an approach:
Much easier to take down a corrupt or simplistic rendering of your opponents argument, this is a very popular technique and to be fair often people are accused of it when they are just trying to fairly paraphrase or restate their opponents arguments. Here our friend is just going for a total fantasy of his own making.

And here is a snippet of his commenters (latsot) response. Oolon must have cringed:

It would be too depressing to describe all the ‘arguments’ against rape culture I’ve seen, but it might be fun to list some of the tropes. For an especially masochistic definition of ‘fun’. Some of these you’ve already mentioned.
 5. The slymepit has lots of examples of FTBullies behaviing badly, therefore…. and I get a bit lost here… people who rape or threaten rape or enable rape are…ok…?
6. FTBullies are evil. Therefore anyone evil is an FTBully. Therefore FTBullies are evil. Why are they evil? Mostly because they are not fans of rape culture apologists.
14. Caring about people is somehow and inexplicably a bad thing
15 Atheism is only about not believing in gods. Unless we are telling off believers for the same things we refuse to tell non-believers off for.

So there you go. Perhaps I should follow Oolon's lead and simply critique what Latsot had to say? I will resist the temptation.

At the end of the piece Oolon lays a challenge to "Skeptical anti-feminist skeptics" to stop critiquing their straw-definitions and instead tackle "the most reasonable definition currently accepted by feminists". Whilst I am avowedly NOT an anti-feminist (and have gone to lengths on video to outline my position there, not that it does me one iota of good) and whilst I am severely irked at a fellow Englishman spelling sceptic with a "k" (presumably Oolon also favours "aluminum" and er, well... "favor"!) I want to tackle what I think is two of the most fundamental issues given the exact definition he uses himself in his blog piece.

Perhaps this is a good time to read the definition of rape culture Oolon is working off here:

Rape culture is a phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.
Examples of behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, or refusing to acknowledge the harm of certain forms of sexual violence that do not conform to certain stereotypes of stranger or violent rape.
 
Fundamental in this definition is the idea that rape and sexual violence have become normalised. So what does that mean? Oolon is quoting his definition from wikipedia so here is their entry on normalisation

Normalization refers to social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as "normal" and become taken-for-granted or 'natural' in everyday life.  

So is this really the case? Have we started to normalise rape in our societies?

One thing that has been normalised in recent years is homosexuality. Go back a slack handful of decades and attitudes were very much different to how they are today. Nowadays, happily, most lesbians and gay men can quite happily admit to their sexual preferences and the majority of us are a healthy combination of welcoming and blissfully uninterested in who it is the person is sexually attracted to. With normalisation comes the ability to freely admit that which you do or desire to do because it no longer attracts stigma; it is no longer seen as wrong.

Think about paedophilia for a moment.
In the UK in the 1970's a group called the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) sought to normalise paedophilia, make it an acceptable expression of sexuality. Go forwards a couple of decades and the Catholic church, primarily in Ireland, became embroiled in a series of scandals involving priests sexually assaulting and raping children. The reason I mention these two things is because the actions of the church upon learning of the priests evil actions was to suppress and deny. Why? Because, thankfully, PIE was not successful and paedophilia has not been normalised. If sex with children was normalised in our society the church would have seen nothing requiring a denial.

This is why I find claims that rape has been normalised entirely problematic. It is the very strength with which denials are made; the very contempt with which we hold the rapist (over and above perpetrators of other violent crimes); the reticence we have to accept that those we know could be guilty of such a thing, that demonstrates just how wide of the mark it is to suggest that rape and sexual assault have been normalised.
We hear of examples of communities rallying around young men accused of rape, refusing to accept their guilt and culpability (in many cases, shamefully so) but however much these cases highlight a very real issue we have regarding rape prosecutions and societal attitudes are they not the diametric opposite of what we would expect to see if rape was normalised? Surely if rape really was normalised, rather than desperately trying to avoid the reality of what has likely taken place the response would simply be "ok, they raped her, so what?"

When I cast my eye out over society rather than see rape and sexual violence normalised, above and beyond other crimes against the person, I actually see the total opposite. If any process of normalisation is taking place it is specifically and selectively of violent crimes that do not have a sexual component. Video games are possibly the most extreme example of this. Consider the controversy stirred up in the latest Lara Croft game when it was rumoured she may have been sexually assaulted as part of the back story. Beaten up would have been fine; knifed to within an inch of her life - fine; defrauded of her family estate - fine. This is a video game remember, like myriad others, that is end to end (non-sexual) violence and killing of human beings and this violence has, in the name of entertainment, become so normalised that it barely registers any more. It has become the norm. Put ONE violent crime with a sexual aspect amongst the thousands on non-sexual crimes and the moral condemnation and outcries amongst media and public come thick and fast.

Honestly now. Does that sound like something that has become normalised? 

Really, this would take special pleading of the most egregious kind to argue that these indicators, which are the very hallmark of something far outside of accepted societal norms on any other issue indicate normalisation when it comes to rape and sexual violence.

So that was the first issue I have with that definition. The second is of a different form.

Oolon's claim is that the markers of rape culture have been outlined by feminists and that we need to do a review of the scientific research if we intend to debunk the theory. The problem is - at least MY problem is - not the research or the findings therein but the seemingly rather specious choice of factors itself.
For example, he lists five towards the end of his blog that he expects to be challenged, not on the grounds of relevance (which we are just expected to accept, i think) but on whether they occur:
 
1. Victim blaming, 2. Sexual objectification, 3. Trivializing rape, 4. Denial of widespread rape , 5. Refusing to acknowledge the harm of certain forms of sexual violence.


Forgive me if I challenge SOME of them on grounds outside of what he expects

As I mentioned on my earlier blog on this subject, I accept that victim blaming occurs, as it does with every single crime I can think of. I will grant that there is in amongst that a particularly pernicious and nasty strand of blaming that attaches itself to rape over and above some other crimes. It is the victim blaming that detracts blame from the perpetrator that is at issue, not victim blaming per se because society spends its entire time blaming victims (for not locking their cars, not installing a firewall on their pc's, hanging around with the wrong people or the wrong place at the wrong time)
Then we have sexual objectification. How strange it is that we happily accept objectification of one another in almost every sphere of life (the way we view sportspeople as physical commodities; farm and manual labourers; the gun fodder, once again, in video games) just so long as there is no sexual aspect to it. Add sex to the mix and suddenly that is evidence of rape culture! So here we all are, sexual beings who have a chronic habit of objectifying one another and what the hell do we expect? Big fucking deal. Irrelevant in the extreme.
The denial of widespread rape happens. I admitted it earlier. The problem is, as I pointed out at the time, whilst this may be a big issue in itself (something regrettable that needs addressing), how can it be anything other than evidence against rape culture, not for it? It evidences that rape is NOT normalised, not the other way round!
So that leaves trivialising rape and refusing to accept the harm of certain forms of sexual violence. I agree that these take place and are evidence that points towards a conclusion of rape culture.
What I don't agree is that this is sufficient to balance out all the societal indicators that point to the contrary - that rape and sexual violence are crimes that we regard as far worse than violent crimes that have no sexual element and that the fulfillment of the necessary condition of normalisation is about as far from being fulfilled as one could possibly imagine.


One final note: I realise I am probably wasting my breath here but there is really nothing here that is intended to give any leeway whatsoever to anyone who overrides any individuals right to only partake in sexual activities to which they fully consent. The very basis of this response is to say that rape is a very bad thing and that society recognises it as such. If we fail to acknowledge that, instead convincing ourselves that such things have been normalised, how will that aid toward making our societies better and safer for all involved?


 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Acceptability of Ableist Slurs - An Idiot's Guide

The motivation for this particular blog entry came from a discussion I read this morning, involving Ophelia Benson in a series of exchanges with the regulars on the well known atheist hate site www.atheismplus.org. I realise this site can prove highly triggering to the vast majority of the sub-species homo sapiens sapiens who happen to stumble across it, so I ask you to treat this link with some caution:

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

I must firstly admit to a certain degree of schadenfreude at the responses Ophelia had to deal with over there. That is to my detriment, I realise. The regulars - who never fail to prove that intolerance and myopic self-interest are equal opportunities employers - gave her a great dose of the kinds of wilful misportrayal and constant prejudiced assumptions of intent that are the modus operandi on the worst of the comments sections over at her usual blog host.
I suppose if you live by the sword of objective righteous ethical certainty (a fabled blade, in many designs, each one of them the one true sword) at some point you will die by that blade also; there is, after all, always someone out there more puritanical in their strive for absolutism in social justice than yourself.

So this got me thinking about the issue at hand which was that of ableist slurs.

In many ways this entry is part three of my existing video series on gendered slurs which I very much encourage you to watch (they are both lighthearted and serious at the same time)

In part 1 Gendered Slurs #1: A Load of Tittybollocks! I discussed why I thought the arguments claimed with the usage of gendered slurs fall wide of the mark (and made a somewhat flippant suggestion on a compromise).

In part 2 Do Cocks Cause Splash Damage? I examined in more depth (and ultimately dismissed) the claim that genital related slurs are qualitatively no different from terms like nigger and fag and should be avoided for the same reasons. The arguments raised in part two, especially, are quite pertinent to what will be discussed here, so if you haven't seen this video spend a few minutes and give it a watch!

Which brings us here, to what is effectively a third part but with a shift of focus from gendered slurs to ableist slurs. By an ableist slur we are, I suggest, referring to using a term for a cognitive or physical differentiator from the developmental norm in a negative way. So common has this become that terms must be constantly cycled as they start to weigh down under too much frivolous usage as everyday insults (special needs must surely be long overdue for replacement, by way of example).

Two that have really caught my interest are crazy and blind.

Bear in mind that the whole issue that is being claimed with slurs is that of splash damage - that by using the term in question not only are you insulting the person you intend to insult but that you are causing a boatload of collateral damage to anyone else to whom the term legitimately refers. That by placing negative connotations on the label those negative connotations cary far wider than perhaps you intend.

In the second gendered slurs video I explored that idea with regard to two groups of words. On the one hand words like cock, twat, cunt and dick; and on the other hand words like nigger, fag and (not one people take much issue with but, I proposed, of the same kind - wanker). My claim was that qualitatively these groups of words differed because the relationships differed between their original usage and the specified usage in the following way:

Cock: general usage a sexual organ/ specific usage a whole person
Fag: general usage a whole person/ specific usage a whole person

So the thrust of my argument was that when we insult someone by calling them a fag (homosexual) we are saying that there is something wrong with a person being a homosexual. We can immediately see the issue here: homosexuals ARE people so by dint of our usage we are implying that there is something wrong with homosexuals being homosexuals = something wrong with homosexuals and homosexuality generally.
However, with the word cock the situation is very different. When we insult someone by calling them a cock we are saying that there is something wrong with a person being a cock (or displaying some set of intangible qualities we have somewhat arbitrarily ascribed to cocks). Is the difference here not apparent? Cocks are not people so at no point is there any implication that cocks being cocks is a bad thing; that cocks are inherently bad in any way. No. All we are saying is that for a person to be a cock is a bad thing. No slight on cocks or cock owners any more than calling a person a sheep is a slight on actual sheep or on the farming community!

So how does reasoning translate across to terms like crazy and blind?

Clearly crazy, as an insult, (with reference to the potential for splash damage) appears to fall closer to the nigger/fag/wanker pool than the pile of cocks, cunts and their bretheren.
So does that mean I side with the rabid morons over at atheismplus over its usage? No (which you probably guessed already with the "rabid morons" bit) and here's why:

The issue we have with words like fag, wanker and nigger is that, by dint of using them as an insult we are suggesting that there is something wrong, bad or lessening about the person having that characteristic. Consequently, as a result of fag, nigger and wanker actually being descriptors for groups of people we are suggesting that there is something equally wrong, bad or lessening about ALL those who have that characteristic. The same is true of the word crazy but (and it is a BIG BUT) the key difference is our perception of a crazy person from the off. It is my sincerest belief (and hope, in fact) that everyone who reads this blog has no issue with homosexuality, race or masturbatury status. That none of us regard these as negative things is precisely the issue and a key determinent in why they are potentially problematic to use as slurs. However, is it really bigotted or prejudiced to hold the view that craziness is NOT a positive characteristic? Surely even the majority of crazy people accept that insanity is not a desirable thing. So, when we call someone crazy whilst it may be true that we are spreading a veneer of negativity towards insanity that extends beyond our immediate target in what way is that causing damage to the crazy people of this world?

As things stand:
I call you crazy as an insult -it follows- that craziness is a negative characteristic for a person to possess + craziness is, by definition, a characteristic possessed by (some) people -therefore- craziness is a negative characteristic in all those who possess it.

Nothing I am unhappy with there. I don't see how anyone could be, short of taking political correctness to such a level that they won't even accept madness as anything other than of equal standing to sanity.

I find the argument regarding the usage of blind not substantially different. If you look for something and fail to spot it and I remark "are you blind?" I think we all agree that I am suggesting that blindness is a negative characteristic to possess for someone visually attempting to search for an object. Clearly, like the previous example, that has implications for people who are genuinely blind: the potential for splash damage. However, even the ultra-hardliners over at atheismplus would have a hard time arguing that blindness is anything other than a pretty major handicap when it comes to visual searches, so how does our slur usage implying that blindness is a limitation in this area in any way damage our perceptions of genuinely blind people? I cannot, for the life of me, see how it does.

I do think we need to be a bit more careful with some other terms, especially when we attribute general negativity to conditions where the link is not justifiable. Calling someone a leper (leprosy) or a spazzer (spasticity) because of general physical or behavioural features we wish to pour scorn upon is not so easy to defend and I am convinced has led to much misunderstanding of what these, and many other, medical conditions actually entail.

Thanks for reading,
NP99