Category Archives: News

Are all men potential rapists? No.

victim

Prostitution should be legal to stop men turning into hormone-fuelled rapists. That’s not my opinion, but Dr Catherine Hakim’s. Hakim is a “social scientist” — using the term loosely — who argues that the sex industry could reduce sex crimes because men want sex more often than women.

“The male demand for sexual activity is going to manifest itself in some way or another and decriminalising prostitution would make it easier for men to go to prostitutes,” she told Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

There are a couple of things we need to discuss here, but to begin let’s deal with Hakim’s outrageous assertion that the average man will turn to rape if he doesn’t get enough sex.

First off, and most importantly, it’s not true. Not even a little bit. But she is not the first one to suggest it. You may remember the SlutWalk movement from a few years ago. This was sparked by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, who argued that if women wanted to prevent themselves getting raped then they should “avoid dressing like sluts.” Hakim and Sanguinetti both see male sexuality as dangerous, uncontrollable and prone to violence. But if sexual frustration, or short skirts, turned generally decent men into sexual predators, then a whole lot more men would be rapists.

Here’s the important thing to remember: rape is common; rapists are not.

An 2002 American study found that only 6 percent of men in the US have committed rape. However most rapists have multiple victims and will continue raping until they are caught and jailed. Unfortunately very few are. In the US, 98 percent never spend any time in jail.The States has a population of over 320 million people. If roughly half of the country is male, then that 6 percent translates into approximately 9,600,000 rapists.

Unfortunately we don’t have figures for Ireland and so I am forced to extrapolate from international data, which is definitely less than ideal as the cultural context makes a huge difference. But bearing this in mind, in 2013 the UN published a study on sexual violence which surveyed over 10,000 men in Asia. Nearly half of the rapists they interviewed had multiple victims. Interestingly enough, these rapists would agree with Hakim — The UN study found that rapists justified their behaviour by claiming that men can’t help themselves and that because of that, they are entitled to women’s bodies.

The idea that men are slaves to their hormones and think with their dicks is not a new one — but it is not very old either. In the Middle Ages it was generally believed that women had insatiable sexual appetites, which made them akin to animals, while men were more cerebral and less prone to carnal thoughts. At some point this changed. Social historians have traced the flipping of this script to the influences of Victorian ‘idealism’ in England and evangelical Protestantism in the United States during the 19th century. By arguing that women were not that sexual after all, women could claim some sort of moral and intellectual equality with men.

Hakim argues that men are twice as interested in sex as women and that this is true across all ages and cultures. She sees this as biological, instead of cultural. However, it is impossible to divorce culture from our sexual attitudes. People in liberal cultures are more likely to have liberal attitudes to sex; people in conservative countries generally hold conservative attitudes to sex. The way we think about sex influences our sexual behaviour. It also influences what we are prepared to admit to researchers.

A 2013 study found that men and women routinely lie to researchers about their sexual behaviour, even in anonymous studies. When they are hooked up to a lie detector, men report fewer partners and women more. Since Western culture tells men they ought to be studs, and tells women we shouldn’t be “sluts” we tend to lie, to ourselves and others, that our sexual behaviour is in line with dominant cultural attitudes. If men are more interested in sex, well, that’s because Western culture “allows” them to be. This is true of much of the world, especially when you consider that the English speaking world, and Europe, are generally more sexually liberal than the Middle and Far East and much of Africa.

Let’s talk a bit about Hakim. Essentially she is Katie Hopkins with a vaguely academic twist — prone to making controversial claims, which she tries to justify with references to academic research. You could say her views on men are downright misandrist, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But Hakim has about as much respect for women too.

You might have heard of Hakim when her book Honey Money was released in 2011. In it Hakim claimed that women should use their “erotic capital” to snag a rich man while young, and because of that, women would be better off going to the gym than college. Hakim listed all kinds of studies to back up her assertion that this was in a woman’s best interest — and she argued that most women would prefer being a trophy wife to having a career. Hakim doesn’t do any original research herself and she was criticised for her sloppy understanding of statistics, for misinterpreting scholarly research, for a poorly argued and contradictory theory and for misrepresenting her affiliation with the London School of Economics. In other words, you’d want to take anything she says with a large dose of salt.

As I am sure you’re aware, Amnesty International has recently been debating the merits of decriminalising the global sex industry and has said that the right to sell sex is a human right. This has set off a firestorm of opinions. Many sex workers and advocates praised Amnesty for this stance; others, including former sex workers, academics, advocates and even Hollywood stars condemned the proposal as one which will empower pimps and exploiters instead of the men and women in the sex industry.

There are many arguments to support the legalisation of the sex industry; and many arguments against it, but that’s a topic for a different column. However you feel about legalising sex work, claiming that it will prevent rape is nonsense. For one thing, even in countries where prostitution is illegal, it is not hard to find sex workers. What’s more, except in the handful of countries where buying sex is illegal, it is the sex worker, not the client, who is at the mercy of the law. By and large across the world men have access to prostitutes if they want them.

Rape is rarely about sexual need, desire or pleasure. It’s about power, control and sexual entitlement. The UN study found that more than 70 percent of the rapists they interviewed claimed they raped because they were entitled to women’s bodies; 40 percent said they were angry or wanted to punish the woman; and around half of them said they did not feel guilty about their actions.

Whatever benefits or disadvantages there are to legalising prostitution, it is not going to have any effect on rape. In fact sex workers are at a greater risk of rape than other women. It is estimated that they have a 45 to 75 percent chance of being a victim of sexual violence at some point.

Hakim, like Katie Hopkins, has become rich and famous by making contentious statements. They both love the glare of media attention and will do, or say, anything to make sure we give it to them. I wish I didn’t have to give her any. But unlike Hopkins, Hakim claims to be an authority and expert. Her latest assertions are false, dangerous, and hugely insulting to men. Ignoring her is not really an option.

This year’s Sexpo to be held in London


I can’t see Sexpo coming to Ireland any time soon, but this year’s exhibition is being held in London, which is just a hop, skip and an uncomfortable Ryanair flight away.

Sexpo is the world’s largest sexual health and lifestyle exhibition, and the 2015 event is being held at the London Olympia from 13 to 15 November. Granted, that is ages away, but if you were interested in attending, early bird tickets with a 30% discount are now available.

Saving money on the ticket is an excellent idea so you’ll have more to spend at the exhibition itself… I’m a fan of exciting new toys and some of the world’s most innovative adult retailers will be showcasing their newest, shiniest products. There will also be live entertainment, catwalk shows and a variety of performances plus a chance to meet adult stars, glamour models, and erotic authors.

There is also an educational aspect to the exhibit with a wide range of classes, seminars and workshops on a variety of sex related topics. Best of all, these are included in the ticket price! Nice!

For more information and tickets, see www.sexpo.co.uk.

Would you pay someone for cuddles?

The USA’s first “cuddle café” has opened in Portland, Oregon. Cuddle Up To Me is the brainchild of “professional cuddler” (eh?) Samantha Hess, who claims to have thought of the idea when she was at a low point and wanted someone to cuddle without any ulterior motives.

While it is a first for the USA, the idea is not wholly original. Japan’s first cuddle café opened in 2012. As you can imagine, the idea attracted a lot of press — but also a lot of customers. But perhaps that’s not so surprising — in the past few years, we’ve been treated to a number of reports suggesting that Japan’s younger generation has all but given up on sex. The government is worried about the declining birthrate, and Japan’s Institute of Population and Social Security found that a whopping 90% of young women believe that staying single is preferable to getting married.

If this lack of interest in sex, romance and relationships is as bad as it is reported to be, it is hardly any wonder that cuddles are hard to come by.

However, the same cannot be said for the States. Despite panic about the negative affects of “hook up culture” most young people have sex within the contexts of relationships (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-11/l-ar110812.php). Although marriage rates have been declining in the US, half of all adults — defined as over 16 years old — are married. If you’re in a relationship that is fairly stable and happy, cuddles are part of the deal.

Given this, you wouldn’t think there would be a massive call for professional cuddling in the States. Nevertheless, Hess claims to have received up to ten thousand emails a week from people looking to hire her services. At $60 (about €50) for an hour, it is not exactly cheap either.

There are many reasons why people pay for sex, but paying for cuddles seems odd to me. I am a fan of cuddles, but while you don’t need a relationship to have satisfying sex, cuddling with someone that you don’t care about — and who doesn’t return your affection — seems pointless.

What do you think? Would you pay someone for cuddles, or can you imagine a scenario where hiring a professional cuddler would be a good idea? Personally, I think you’d be better off getting a pet than paying someone for cuddles. It may not be quite the same thing, but at least the affection would be genuine.

Do you Uber?

Since its inception Uber has rarely been out of the news, but not all the coverage it has been positive. The Silicone Valley rideshare service may have attracted investors in droves, expanded internationally in rapid time, and be worth a reported $41 billion, but — and pardon the pun — it’s been a bumpy ride

As you’d expect, much of the company’s trouble has come from taxi drivers who regard Uber as unfair competition, especially as the service is significantly cheaper than taxis in many parts of the world. Uber has been banned in Spain for this reason. After months of protests by taxi drivers, the Uber app was banned in Germany this September. Uber is challenging the ruling and is continuing operations in Germany. In a bid to win hearts and minds the company slashed fares on the budget UberPop service in October and asked the public for support.

More worrying are reports of sexual assaults on passengers and poor background checks on drivers. The most high profile of these happened in New Delhi after a woman was allegedly raped by an Uber driver who was subsequently arrested. New Delhi banned the app within days. But that’s hardly the first case. Numerous passengers have reported being sexually assaulted or harassed by their drivers.

Earlier this year, a Chicago woman sued Uber after her driver allegedly sexually assaulted her. Hers was not the first complaint. There have been several reports of driver and passenger conflicts, and claims of sexual harassment and assault.

On top of the complaints, there is a seeming lack of response from the company. A London woman complained to Uber after her driver sexually harassed her. Her fare was refunded and the company gave her a £20 credit, but although Uber promised to investigate, they did not report back what action, if any, had been taken.

Here’s another one. A Los Angeles woman was taken on a 20 minute detour by her Uber driver, and driven to a deserted parking lot. The woman claims she repeatedly protested, but the driver ignored her. After screaming at the driver, he eventually turned the car around and drove her home. She regarded this as an attempted kidnapping and complained. Uber regarded it as merely an inefficient route. The company has also added a $1 extra charge for the UberX “safe rides” feature — meaning that there is effectively a tax on not getting assaulted by your driver.

Granted, these are just a handful of bad experiences, and Uber has plenty of dosh to fight the bad press —and is apparently not beyond digging up dirt on critical journalists.

Getting into a car with a stranger can be dangerous, and I have had a couple of unpleasant experiences with taxi drivers (you can read about it here) so I find Uber worrying — or at least, I wouldn’t use the service if I was alone.

I am curious about your experiences? Have you ever used Uber, in any country? Does the bad press worry you? Or is Uber merely having teething problems?

IRISH MEN 1; PFAI 0

There is an internet truism — don’t read the comments. This is particularly true if the article in question is about rape. The necessity of avoiding the poisonous outpouring of anonymous asshats becomes all the more urgent if the victim could be cast as somehow at fault, by being drunk let’s say; or if the perpetrator is sympathetic, such as a young, attractive, successful sports star. But sometimes people surprise you.

It’s obvious that I am talking about Ched Evans, the former Sheffield United striker who was convicted of raping a drunk 19 year old woman at a hotel in 2011. He was convicted in April 2012 for 5 years but released this October. Evans maintains his innocence, and it seems a Stuart Gilhooly, and Irish solicitor agrees with him. Gilhooly wrote an article for the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland arguing that Evans was innocent. The PFAI has since removed the article.

Gilhooly’s argument boils down to two somewhat contradictory statements. First off that the crime wasn’t that serious: “There was no violence and thankfully the victim has no recollection of it. This, I hasten to add, does not make it right, or anything close to it, but it is nonetheless a mitigating factor.”

Then Gilhooly suggested that the rape of drunk women is so common that it hardly counts as a crime at all: “If having sex with a drunk woman is rape then thousands of men are guilty of rape every day.”

Gilhooly appears to be arguing that having sex with a person too drunk to consent is wrong, but not that wrong since lots of men do it. Whether or not thousands of men are guilty of rape doesn’t mitigate Evans’ crime; if anything it highlights the flaws in the justice system. He also compared Evans to the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, an insulting and specious argument since Evans was not a victim of police brutality or evidence tampering.

On the run-up to his conviction, articles about Evans tended to attract a huge amount of ire and victim-blaming. The woman at the centre of the case was named on Twitter; Sheffield United’s Connor Brown allegedly made offensive remarks about her; and hundreds of people seemed convinced that the victim had come forward since she was seeking fame and money.

Given all this, I was pleasantly surprise to see that the vast majority Irish internet commentators were not buying Gilhooly’s argument. I was even more delighted to note that while Gilhooly is prepared to see thousands of men as rapists, Irish men were rightly insulted by the implication. By far the majority of male commentators thought Gilhooly’s argument was “sick”, “appalling” and “disgusting” and many noted that he appeared not to understand the seriousness of rape.

Arguments like Gilhooly’s create a climate where it is difficult for victims — male or female — to come forward. Rape and sexual assault is depressingly common, but that doesn’t mean that rapists are. Most predators commit multiple assaults and continue to do so until they convicted. It is a crime that has a high rate of recidivism too, and those released back into society are very likely to reoffend.

Gilhooly suggests that Irish men don’t know the difference between having sex with a woman who has had a few drinks, and one who is too drunk to consent. They do. By suggesting that thousands of men have sex with blackout drunk women every day, he implies that most men have raped someone. They haven’t.

JULIEN BLANC ISN’T A PICK UP ARTIST — HE’S A PREDATOR

Julien Blanc, a so-called “pick up artist” has had his Australian tour cut short and his visa revoked. Protests have dodged Blanc’s tour and many venues had already cancelled their bookings. Australia’s immigration minister Scott Morrison waded in and cancelled the visa calling Blanc’s schtick “abuse” and “derogatory to women.” It is.

I don’t have an issue with “game” as a general rule. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be better at meeting women or trying to make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex. Not everyone is naturally socially confident or drop-dead gorgeous, but there are things you can learn that go a long way to help. I was a shy, awkward teenager but I learnt to fake confidence — and eventually got confident — because I wanted to meet boys.

Some of the advice, such as that given in Neil Strauss’ best-selling book, The Game, is pretty sensible and not that different from the tricks I used myself. These include paying attention to your grooming; having something interesting to say, even if you need to prepare it beforehand; finding out where interesting parties or events are happening; not worrying too much about rejection and accepting it graciously; and generally being the kind of person other people — men and women — want to spend time with. Strauss also advices not starting with a sexual come on, but rather making friends with everyone in the group, and building rapport with them and the person you fancy, before escalating to the next level. Not exactly revelatory stuff — it’s the kind of advice your mom would give you — and it is hard to monetise that.

As with many things in life, money causes the problems. After the success of Strauss’ book, the PUA scene exploded and people realised there was money to be made. Men pay hundreds, sometimes, thousands of dollars to attend seminars or bootcamps with well-known PUA coaches. But it is a crowded field, and each PUA coach has got to have a unique approach to distinguish himself from the herd. Some of the advice is straight-up ridiculous; some of it is close to advocating rape.

Blanc works for a company called Real Social Dynamics. RSD grew out of Project Hollywood, the house Strauss shared with his PUA coach Mystery. RSD is a company. Like most companies, it is dedicated to making a profit. But since the advice dispensed by the original PUAs like Mystery and Strauss is widely available in cheap paperbacks or on the net, nobody is going to pay for it.

Julien Blanc’s PUA advice is to grab a woman and force her head towards your crotch. Until recent days he was tweeting using the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundtheWorld. That’s not “game” — that’s sexual harassment. Grabbing someone and not letting go is assault. Some of his defenders argue that Blanc spent time talking to the women before doing this. That doesn’t make it better — it’s still sexual harassment.

Blanc is a racist, sexual predator who advices men that, “In Tokyo, if you’re a white male you can do what you want.” Here’s a clip of his seminars. At the end you’ll get to see Blanc in action. None of the women look pleased. Their body language says it all — pushing away or hunched up as small as possible to minimise physical contact with him.

When women complain about “rape culture” this is the kind of thing we mean — normalising sexual harassment and aggression as pick up techniques. Where Strauss advices being charming, Blanc suggests assault. There’s a world of difference there.

John Grisham thinks viewing child porn is fine – as long as it’s not boys…

John Grisham, the best-selling author of legal thrillers The Firm and The Pelican Brief, took on the American judicial system in a recent interview. Grisham argues that American prisons are full of people who shouldn’t be there, such as black teenagers on minor drug offences, white collar fraudsters like Martha Stewart and “sixty year old white men” who look at child porn.

His views seems to be largely based on the conviction of an old friend who was jailed for looking at child porn.

“His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled ‘sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that’. And it said ’16-year-old girls’. So he went there… He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.”

First off, you are extremely unlikely to accidentally stumble upon child pornography. Porn producers are very, very careful about the age of performers; hosting services and search engines automatically scour the web looking for anything dodgy and most child porn is hidden in the deep web.*

Secondly, why are sixteen year old girls seen as less problematic than ten year old boys? They may be teenagers, on the brink of adulthood, and legally allowed to have sex with other teenagers (in most American states as well as here) but they are still very young girls who cannot legally consent to perform in porn. Therefore it is impossible to know under what conditions the images or films were produced, or if coercion or force were part of the equation.

Finally, Grisham seems to think that child porn is a victimless crime, since the person viewing it did not touch anyone. He overlooks the fact that the child in the image was hurt, and anyone who views child porn creates the market for more and more of it to be produced – which means more and more children are harmed.

Grisham argues that people who look at child porn are not pedophiles. That may be true in the sense that anyone viewing child porn may never have touched a child, nor have any intention of doing so. But it is hard to square that with the fact that when most people search for porn, we search for the scenarios, images and people that we find sexually exciting, not the ones that leave us cold. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t leave a child alone in the company of someone whose porn preferences were for children.

You could certainly make a case that the US government is far too fond of locking up its citizens, particularly young African American men – and since Grisham is a lawyer as well as an author, he would have been in an ideal place to open up the conversation since he is on the road promoting his new book Gray Mountain. Unfortunately, his bizarre views on child porn are sure to make any nuanced discussion impossible as well as dodge his new novel. What a pity.

*It is possible some images of underage people were part of the “Snappening” – an unauthorised release of stored Snapchat photos.

Hackergate: Is it a sex crime?

Jennifer Lawrence recently spoke out about celebrity hackergate. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the actress called the release of her private naked images a “sexual violation” and said that, “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime.”

Lawrence makes an interesting point. On the one hand, technology has given us new ways to interact sexually with one another. Whether you send a nude image, engage in long-distance sex play over Skype or make a porn at home, we all recognise that this behaviour is sexual. Therefore, the theft and distribution of sexual images could be seen as a sexual violation. On the other hand, you could argue that seeing this as a sex crime does a disservice to victims of sexual assault. After all, Lawrence’s images – not her body – were the target.

Just after Lawrence’s interview became public, trolls defaced her Wikipedia page, replacing her picture with one of the stolen naked images. Luckily Wikipedia caught that and the page was returned to normal within 20 minutes. Someone, it seems, was not happy about being called out on their behaviour.

What do you think: is stealing, distributing and using someone’s sexual images a sexual violation or just a privacy violation?

Consent? There’s an app for that…

I am a big fan of sex, and a big fan of technology, but there are times when the two don’t mix. A case in point is Good2Go, an app designed with the idea of curbing sexual assaults on American college campuses. Lee Ann Allman, who created the app, was apparently inspired by a discussion with her college-aged children.

You may be aware that California recently introduced a “Yes Means Yes” consent law on college campuses. This is partly in response to a number of high profile reports on the extent of sexual assault at American universities. College authorities have been ignoring the problem for years. It seems an institution’s “brand” is more important than their students. While any measure to reduce sexual assaults is a good thing, I am at a loss as to how Good2Go could help. If anything, it puts users in a more precarious position than before.

First off, consent can be withdrawn at any time – even if you are naked and in bed, you are allowed to change your mind and your partner has got to respect that decision. If he or she doesn’t, it is sexual assault. If you’ve answered Yes with Good2Go there is a greater chance you may feel pressured into continuing; or your partner may think he or she will be able to force you without any consequences since they have a record of your initial consent. This means that victims would be less likely to speak up for fear that they would not be believed.

Secondly, who the hell would this appeal to, other than rapists? I can see the point in the Good2Go app if sexual assault is your thing. You could steal a victim’s phone before the assault and answer Yes; or you could force them to download the app and “consent” at knifepoint. Good2Go might not be legally binding, but the courts will take any evidence of consent into considerations, and this may be enough to convince a jury that a rapist is innocent.

The only people this app could reasonably protect is students afraid of being falsely accused of rape. While there is a lot of discussion about this online, the chances of actually being falsely accused are slim. Various studies suggest 1 or 2 percent of all reported rapes are false, but these very, very unlikely to make it to court due to lack of evidence and the accuser recanting.

As far as I can see, the only people who need be worried about a “false” rape accusation are rapists – not jump-out-at-you-with-a-knife rapists, but those who target victims who are too drunk to consent, or who pressure an unwilling partner into sex. These rapists may kid themselves that what they do is fine because they don’t use force, but it is sexual assault. Giving them any tool, such as an app where they can protect themselves is madness.

In the US, sexually assaults on campus are generally investigated by the university instead of the police. This is supposed to protect students because the university doesn’t have as high a bar for evidence as the courts, but even when a student is found guilty, the university generally won’t expel the rapist, withhold transcripts or enact any real punishment anyway. The sad fact is that in a closed community like a campus, a rape victim is more likely to become the target of malicious gossip than a rapist.

And finally, if you find discussing sexual consent so icky that you have to do it via an app, you are not Good2Go because you are in no way emotionally mature enough to have sex. End of.

Emma Watson threatened with nude release by 4chan MRAs

Emma Watson dared (dared!) to give a very mild speech about feminism and how rigid gender roles define both men and women at the UN recently and has been threatened by 4chan users with having nude photos released as punishment. Let’s have a look at some sample quotes from 4chan users enraged by her speech: It is real and going to happen this weekend. That feminist bitch Emma is going to show the world she is as much of a whore as any woman. she is a delicate flower and it is time for her fans to see her in full bloom, unlike your shitty cow tit attention whore there she makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH Lovely. For comparison, let’s look at what Watson said that got the neckbeards enraged:

I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

It is possible it may be a hoax, but even if so, the message is clear: if you talk about gender equality you will be punished. In an interview with Hot Press, Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project told me of the numerous threats she had received, including violent threats targeting her wedding. For more examples see: Anita Sarkeesian, Caroline Criado-Perez, and Amanda Hess to name a few.

EDITED TO ADD: It seems the leak may have been a stunt from Rantic Marketing aimed at discrediting 4chan (or at least their users). 4chan is of course not averse to hosting hacked private nude pics, and many women who speak out about gender equality are rewarded with death and rape threats, having their address made public and other sensitive information doxxed. If this is indeed a stunt, it is easy to see why it was so believable.