So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

09 May, 2010

Presumption of Innocence

A while back, two people named Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks decided to try to paint my blogworld acquaintance maymay as a pedophile for not barring minors from the KinkForAll unconference set he started and released into the world. I've been meaning to try writing about this for a while, but between Little Foot and everything else I have not been able to get the spoons together; better, more coherent writing can be found at Alas, A Blog, among many other places. One of maymay's posts on the subject is here.

So rather than roll over those subjects again:

Little Foot pulls books off the shelves: this one is titled Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

In an ideal world I'd have to hand the statistics about some European approaches to sex education, which starts well before puberty and has, as its end result, lower teen pregnancy rates, later age of first sexual contact, and so on, and I'd be able to lay them out in that cool-headed rational way that is how one's supposed to act in order to be Convincing in this culture.

Or I could just dig out my Blogging for Sex Education Day post and emotive appendix and wave them around again like a bloody shirt. Possibly with an "As a mother of a baby girl..." attached to start hitting those buttons as hard as I can.

But, y'know, as a mother of a baby girl, the Hughes-and-Brookses of the world terrify me. They terrify me because they wish to make equipping Little Foot with what she will need to navigate the world in reasonable safety a crime, if not literally, at least socially: they want the concept of frank discussion about sexuality to be, if it exists at all, constrained to those above legal majority, keeping the youth vulnerable, exploitable, ignorant.

I mean, I'm familiar with this sort of thing, this idea that children are 'innocent', which is a code word for 'unsexual', and that they will be tainted by knowledge.

I've run into it in homophobic discourse - because straight people never realise they're attracted to MOTOS before puberty, so gay people who figure that sort of thing out must be inappropriately sexualised. I have a hobby of popping into those discussions to note that I had my first crush when I was seven or so, and recognised it at the time as "something that has to do with grownup things like getting married", and it manifested as - among other ways - wanting to touch the target of my affections which, being in elementary school, involved defeating him in a wrestling match at a friend's birthday party. These people remain wilfully ignorant of the way that hairpulling and teasing get labelled as "puppy love" when the children involved are of different apparent sexes, making it redundant for people for whom that sort of thing is actually the early and inchoate manifestations of sexuality to realise that hey, they're straight!

... those were some very long and complicated sentences. Anyway!

Once, when I was pointing out that I was aware of parts of my sexuality when I was pre-pubescent - that I was formulating my taste in boys from the age of seven, say, I don't think I'd even gotten into the definite awareness of some level of kink by the age of twelve - I got told that I was providing justifications for pedophiles. That self-awareness as someone who was formulating an understanding about "grownup relationship things" and how I felt about having them someday was some kind of mitigating factor that could excuse sexual abuse. That even acknowledging child-appropriate sexuality in a prepubescent was carte blanche for people to fuck children.

I can tell from the way I repeat that and rephrase it over and over that I go all fugue-y and kind of triggery about it.

Children are keen observers of the world, perhaps especially the world of adult social dynamics, because they have to relate themselves to that world in order to survive. A keen state of vulnerability means that understanding the systems of social interaction is a vital skill. (This, tangentially, strikes me as one of the reasons ASD can be so disabling.) Expecting that children will not be piecing together understandings of sexuality from what they observe is flatly ludicrous: even the ones who are not growing up in a household with adults who are in a romantic/sexual relationship of some sort will have friends with married parents, or single parents who are dating, or whatever else. They will see people with relationships on television, or watch a Disney movie and observe how this year's Princess gets her Prince. And they will find themselves drawn to explore things themselves: whether it's "if I touch this I like how it feels" or "That person there makes me feel happy and I want to be near them" or something else altogether in that complex of things.

We cannot cannot cannot dissociate children from an awareness of how what's in their heads relates to the adult world. And sexuality does not suddenly spring into existence from nothing at puberty, at age of consent, at legal majority, at an age where one is old enough to drink, no matter how much the rhetoric would like it to.

And I'm writing about children, because I have a child and I have to work through how to equip her with knowledge from age-appropriate ground up - which doesn't even touch on the vileness of equating teenagers who might be attending one of maymay's unconferences with my nine-month-old child in terms of what sort of sexuality discussion might be appropriate for them.

But this is a culture in which carrying condoms in order to be a responsible driver for one's sexuality frequently gets taken as being oversexed, slutty, indiscriminate, bad, and thus unrapeable, because sex isn't a topic for discussion; sex is something magical that happens from beyond and carries you away. Being frank, real, knowledgeable, aware, making deliberate choices: these are all the sorts of things that destroy 'innocence' and thus make a person guilty.

02 May, 2010


Holly of the Pervocracy is taking apart some internet weirdo named Roissy, who has put forward "tests" to evaluate female attractiveness and male attractiveness according to some wacked out fetish pick-up artist subculture paradigm.

It is ... very strange.

Especially since the usual suspect is in there arguing that the Conventionally Attractive Woman totally benefits from this detestible set of social upfuckery and thus if one wants to have a Conventionally Attractive Woman one must learn these rules.

Now, as I mentioned over there, to the extent that that's an accurate description of "club culture", it's a brilliant argument for never going to a club, but there's more than that going on. As Holly notes in one of the previous posts she's written about this nonsense, the nonsense ignores the huge number of ordinary guys with partners. All of the Conventionally Attractive Women are off clubbing, right!

Er, no?

Unless, of course, one defines Conventionally Attractive Woman - and Roissy might - as someone who goes to trendy clubs. (I am pretty sure that people who go to goth and punk clubs don't count.)

I mean, I know more than a few women who pretty much meet the basic standards for Conventionally Attractive Women as I understand them - fairly thin, non-invisible bust, dress in an attractive manner that is compatible with their figure, and ... I don't think I know anyone who goes to trendy clubs. Or if I do they consider it the sort of shameful secret that doesn't get mentioned in polite company. Closest I'd get is people who go to see favorite bands in clubs on occasion, in which case the trendiness of the club is completely irrelevant. Hell, I've done that, to see a goth rock group. I have no idea if the place I went for that is fashionable, though the bartender didn't know how to mix a lime rickey and I had to tell her.

But it comes around to that thing that got said there - to get a patriarchy-approved woman apparently one has to become a patriarch. Okay, that's as sensical a thing as any.

What I don't understand is why this is an appealing relationship goal to have, at least as anything other than "Look at me I have a hot chick hur de hur hur". I mean, I know that humans are profoundly status-driven in ways that often fly under the radar, but that particular status jockeying just eludes me entirely in its appeal.

Somewhere recently I read a chunk of a post that went something like, "Nerdy types are rarely popular because they don't want to go to the effort of popularity" or something like it. Which, well, makes sense. The goalstates are different. And setting aside the fact that I was cast as the smart one, not the pretty one, even if I had had the option of being the pretty one type, I didn't want to pay the cost.

And there is a cost. Maybe it's a more obvious cost to me as someone who had that weird outsider fringe status but maybe could have paid that pound of flesh if I had had the social acumen to do it - but the cost is immense.

I don't even mean the time and money investment required to manage the beauty ritual, make sure all of the shaving-required bits are shaved, mastering the skills of makeup and coiffure, and so on, though that's certainly a cost - if nothing else an opportunity cost on acquiring other skills or spending that money.

I mean the social cost.

Let's say I go to the effort to convert my more-or-less Conventionally Attractive Woman presentation into something that hits the PUA crowd's buttons, something I could probably do because I have the privilege of having a base template that is fashionable. Let's even say that I would enjoy presenting myself that way, so that we can neglect the mental stress of investing myself in something that is at best neutral to me on the appeal front. Let's even go into the wild hypothetical mode and suggest that this hypothetical me is unpartnered.

This hypothetical me would have to deal with more creepy approaches. Real-world me is sufficiently nondescript in clothing and presentation that she can fade into the background and read a book on the bus rather than having to regularly fend off the inappropriate and unwelcome strangers who will occasionally glom onto a woman and try to demand her attention.

This hypothetical me would be attractive to pick-up artist types. Real-world me has not been subjected to that sort of attention since the regularity of sexual harassment in junior high school.

These costs are magnified by my experience of sexual assault, which makes unwelcome male attention extremely stressful. My particular (major) sexual assault has its roots in my being a wallflower, in part, so perhaps if I had achieved Conventionally Attractive Fourteen-Year-Old it would not have happened. But that sort of breaks the boundaries on this speculation, because if that were the case I would not be the person writing this blog at all, even in hypothetical.

This hypothetical me would be perceived as not unattractive but unlikely to be suitable as a partner by the sort of men I do find attractive - because the assumption runs very strong in certain subcultures that a woman who is not only conventionally attractive but who puts significant effort into the elective portions of conventional attractiveness will only interact with those men either to demand service or for purposes of mockery. I might well have to go to extra effort to integrate myself with these communities - which can be doable, I know and have known several women who cared about fashion and similar matters who have done so - but it would still be a cost.

So, yeah, I could theoretically remake myself to gain certain forms of status in certain subcultures, because I'm thin, could probably pad out a bra a bit if I wanted to, and know a bit about what flatters me physically. But I don't see that I'd derive much benefit from the "patriarchy-approved woman" template, so I can afford to be lazy on that front and pursue other forms of status.

It just always bemuses me to be invisible.

Though it often beats the hell out of being seen by some people.