Today’s dose of casual sexism

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 · 40 Comments »

From Glenn Greenwald, famed advocate of human rights for men:

…as soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs, he was publicly smeared with allegations of sexual improprieties. As soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals, a massive and strange federal investigation was launched over nothing more than routine acts of consensual adult prostitution, ending his career (and the threat he posed to oligarchs).

Got that? Prostitution of women is “routine acts of consensual adult” sex. Child pornography and solicitation are “sexual improprieties.” The implication being that the rape allegations against Julian Assange are just some bitches lying.

To put this in context, understand that Greenwald believes that torture pornography is also a routine act of consensual adult sex, and that torture pornography victims are lying when they say they were raped. Greenwald is profoundly opposed to the torture of men, you understand, and his indignation at the treatment of male prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo is entirely justified. But when it comes to women, he sings a different tune. The particular case I’m thinking of is instructive: it involved a woman who was tortured by a pornographer on camera and, visibly in shock and trembling, agreed with her attacker that she had acquiesced to the torture. Once she was free she filed rape charges and explained that she had had no idea what was going to happen to her during the filming and was severely traumatized. Greenwald took the side of the torturer. He argued that when the woman was interviewed by her torturer on camera—with eyes red from crying—and meekly agreed that everything was fine, she was telling the truth. But when she got away from the guy and filed charges for rape and abuse, she was lying.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? In Greenwald’s world, the torture of men produces bogus confessions, but the torture of women produces statements of absolute truth. And in Greenwald’s world, when men get away from their torturers and are free to speak, they then tell the truth about what happened. When women get away from their torturers and are free to speak, they lie.

But of course Greenwald believes that all pornography is just “routine consensual adult sex,” just like he thinks prostitution is “routine consensual adult sex.” That’s because he pretends that patriarchy doesn’t exist. His line of reasoning is that if any adult woman ever verbalizes endorsement of her mistreatment, then it’s fine. She’s an adult woman, and he “respects” women enough to believe that there is absolutely no sexist oppression in the world shaping their behavior. So if an 18-year-old Thai prostitute says she agrees to be penetrated with an iron bar for the rich paying customer, Glenn respects her enough to recognize that this is “routine consensual adult sex” and the woman is simply doing exactly what she wants to do.

This trick works in lots of situations, by the way. If a Saudi woman says she’s happy to be denied a driver’s license, then what’s the problem? If a Pakistani woman agrees that her husband has the right to beat her, then what’s the problem? Patriarchy? What patriarchy?


Addendum: For those unfamiliar with my view on prostitution, these two recent comments are pithy summaries: here and here. Also, I found my old post about Glenn and the torture pornography case.

Filed under: Pornography, Prostitution · Tags:

40 Responses to “Today’s dose of casual sexism”

  1. Mike McQuaid says:

    Hey Violet, first time commenter and thanks for the great blog, I love it.

    I think you’re being a bit disingenuous here by abbreviating the quote to omit:
    “I think it’s deeply irresponsible either to assume his guilt or to assume his innocence until the case plays out. I genuinely have no opinion of the validity of those allegations, but what I do know”

    before and after:
    “genuinely do not believe or disbelieve that — but, particularly in light of that pattern, it’s most definitely unreasonable to assume that he’s guilty of anything without having those allegations tested and then proven in court.”

    I would really hope that Greenwald thinks, as I do, that any rape or torture of women is beyond disgusting and the patriarchy prevents women from having their voices heard. I think his point here wasn’t that women were lying but that there seems to be dirty laundry aired about Assange every time Wikileaks makes another major leak.

    Thanks again for the blog and I hope I’ve not been rude in my reply. Have a good evening!

  2. anna says:

    “patriarchy doesn’t exist”

    Not to mention economic desperation. When somebody agrees to do something horrible because they desperately need the money, we don’t say “They agreed so that makes it legal.” We all agree that you can’t let people work in a sweatshop or sell their kidney for example (at least leaving out hardcore libertarians, which Greenwald is *not*.) But when it comes to women having sex they don’t want to for pay, people act like it’s just any other job, like being a dishwasher whe you don’t feel like washing dishes. No! Having sex you don’t want to is RAPE. And that’s why I say prostitution and porn should never be legalized in a capitalist society, especially one with as little of a safety net as America. Yes, there are some willing “sex workers,” I do know that, but you can’t legalize it without legalizing it for unwilling but desperate people too. Yes, it goes on if it’s illegal, but so do sweatshops. Nobody says might as well give up and legalize them.

  3. Adrienne in CA says:

    So true. Ergo “no means yes, and yes means anal.” Damn lying bitchez.

    *****A

  4. J says:

    This is a great piece; I applaud it.

    It is clearly absurd to refer to the prostitution of women as “routine acts of consensual adult” sex and to child pornography and solicitation as a “sexual impropriet[y].”

    (Absurd, that is, if you do not implicitly – or explicitly – accept and endorse the ideology of patriarchy.)

    However, I think it is unfair to state:

    “The implication being that the rape allegations against Julian Assange are just some bitches lying.”

    … when Greenwald’s article reads:

    “I think it’s deeply irresponsible either to assume his guilt or to assume his innocence until the case plays out…”

    Whatever Greenwald’s past history (please excuse my relative ignorance; I’m not resident in the States), I don’t think it is unreasonable to defer judgement until the facts of the case emerge.

    Whether the process of “having those allegations tested and then proven in court” is fair or just is another issue.

  5. votermom says:

    Why are so many of the male “progressive” bloggers misogynists?

  6. quixote says:

    I’m with votermom. I mean, really. What’s up with that?

  7. Boner Killer says:

    fuuucked up.
    all i can say.

    great post as usual.

  8. mary says:

    I disagree with your take on Greenwald’s post. I am not commenting on other Greenwald’s statements, just today’s post.

    I believe, from all that I have read, that the powers-that-be brought down Ritter and Spitzer, because they were about to bring truth to power. That is the point Greenwald was making, IMO. A sex scandal will almost always wreck a career. And, unfortunately, men in power often seem to have some sick sexual appetites.

    Whether there are merits to the claims against Ritter and Spitzer is not relevant to the point that, conveniently, a bunch of old men decides to expose certain allegedly criminal or exploitative sexual deviance against two individuals at a time when these two pose dangers to the status quo, yet do not expose the myriads of sordid sexual activities of other power brokers.

  9. gxm17 says:

    The absurdity of patriarchy constantly amazes me. It’s a fascinating example of the dexterity and complacency of the human mind. Ah, the duality of MAN!

    Torture pornography = consensual sex. Really? And just what employer is allowed to sexually abuse and torture his employees for fun and profit? How does one even pretend to use logic to reach such an impossibly absurd conclusion? Well, I guess it’s because it’s right there in the Constitution. Ejaculation is a right, dammit. ALL men are created equal and can pursue “happiness” any way they damn well please. Now shut up and take your $20 little lady.

    Excellent post, as usual, Violet.

  10. Tomecat says:

    Crap. Another fauxgressive dude disappoints. Amazing how hard they all work to convince us (themselves) that porn is always routine and consensual.

    btw, so glad to see you’re posting more frequently again. You were sorely missed.

  11. Violet Socks says:

    Mike McQuaid and J:

    I’m not being disingenuous or unfair. It’s true that we don’t know what happened in Sweden, and Assange should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the flow of Greenwald’s argument was clear. “We don’t know if the women who charged Assange with rape are telling the truth. However! This other whistleblower was unfairly attacked for prostitution, which is perfectly routine consensual sex and harms nobody. And this other whistleblower was unfairly smeared for child pornography and soliciting, which is nothing more than a little impropriety. Ergo…” I mean, why even bring those things up unless the implication is that whatever happened in Sweden was also perfectly fine (in Greenwald’s bizarro world view, that is) and the accusers are therefore lying. Besides, Greenwald has a history of privileging the word of rapists and torturers over their female victims, who he thinks lie about being raped and tortured even when the crime has been videotaped.

    But what set me off was his casual reference to prostitution as “routine consensual adult” sex.

  12. Toonces says:

    If the only time people are willing to listen about rape allegations involving powerful men is when they’re looking for dirty laundry, does that make said powerful men victims?

  13. Three Wickets says:

    Does Glenn Greenwald think about (ergo, care about or concern himself with) women as much as he does men. No. I’ve never had any doubts about that.

  14. Sameol says:

    Far too few victims seem to consider the possibility that their rapists/exploiters are such agents for good in the world that a little penchant for sexual violence and exploitation seems trivial by comparison. It’s hard to uproot those delusions of humanity once they’ve taken hold.

  15. Mike McQuaid says:

    Fair enough Violet, I didn’t realise that he had a history and I can see what you mean about his argument not being explicit about Assange being innocent but implicit.

    I do agree about prostitution though, this seems to be one of the few left-leaning blogs that agrees with my viewpoints on prostitution and porn. It’s hard to be on the left and not think these things are ok like many of our peers seem to; you find yourself frequently being called judgemental and out of touch.

  16. Bruce says:

    you find yourself frequently being called judgemental and out of touch.

    Actually Mike, most people find her views completely on target.

  17. J says:

    @11 – I do understand your point, but my reading of Greenwald’s article is different to yours.

    “… why even bring those things up?”

    You are placing all the emphasis on the second half of each sentence, e.g. “unfairly attacked for prostitution…”, “unfairly smeared for child pornography…”, “the implication … that whatever happened in Sweden was also perfectly fine … and the accusers are therefore lying.”

    The first half of the sentence is, in my opinion, more relevant:

    “[A]s soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs…”, “as soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals…”, “the day after Julian Assange is responsible for one of the largest leaks in history…”

    I don’t think Greenwald is debating the nature of what these individuals did (or are alleged to have done), although his language in describing – or rather, dismissing – their crimes is shocking.

    He appears to be highlighting the nature of the response of the establishment to the individuals who, from time to time, dare to challenge their authority – a response which is intensely political in that the actions of Wikileaks are thereby deemed ‘guilty by association’.

    For the record, having now read some of Greenwald’s previous bile, I totally support the thrust of your argument and your view of him as an apologist for patriarchy; I just think, in this instance, that his focus is elsewhere.

    (Not that this remotely excuses the language, or thought behind his words.)

    Incidentally, you may be interested – or horrified, or both – to read:

    No, Wikileaks’s Julian Assange isn’t accused of rape – this from a supposedly left-of-centre political blog in the UK.

    Sometimes I despair!

  18. Kali says:

    The men on the left are as woman-hating with their defense of pornstitution as the men on the right are with their advocacy of forced-birthing. I don’t trust men as far as women’s interests are concerned. There may be a few exceptions but they are very few.

  19. tinfoil hattie says:

    I’m with Kali. Few and far between. Men don’t care – they don’t have to.

  20. the15th says:

    I like to imagine the room where the shadowy conspiracy concocted these charges. “I’ve got it — a rape allegation!” “That’s it! We know that Assange’s liberal-dude and libertarian fanboys would never tolerate or minimize sexual violence against women!”

    Over at one liberal-dude hangout I sometimes frequent, they are actually printing one of the women’s (purported) names, and the mods are doing nothing.

  21. Unree says:

    Gah, how awful: Greenwald is 100% right about Wikileaks, IMO; he says things that no other blogger on the left is saying. When I first read his essay I wanted to get up and cheer … and then came that rape-enabling postscript. My stomach lurched.

    Another cost of patriarchy. If blogger boyz on the left didn’t need to be repudiated, we would have time to focus on other urgent evils like the National Secrecy State. It’s exhausting.

  22. Briar says:

    It’s perfectly possible for women to be agents of right wing governments and to willingly enlist in those governments’ attempts to silence whistle blowers. They aren’t virtuous victims just because they are women. Moreover, those governments frequently use sex allegations (hypocritically) to smear opponents, and undermine their credibility. Sex allegations have an added advantage in that they are a wedge issue, alienating women, even left wing women, in a way that makes them overlook the content of the inconvenient facts being exposed. No, the allegations say, don’t look at the truths about the abuse of power being exposed. Look at these allegations against the people who have uncovered them instead. So if you don’t want to play the oligarchs’ game, keep a clear head. Women are not all politically pure. Women can lie for a cause, or for money. In which case, double shame on them, for the added crime of giving credibility to the standard patriarchal lie, that all women lie about sex.

  23. Nessum says:

    Assange should be presumed innocent until proven guilty […] the implication is that whatever happened in Sweden was also perfectly fine […] and the accusers are therefore lying.

    This pretty much sums up the perception of Assange and the two Swedish women that is (for the most part) expressed in news and on blogs. From women too! Assange has from the start, and very successfully, played the “victim card”. Poor, poor misunderstood, unfairly accused Assange.

    Is it common, as the case were for these two, that women who report rape and/or sexual assault have to engage a lawyer to even be heard?

    Sorry about the shouting, but this “if a good(!) man sexually assaults a woman it’s ok. Get over it”, makes me spitting mad. Or as Sameol much more eloquently puts it:

    Far too few victims seem to consider the possibility that their rapists/exploiters are such agents for good in the world that a little penchant for sexual violence and exploitation seems trivial by comparison.

  24. tinfoil hattie says:

    I read a website a few days ago where the blogger expounded on how being “cuckolded” is far worse, emotionally and biologically (evo-psych craziness), than being raped. IF, that is .. and I stress this … IF the rape is a “gentle, silent rape” (i.e., when the woman is unconscious and doesn’t know she’s being raped.)

    “Gentle, silent rape” – y’know, as opposed to that other, icky kind.

  25. kiuku says:

    It seems the only time rape allegations ever hit the news are as scandals for prominent men, or weapons against enemy men. Women are again, toys; things to move around and use for an agenda. Women’s lives, tangent to men. If they even exist. The woman’s rape is just a way to after Wikileaks guy.

  26. DancingOpossum says:

    Um, Assange has NOT been accused of rape or sexual assault. Yet you are reacting as if he has already been tried and convicted. I don’t know if he’s guilty or not. None of us do.

    “Is it common, as the case were for these two, that women who report rape and/or sexual assault have to engage a lawyer to even be heard?”

    Not uncommon at all. These days people routinely hire lawyers and public-relations professionals when they make public accusations of all kinds. Does it make them less or more likely to be trustworthy? Again, who knows? Until the matter is investigated and brought to trial, we don’t know the facts (and even then we may not). Unfounded rape accusations are not unheard of, you know–nor are false convictions for rape.

    I don’t know what Julian Assange did or did not do to any women. Because of that, and because he has not been convicted of any sexual crime, my sole interest in him is in what he’s doing with WikiLeaks, which is fascinating imo. The next document dump is supposed to concern a major U.S. bank and it should be extremely interesting.

  27. simplywondered says:

    it is really bad to see such a biased version at what says it’s a leftist site. fortunately among the comments there are some very clear statements that sex without consent is rape wherever you are and not some loony invention of them crazy swedes. i don’t know much about the facts (i’m not sure they have been established) but it’s just hopeless that so many of us (i mean men on the left) are willing to rubbish the rape accusations without any basis. one comment i noted on a blog i hang out at casually labelled the complainant a ‘radical feminist’.
    cue the knowing nods and thoughts of ‘we all know how unreliable them nasty radfems are’.

    nessum
    the problem is the quiet slippage from the legal (rather than logical) principle that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty (this doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, it means it has not yet been proved) to the non sequitur that the complainant must therefore be lying (crap logic in any event because she’s committing a crime – oh wait we have to presume her innocent until proven guilty…). it seems to happen with rape in a way it doesn’t with other crimes … now what could it be about the vast majority of rape victims that might make people want to disbelieve them? i’m sure there’s something….

  28. Violet Socks says:

    Um, Assange has NOT been accused of rape or sexual assault. Yet you are reacting as if he has already been tried and convicted.

    Um, this post isn’t about Julian Assange. It’s about Glenn Greenwald referring to prostitution as “routine adult sex,” and his pattern of belittling sex crimes and of assuming that female victims are lying in cases where he would never assume that of male victims.

  29. Violet Socks says:

    Sex allegations have an added advantage in that they are a wedge issue, alienating women, even left wing women, in a way that makes them overlook the content of the inconvenient facts being exposed.

    It seems to me that what’s going on is that the “content of the inconvenient facts being exposed” has so transfixed you that you are willing to overlook Glenn Greenwald’s casual equation of prostitution with “consensual adult sex” and his pattern of belittling rape, which is what this post is about.

  30. Violet Socks says:

    Obviously it’s my fault. Greenwald’s post is about Julian Assange; mine isn’t. My post is about Greenwald. The entire post is about Greenwald’s attitude to prostitution and pornography and his pattern of dismissing rape. Yet apparently it’s just too fucking hard to pay attention to shit like that when there’s a male hero to worship.

  31. tinfoil hattie says:

    “sex allegations” – isn’t that just a way to call rape something else?

  32. Nessum says:

    I apologize Violet if I caused the derailing of this thread, but I just have to correct some misleading comments here: Um yes, Assange has been charged with “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion”. He has for months been wanted for interrogation by the Swedish Prosecution Authority who has now issued an Arrest Warrant through Interpol.

    From the Swedish Prosecution Authority site, 2010-12-02:
    http://www.aklagare.se/In-English/

  33. Nessum says:

    Btw, did you know that in Sweden buying sex is illegal according to the “Sex Purchase Act” (Sexköpslagen).

  34. Ann Bartow says:

    Thanks for this, Violet.

  35. Carmonn says:

    I like to imagine the room where the shadowy conspiracy concocted these charges. “I’ve got it — a rape allegation!” “That’s it! We know that Assange’s liberal-dude and libertarian fanboys would never tolerate or minimize sexual violence against women!”

    I know! What planet does Glenn live on if he actually believes that rape allegations DISCREDIT rather than enhance someone’s credibility in this effed up society? He needs to spend more time reading that Glenn Greenwald fella to recognize the pattern of tolerating and minimizing sexual crimes.

    For future reference, shoplifting 5 cents’ worth of used erasers would evoke greater revulsion, Giant Shadowy Conspiracy.

  36. Violet Socks says:

    Btw, did you know that in Sweden buying sex is illegal according to the “Sex Purchase Act” (Sexköpslagen).

    Indeed. Part of what’s going on here is that men on the left are baffled by Sweden’s feminist legal system. All the cries about how Sweden uses the word “rape” in a way no other country does, how the legal burden of proof is different, etc.: it’s the patriarchy meeting up for the first time with a legal system informed by feminism. And they’re outraged. First, they think it’s obviously some kind of plot to get Assange. And if not that, then clearly the Swedes are insane. It’s just not comprehensible to these guys that there should be a country where men don’t have a built-in legal advantage in every dispute.

  37. simply wondered says:

    it may be simpler, vi. it could simply be men on the left sticking fingers firmly in ears and dismissing rape allegations on principle. i’m not convinced there’s that much grasp of the swedish definition of rape or that in the uk/us come to that.
    actually i’m just off to see how the swedish system is different because i have no idea and it sounds interesting.

  38. Heather says:

    I support Violet’s post. And I find Glenn Greenwald to be a pig. I find it cute that Scott Ritter was twice arrested and GG thinks it was an effort to discredit him. Ritter was arrested for the same thing this year. Who was discrediting him then, GG?

    NY Post
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/chief_not_publishpoconos_sex_sting_WGyPXivECwaSEiWGUZQ3AJ#ixzz0cc73vR5B

    A former UN arms inspector was busted in a kiddie-sex-sting after contacting what he thought was a 15-year-old girl in an Internet chat room that ended with him masturbating on a webcam, authorities said.
    Scott Ritter, 46, who served as the chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, is accused of contacting what turned out to be a Pennsylvania cop posing as a teenager.
    According to the affidavit, the cop said he was a 15-year-old named “Emily” during an online chat room on Yahoo! when he was contacted by someone using the screen name “Delmarm4fun.”

    Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/chief_not_publishpoconos_sex_sting_WGyPXivECwaSEiWGUZQ3AJ#ixzz17LW2cXLz

  39. petal says:

    Nessum,
    You seem to be upset that it is illegal to purchase sex. Those poor men, what are those crazy women doing? Well, making it illegal to PURCHASE sex is part of Sweden’s efforts to combat human trafficking. In many countries where prostitution is legal, the only person to have committed a crime is the woman. She’s there illegally don’t you know, and thus legalizing prostitution does nothing to prevent exploitation of women. Try google, it’s amazing what you can learn.

  40. Nessum says:

    petal, I have absolutely no idea how you manage to read into my comment mentioning the Swedish “Sexköpslag”, that I’m “upset” about it! Huh?!

    And puhleeease don’t you condescend to and lecture me about exploited women, human trafficking, Swedish law … and the like!

    “Try google” ! Seriously?!