Update: Newest material is at the end. Updated 6/22/11

My recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes caused quite a stir on the Internet. One of my harshest critics, feminist website Jezebel.com, accepted my offer to be interviewed about whatever it is that they find so objectionable about me. Jezebel's Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Coen, asked writer Irin Carmon to represent the common viewpoint at Jezebel.

Let's start with some background on the participants to give you some perspective on the bias that each brings to the table. I've been a long-time financial supporter of women's causes, particularly in the abuse realm. I have a long history of promoting and mentoring women in my own businesses.  And I'm pro-choice.

My mother was a strong woman who raised three kids, worked most of her life, taught me to play baseball, and was the first member of the family to get a motorcycle license. She kept a loaded rifle in the kitchen and often used it to gun down rabbits and other assailants to her vegetable garden.  And she didn't take shit from anyone.

My first career, in banking, came to an end when my boss told me there was no potential for a white male to get a promotion until the company did a lot of catching up in the diversity department. My second career, at the phone company, ended the same way, although I stayed around while I worked on my cartooning career on the side.

Irin Carmon has been a staff writer for Jezebel for about two years, during which time she has been covering politics, reproductive rights and health, sexual assault, workplace discrimination, and more. Irin is a 28-year old woman who reminds me that she does not deign to speak for all women.

We begin...

Scott:  Irin, your editor volunteered you to discuss your objections to my recent blog post titled Pegs and Holes. What in particular did you find objectionable?

Irin: Even seen as hyperbole or intentionally incendiary rhetoric, the piece does a disservice to men above all, and to women too. You start out by referring to men in the public eye who are "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world," and suggest that this happened because "society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable." Leaving aside for a minute the implied equivalence of that laundry list (breaking your marriage vows versus raping someone), this is a bleak perversion of biological determinism. By that reading, the presumed majority of men who don't rape (or cheat, or tweet) are simply better at managing their innate desires to violate someone else, which I'd wager isn't true to the lived experience of most non-raping men. What you deem the "natural instincts of women" isn't defined, but I'm going to assume you mean stereotypes about nurturing and nesting. In fact, history, recent and otherwise, is full of examples of women who were treated as "shameful and criminal" for following their own natural instincts for how to live their lives, whether it was whom to sleep with and when and how often, what jobs women "should" do, how many children to have and when, etc. etc. Until very recently, those strictures were on the books and enforced by men, full stop. Men and women are both better off that all that's no longer official, at least in this country. 

You write, "Society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness." In fact, what's evolved is that women are now politically and, to a greater extent, socially recognized as full human beings. In contexts where women were seen as men's property, rape, or any non-sanctioned sex was (or is) punished as such, and often the women were punished too. We now have a legal and social model that formally recognizes women as people. That changed because some men and women didn't see the world as, in your words, "a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa," and who saw the harm and dehumanization implicit in that model. Incidentally, though women were historically told they are too volatile or emotional to run the world's affairs, you suggest it's men who are unable to cope. 

You cite Hugh Hefner as an example of a man who has "lost," or implicitly, been societally shamed. ("Society didn't offer him a round hole for his round peg.") But by every possible measure, Hefner's no victim. He is a very rich man. He has a robust sex life with women who look like the ideal upon which he made his fortune. He's an icon. I'd say society has offered him quite the round hole. It's hard to think of a woman who has experienced anything comparable, but then, I don't agree this is a zero sum game. 

My question to you: What do you get out of posting these incendiary commentaries on gender? And why accuse others of misrepresentation when they've mostly stuck to directly quoting you?

Scott: Phew! Wordy.

As for your question, I write what I think will be interesting and thought-provoking. I stake out positions that I haven't seen - whether I believe everything I write or not - because unique viewpoints interest me most. My blog is about inviting readers to wrestle with unique points of view strictly for fun. My regular readers understand that. When my writing is taken out of context, the way Jezebel and others did, it sometimes looks like a crazy rant and it pisses people off. That's more of a bonus than a main goal.

I don't understand most of what you wrote in response to my question. Can you try it again without the history lessons? I agree that women had it worse in the past. My offending blog post was about today and the future.

I think we can skip the question of whether I offended men, since that is not what is bothering Jezebel or Salon, just to name two. And most men correctly interpreted the post as saying that male sexual urges manifest differently in different men. The men who complained imagined I was saying all men are repressed rapists. That's a simple case of bad reading comprehension, or maybe it is because the post was carved up by bottom-feeding websites until the meaning was distorted to fit an agenda. At Huffington Post, where the average reading comprehension is high, you can see that most commenters can't understand how anyone would be offended by the post.

You say that the natural instincts of women can lead them to shameful and criminal behavior. I have a higher opinion of women than you do, in the sense that I think men are genetically more prone to bad behavior. If your point is that women suck just as much as men, I'll take your word for it. But you'll need to explain why our jails have so many more men than women.

I'm still confused why my blog is more offensive than what you just wrote. Can you try again, in simpler terms, and without the history lesson, to explain your objection to my post?

Irin: Not sure what's left to say if all you can say about my good-faith critique of your piece boils down to TL;DR. (Sorry, "Phew, wordy.") Surely a "certified genius" such as yourself knows how to read English when strung together in three paragraphs.

But I'll boil it down anyway. Feminism is not about women being better than men. It's about creating a world where gender and sexuality don't stand in the way of each of us pursuing our individual rights, including to autonomy over our own bodies, whether that means who we have sex with, how many children we have, if at all, or what jobs we have. This might be a "history lesson," but for thousands of years, that hasn't been the case. Men ran things for most of that time, and by and large they still do; feminists and allies happen to believe that full participation will be better for everyone. Unfortunately, the transition is still incomplete, including on your blog, but we'll keep at it nonetheless.  

If that's your point, we're in full agreement. I'll leave it to my readers to decide if the bottom line is you're unwilling or unable to defend what another writer on Jezebel has written on this topic. You simply explained some history and made some generic points about equality.

My readers should know that I requested this interview with Lane Moore, the Jezebel.com writer who characterized my opinion, with manufactured quotes, as "All men are rapists." That is the ridiculous view I was expecting your employer to defend. I assume that in preparation for this interview you reread my blog and realized there is no defense for Jezebel's position, and so you smartly retreated into history lessons and generic statements about the goodness of equality.

To be fair, you were assigned this interview by your boss. It's clear to me that you're too smart, and probably too ethical, to defend Jezebel.com's grotesque interpretation of my writing.

So we'll end here, and I'll take this up with Salon's writer, MaryElizabeth Williams, assuming her offer still stands. Stay tuned.

[Update: Jezebel.com is linking to this post. That's why the voting changed direction so abruptly.]
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
@TheShadowNose...nice obscure reference to "Clockwork Orange". Took me a second to get it.
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
"Neither rape nor flashing has anything to do with sexuality - it is about power, manipulation, abuse etc."

Why can't deviant behavior such as rape and flashing be about sex as well as about power, manipulation and abuse?

To me, raping and flashing seem clearly sexual and in that sense about sex. Not a healthy form of sexuality, but still a form of sexuality. There are non-sexual ways to abuse, manipulate, and assert your power. When a man rapes, it seems to be about power, manipulation, abuse AND sex. Why is it so important to some feminists to deny that rape has any sexual component?
Jun 22, 2011
don't feed the troll
+22 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Julian_ Apostate.. You said

"In fact, there's even a special organ in the brain (mirror neurons) that creates empathy. This needs to be damaged or suppressed (culturally or otherwise) to allow things like rape or hurting people. "

Exactly! Rape is the result not of natural instinct but a damaged brain!
Jun 22, 2011

+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011

I do believe if Scott had not said rape was a natural male instinct it would make a huge difference. Rape is the result of a mental illness, and it is not only irresposible but sickening to say that it is natural. There is also a problem with the "tweeting" comment, as it refers to Weiner's actions. Those certainly can ( and are veiwed by many ) as the acts of a flasher..again. deviant behavior caused by mental illness. Face it, most men don't rape and don't flash. Neither rape nor flashing has anything to do with sexuality - it is about power, manipulation, abuse etc.

Now I think that cheating most people would agree has an instinctive sexual component. But both sexes do it, so it is not a question of society restricting men's natural instinct.

[I didn't say rape is a natural male instinct. Sex is a natural male instinct that manifests in different ways in different people. For men who have a propensity for violence, and a sociopath streak, arousal creates a specific kind of danger that society rightly tries to limit. -- Scott]
+23 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011

Human beings are controlled by their brain. We perceive and interact with the world through chemical reactions. Instinct is just part of the brain’s chemical reactions.

No, the type of power, manipulation, hatred and a desire to harm that are part of rapists, torturers, etc are NOT part of a fully integrated person, and it is deviant behavior. If it were not deviant behavior, everyone would engage in it. We can only hope that medicine will advance sufficiently that these defects in the brain can be corrected, like we correct vision or cure other disease.

You define the word “natural” to mean occurring in nature. Well, it is true that this deviant behavior occurs in nature. But the way Scott was using “natural” was in the sense that it was intrinsic to male human beings, a different meaning entirely. As you correctly pointed out, there is a world difference between rape fantasies, which are not real, and not accurate because there is no harm actually caused, and the reality of rape. I do not buy that almost all men, if not illegal, would elect to rape, causing the type of harm that is the reality of a real rape. I think almost all men are not in the least interested in real rape.

You raise an interesting point on prison stats. How many people are in prison because of malformed psyches? In other words, a diseased brain. I bet in the future we are going to discover cures for these types of illness, including pedophilia, that will reduce our prison population substantially. Google sociopath and check out the various sociopathic illnesses and you will see what I am saying.

I would agree that we are still pretty primitive. ( Heck just check out our current crop of politicians!). But I do think we have evolved into a species that takes rational action to ensure our survival, and most of the time, that means cooperative living.

Why Scott is so out of line is because he is stating that something that is actually a very serious illness is not sick but totally normal.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
The word "rape" seems to be the word that is really pulling an emotional response from people in the original post. I can completely understand that. I'm curious if you took the word "rape" and "raping" out of the original post if people still have the same problem with it or if it changes the meaning of the post for them.
Jun 22, 2011
Most people have probably seen that picture of a cute kitten on The Onion with the caption "Kitten Thinks of Nothing but Murder all Day" It's funny, because it has a ring of truth.

To acknowledge human nature is not the same as condoning it. To equate the two is to commit the Naturalistic Fallacy. But, difficult as it is, acknowledging reality is the first step to dealing with the problem of assault, harassment, etc.

It's admirable that people like EMU set a good example, but good intentions will never reduce the risk of assault to zero, and can even be dangerous in creating a false sense of security.

There is a scene in the US Navy documentary Carrier (2005) where the male anti-sexual abuse councilor ends up in a drunken encounter with a female cadet. Laws, culture, and good intentions can go a long way, but there is no magic pill (ok, maybe chemical castration) to render all men harmless under all !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*! wrote:

"I am confident that many decent, loving men fantasize about rape"
Consider me to be part of the few who don't then.

In fact, there's even a special organ in the brain (mirror neurons) that creates empathy. This needs to be damaged or suppressed (culturally or otherwise) to allow things like rape or hurting people.
Jun 22, 2011
Scott, would you mind starting a second blog for your long-time fans? Preferably one where you don't care about number of inbound links or page views.
Jun 22, 2011

You rely quite frequently on the "bad reading comprehension" defense, saying that irate readers have missed the point, both in this latest uproar as well as in the previous deleted post furor. However, I submit that the ability to identify implicit meanings is a key criterion of good reading comprehension skills (and a quick google search for "reading comprehension implicit" finds much content that agrees).

Can you address the topic of implicit meaning and how you use it in your writing, please, especially with regard to the posts some label misogynist?

-12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
I am not exactly certain, but Irin's response seems rather Pre-Deconstructionist Neo-Feminist-Peri-Post-Modern to me.

I actualy read your blog to interface & touch-base & to download bleeding edge dog & pony shows.

I also mostly think the humor just makes my day! xo
+75 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Irin:1. Scott:0.

Funny also how you accuse people of poor reading comprehension when your responses are..."wordy" and "I don't understand". She's 28 but above your level of understanding, regardless of who's "right".
Jun 22, 2011
Jessica Coen is very smart and intelligent and expresses herself well. Her arguments are good and would have been fun to have around for the regular blog post discussion. Just interesting how much attention Scott gets for his posts that are not even his personal opinion. It's so much fun. I just wish he'd get the same kind of attention for some of his other better posts, like the one about Osama's productivity. That is the funniest thing I have read in ages, and much better than Pegs and Holes.
Jun 22, 2011
Julian_Apostate: I am not sure exactly what you mean about healthy loving committed men and women having rape fantasies. I would concur that this statement is sort of true, but that fantasizing about being raped (and even acting out on those fantasies) and real rape are two different things and this should be clarified. A person who fantasizes about being raped has control over who is doing the raping, how it is done, and how far they are willing to go. IN THEIR HEADS. Sometimes, they even live out these fantasies in real life, with a partner of their choice, with a "safe word" and a general layout beforehand what is OK and what isn't. That is NOT the same as being raped by someone, whether you know them or not, out of nowhere and on their terms only, which is a true definition of rape. The difference is a certain amount of control, and complete consent, which makes it completely different.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
@cassidyqu - you missed 3 'are's with full caps. Just fyi.
+54 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
"Scott, in the interest of a positive discussion:
Things like "I don't understand most of what you wrote in response to my question." or "I'm still confused why my blog is more offensive than what you just wrote. Can you try again, in simpler terms,..." don't give much of a clue to her how to explain better.
Could you, please, in the course of this discussion, try to be a bit more precise as to at what point your understanding stopped or what caused the confusion?"

EMU, this is an excellent point and is wonderful advice, but only when the goal is really honest discourse and furthering understanding. Unfortunately, maybe that's not Scott's goal. Scott did write in his invitation, "fair warning: It won't work well for you". Maybe the "try again, I didn’t understand" is a response to the fact that Irin has yet to provide Scott with something he can easily latch onto to make her look stupid. I get the feeling this is more about Scott "winning" than it is about honest discourse and furthering understanding.
Jun 22, 2011
Sorry, but rape IS about sex. Specifically, using violence to get sex. There is an understandable desire to see sex as something wonderful, and often it is. But there is also something fundamentally dirty and unequal about it that was perhaps alluded to in the title "Pegs and Holes".

Brutlhonesty is right to see a common thread in radical (feminist) thought.. which was explored in detail in a 2002 book by Steven Pinker, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" which I quoted from at length in an earlier comment.

I am confident that many decent, loving men fantasize about rape, and that even a few radical feminists sometimes fantasize about being raped. It's a fascinating subject as to why, but it doesn't matter to the issue at hand. The real core of the issue, whether it's rape, or twit pics, or !$%* walks, is Consent, Safety, and Drawing a line of what's acceptable male behavior. Different lines exist in different contexts (legal versus informal, office versus pub, etc).. new technologies that can make the private quickly public (e.g. twittering your junk) need some new thought.

-5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 22, 2011
Do does this mean that while this debate goes on - no new blogs?
Jun 22, 2011
I may be reading too much into it, but I think the feminists main complaint with you writing that men are naturally base is that you are not a female feminist. Only a female feminist can be an expert on how base men are; you, by being a male, have no right to comment.
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